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B.C. emissions, carbon tax keep rising as Ottawa rules catch up

Building, vehicle, fuel rules aim to bend emissions down

B.C.’s carbon tax goes from $45 to $50 per tonne of greenhouse gases in the spring of 2022, the first time it is rising to keep pace with the federal government’s new climate rules.

B.C.’s pioneering carbon tax started in 2007, and while the program has seen a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per person, overall emissions increased 17 per cent over the following 10 years despite increased tax rates. B.C.’s 2019 total emissions were released Oct. 25, showing another increase of one per cent over 2018. The emissions for 2020 are likely to have fallen because of a sharp reduction in travel and other activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but reporting of greenhouse gases takes two years in Canada.

While setting new, more ambitious targets since taking office, Premier John Horgan’s government delayed the scheduled 2020 B.C. carbon tax increase due to the economic impact of the pandemic. That $5 increase went ahead in April 2021, and another $5 jump takes effect on April 1, 2022, to keep up with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minimum imposed on provinces for some sort of carbon pricing.

Horgan and Environment Minister George Heyman summarized B.C.’s efforts to meet the NDP government’s 2030 goals Monday, moving up targets for reducing vehicle emissions and steering new construction away from natural gas heating.

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For light-duty vehicles, the government’s CleanBC plan is updated to increase zero-emission targets to 26% by 2026, 90% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. Horgan and former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver initially said B.C. would allow sales of only new zero-emission light vehicles by 2040.

The new 2030 target triples the original zero-emission vehicle goal, which government officials say is a reflection of aggressive new targets by electric vehicle manufacturers. The federal government has also stepped in with subsidies for buying new zero-emission vehicles, and B.C. has added incentives for hydrogen fuel cell development for heavy trucks.

B.C.’s new plan introduces a goal of 25% reduction in vehicle travel by 2030, compared to 2020, with increases in walking, cycling and transit extending out to 2050.

For buildings, the plan promises to “modify energy efficiency programs so they no longer incent conventional gas-fired heating equipment and to enhance building envelope incentives.”


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