5 Things You Need to Know About BC’s Carbon Tax Shift

Commentary by  and , Originally published by Sightline Daily

When British Columbia enacted a carbon tax shift in 2008, many thought other jurisdictions would follow soon with their own ways of cashing in their carbon. Seven states and four provinces were working out the details of a huge carbon cap-and-trade market called the Western Climate Initiative. Candidates Barack Obama and John McCain were campaigning for president with promises of clean energy on the double quick; Senator Obama even pitched carbon pricing in his stump speech. Ottawa was murmuring about following the lead of Washington, DC, with a carbon cap or tax of its own.

Then history took a turn: financial collapse, bailouts, Tea Party, climate science denial, 2010 midterms, the fiasco at Copenhagen. The front in the war on climate disruption shifted from grand policy to fighting Keystone XL, coal trains, and other dirty-fuel infrastructure. Momentum abated for comprehensive laws at the state, provincial, and federal level that would gradually but persistently wean companies and households from fossil fuels by charging a small but rising fee for carbon pollution.

British Columbia then found itself alone: the only jurisdiction in North America with an appreciable, economy-wide price on global warming emissions. With this post, we launch a new series of articles on pricing carbon in Cascadia. Our ultimate focus will be Oregon and Washington, which sit between British Columbia, with its carbon tax, and California, with its new carbon cap (which we’ll discuss another day). But the best place to begin is where Cascadian carbon pricing began: in Canada.

What’s the latest on what BC’s carbon tax shift has done to carbon pollution, the provincial economy, and public revenue?

  1. Pricing carbon has reduced carbon pollution.
  2. The carbon tax shift has not hurt the economy.
  3. Pricing carbon has not caused inflation.
  4. BC’s carbon tax shift is not perfect.

Check out the charts and explanations on Sightline Daily.