Global Fridays: The evolution of a carbon tax in British Columbia

Mar 25, 2011
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Three years ago British Columbia Canada’s westernmost province passed a tax on carbon which costs approximately $21 per ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent (equaling less than 20 cents per gallon of gas). The main goal of the tax was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a secondary goal was to raise revenues.

As one might expect there was initial apprehension from both the public and politicians but this anxiety as The New York Times reports “subsided after the sky did not fall on the economy” following the implementation of the tax. Now growing acceptance has led to more politicians in British Columbia (including former opponents of the tax) to support it and recent polls indicate that a majority of all Canadians support a national carbon tax.

The latter point is a positive development because although British Columbia should be rewarded for moving forward with reducing emissions as Mark Jaccard a professor at Simon Fraser University told the Times “British Columbia’s emissions are too small to do this alone.”

Given the current political climate in the United States the notion of a carbon tax may be too toxic for even the most environmentally-conscious policymakers to pursue; however a cap-and-trade system that reduces emissions over time using a market-based approach may be more palpable on Capitol Hill. RF has set an ambitious target for reducing emissions in metro Washington (to 80% below 2005 levels by 2050) it’s up to the region’s and the nation’s policymakers to decide how best to do so.

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