A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

A flare stack lights the sky from the Imperial Oil refinery in Edmonton on December 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Hiking carbon tax to $210 cheapest way to hit Canada’s climate targets: commission

The federal price is at $20 per tonne now, and is going up $10 a year in each of the next three years

The Ecofiscal Commission says quadrupling Canada’s carbon price by 2030 is the easiest and most cost-effective way for the country to meet its climate targets.

But the independent think-tank also warns that might be the toughest plan to sell to the public because the costs of carbon taxes are highly visible.

The commission is issuing its final report today after spending the last five years trying to prove to Canadians we can address climate change without killing the economy. The report looks at the options for Canada to toughen climate policies to meet the 2030 goal of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions by almost one-third from where they are now.

The choices include raising the carbon price, introducing new regulations and adding subsidies to encourage and reward greener, cleaner behaviour.

The report concludes that all of those can reduce emissions but that carbon pricing stands out for doing it with the lowest cost to consumers while permitting the most economic growth. It adds that the economic benefits of carbon pricing become even greater if the revenues are returned to Canadians through corporate and personal income-tax cuts, rather than direct household rebates as is done now.

Commission chair Chris Ragan said hiking the carbon price $20 per year between 2022 and 2030, until it hits $210 per tonne, would get Canada to its targets under the Paris Agreement on cutting emissions. That would be on top of the $50-a-tonne price on carbon emissions that will be in place by 2022.

The federal price, in provinces where it applies, is at $20 per tonne now, and is going up $10 a year in each of the next three years.

Rebates would also grow to keep the tax revenue-neutral, the commission said.

The federal Liberals have promised to review the carbon tax in 2022 to determine what happens to it, but have been noncommittal about what that might be.

Canada’s federal tax is only applied in provinces without equivalent provincial systems. Right now those are Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick. Alberta will be added in January.

Ragan said regulations and subsidies would also work to cut emissions but are more expensive. Governments lean on regulations and subsidies, however, because their costs are often less visible to voters, making them more politically palatable, at least at first. They still distort the economy, he said, just not as obviously.

“It’s crazy to use high-cost policies if you know that lower cost policies are available,” he said. ”Why would we do that?”

Carbon prices can include fuel taxes and cap-and-trade systems where emissions are restricted and credits must be purchased to emit anything beyond the cap.

Regulations can be either very specific, such as requiring agricultural producers to capture methane from manure or cities to capture methane from landfills, or broad, such as telling industrial emitters they have to find a way to cut emissions in half by a certain date. Subsidies can mean helping people or companies install more efficient lighting and appliances or to buy electric vehicles.

Canada’s current policies are a mix of all three.

Under the Paris accord, Canada committed to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions to 511 million tonnes by 2030. In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, Canada emitted 716 million tonnes.

A year ago, Environment and Climate Change Canada said its existing platter of policies leaves the country 79 million tonnes short. Earlier this month the international Climate Transparency organization said Canada was among the three members of the G20 group of big economies that are least likely to hit their 2030 climate targets.

READ MORE: B.C. provided $830M in fossil fuel subsidies in 2017-18: report

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay fire reach ‘modern’ service agreement

Negotiations to update 1980 firefighting agreement began in 2015, stalled in 2020

Members of the Saanich Fire Department can be seen working to put out a fire in the 4500-block of Chattertown Way on Jan. 26. (Saanich Fire/Twitter)
UPDATED: One cat killed, another resuscitated following blaze in Saanich townhouse

Neighbours evacuated following fire on Chatterton Way, third cat still missing

Air Canada /Jazz flight 8081 from Vancouver to Victoria on Jan. 22 had a confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. (Black Press Media file photo)
An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)
Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment

Formal investigation, survey and training launched at museum

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District’s wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point. (Photo courtesy CRD)
PHOTOS: Check out Greater Victoria’s new wastewater treatment facilities

Long-awaited project has been up and running since late 2020

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Five big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19:

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer’s uniform as she makes a phone call. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver man calls 911 to report his own stabbing, leading to arrest: police

Officers located the suspect a few blocks away. He was holding a bloody knife.

Christopher Anthony Craig Dick is wanted by the Port Alberni RCMP in connection to multiple investigations. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Vancouver Island RCMP seek man connected to assault investigations

Christopher Dick, 36, was recently in the North Cowichan and Duncan region

Vernon has agreed to a goose cull to control the over-populated invasive species making a muck of area parks and beaches. (Morning Star file photo)
Okanagan city pulls the trigger on goose cull

City asking neighbours to also help control over-population of geese

Tahsis mayor Martin Davis stands with an old-growth tree in McKelvie Creek Valley. The village of Tahsis signed a Letter of Understanding with forestry company Western Forest Products to establish McKelvie watershed as a protected area. Photo courtesy, TJ Watt.
Landmark deal expected to protect Tahsis watershed from logging

Tahsis and WFP agree on letter of understanding to preserve McKelvie Creek Valley within TFL 19

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Most Read