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

Sylvan Lake Wranglers. File Photo
Sylvan Lake Wranglers ready for shorten hockey season

The HJHL will have a 20 game season, playing four games in a cohort and then going dark for 14 days

Decorate your vehicle for display at the second annual Trunk or Treat on Oct. 31 . (Blakc Press File Photo)
Sylvan Lake church to host a socially distanced Trunk or Treat on Halloween

Goblins and ghouls can go around to vehicles for their tricks or treats at the Alliance Church

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada/USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
U.S. election results one factor that could impact immigration to Canada next year

The survey polled 1,523 Canadians between Oct. 23 and Oct. 25

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. The Alberta government is hoping to get more Albertans employed by moving to limit the number and type of temporary foreign workers it allows into the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta to limit temporary foreign worker program to save jobs for Albertans

Temporary foreign workers already in the province won’t be affected

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

Most Read