B.C.'s carbon tax is a failure … and Australia is following suit

by Ian Angus

I know it’s not nice to say “I told you so,” but four years ago an editorial I wrote for for Canadian Dimension magazine about British Columbia’s then-new carbon tax said this:

“the B.C. carbon tax is regressive, shifting ever more of the province’s tax burden onto working people, while reducing taxes on corporations. It will do nothing to cut emissions or slow global warming.”

At that time, the carbon tax was being hailed as a huge step forward. Greenpeace, the Pembina Institute and other greenish NGOs teamed up to give the province’s premier an “Acts of Climate Leadership” award for imposing the tax.

How has it worked out in practice? Today Bill Tilleman gives us the bottom line in The Tyee:

British Columbia’s unique carbon tax on gasoline and other fuels went up another 1.1 cents a litre Sunday, but it remains an expensive, ineffective and unpopular failure.

While the BC Liberal government is attempting to make the proverbial silk purse from a sow’s ear, the reality is that North America’s only carbon tax is not reducing vehicle fuel consumption.

Nor is it helping improve the environment, since every cent of the $1.17 billion in tax revenue raised this year goes to corporate and personal tax cuts — not to fund a single environmentally-friendly program like public transit, energy efficiency or conservation.

Statistics Canada figures show what happened. In 2008 — the carbon tax’s first year — B.C. motor gasoline sales were 4,529.8 in thousands of cubic metres. In 2011 they totaled 4,536.8 thousand cubic metres.

Gas sales went up, not down, under the carbon tax, despite a tough economic recession that reduced consumption.

In the video below, from the recent Climate Change Summit in Sydney, Green Left Weekly editor  Simon Butler discusses Australia’s carbon tax, which went into effect this week. Anyone familiar with the B.C. fiasco will experience a strong sense of déjà vu.

 

Posted in Canada & Quebec, Carbon Pricing

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350orbust
4 years 1 month ago

Not sure why you are so excited about the so-called failure of BC’s carbon tax. Instead, you prefer the current pollute-our-common-atmosphere-at-will system? While I don’t think any of BC’s carbon tax supporters (which I count myself among) would say that it was perfect, it certainly is a huge improvement over the status quo. While you may be correct in pointing out that some of the proceeds should/could go to low-carbon public programs, that does seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Dr. Shi-Ling Hsu and Yoram Bauman point out in a recent NY piece, “The Most Sensible Tax of All”, that GGH emissions in BC are down by 4.5 percent, even as population and GDP have grown, and sales of gasoline have dropped by 2 % since 2007, compared with an increase of 5% for Canada as a whole.
While this is not revolutionary, nor nearly enough to meet the scientifically-dictated goals (apparently it has to hurt a lot more before we entitled North Americans are willing to embrace change to a renewable energy economy) to completely dismiss this courageous policy decision/gamble on the part of Gordon Campbell’s government seems to be short-sighted, not the mention incorrect.

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