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HOLM: Why we need the carbon tax

Margaret Holm writes about solutions to global warming

Confused about carbon tax headlines? B.C. has had a carbon fee since 2008. We were the first province to establish the fee and we are also the province with the best economic growth since 2008, proving that the tax has not hurt business or industry.

A carbon fee is levied on fossil fuels according to how much carbon dioxide is released when burned: more than 10 cents a litre for diesel and less than eight cents for gasoline. We pay at the pumps, on home heating bills, and it’s factored into the cost of airline tickets and other services.

Carbon emissions become greenhouse gases that trap heat thereby causing global warming. How do we drive those emissions down? Economists agree that carbon taxes are the cheapest and quickest way to lower emissions. The fees motivate industries and individuals to make energy efficient choices and to switch to cleaner energy.

Groups like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Mining Association and ExxonMobil back the carbon tax; they prefer the market to drive change and innovation rather than the government to regulate emissions targets.

We’re hearing plenty of discussion about the carbon tax since Canada now requires all provinces to collect a tax on fossil fuel use. More than 40 countries, and eleven US states, have carbon fees, and China and the US are committed to bringing them in. Canadian companies which claimed paying carbon fees would make it hard to compete internationally are beginning to see a level playing field.

READ MORE: Carbon tax must rise if Canada is to meet Paris emission targets, PBO says

Both B.C. and Canada return carbon fee revenue back to taxpayers depending on income and family size. In B.C. that amounts to about $154 per adult and $45 per child for those making less than $62,000. The federal government estimates that most households will break even or get more back than they pay out.

Fossil fuel emissions carry hidden costs—for example, poor health and hospital costs associated with bad air quality. Insurance rates are increasing due to floods, fires, and extreme weather events caused by climate change. Whether we like it or not, we are already paying for rising carbon emissions. Carbon fees are one way to put a price on pollution and motivate us to change.

Individual actions like using LED light bulbs and improving the energy efficiency of our homes are important, but will only get us part way to reducing global warming. That’s why carbon fees are a key policy for governments to accelerate the change to clean energy.

Watch this column for further articles on climate solutions being put into action across Canada.

About Margaret Holm:

Margaret Holm

Margaret Holm lives in Penticton and is an educator and writer for environmental conservation and climate engagement.

Contact Holm at margaretholm@shaw.ca

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