The Cost Of Car­bon

Car­bon taxes have more sources than cur­rent pol­i­tics would have you believe

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CANADA, UN­DER SUC­CES­SIVE FED­ERAL

and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments, has be­come a con­ti­nen­tal leader in car­bon pric­ing. Some see it as a green gate­way to get­ting a new pipe­line built, while oth­ers see it as the in­dus­try’s death by a thou­sand cuts or, at very least, a gi­ant tax grab.

Canada’s car­bon-tax his­tory be­gan in March 2007, when Al­berta be­came North Amer­ica’s first ju­ris­dic­tion to leg­is­late green­house gas re­duc­tions from large in­dus­trial emit­ters via a car­bon levy. The fol­low­ing month, B.C. joined forces with five U.S. states in the Western Cli­mate Ini­tia­tive—a mar­ket-based group aim­ing to tackle cli­mate change. On­tario and Que­bec have since signed on too. In May 2008, Con­ser­va­tive fed­eral en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter John Baird called car­bon trad­ing a “key part” of the govern­ment’s emis­sions plan tar­get­ing oil and gas pro­duc­ers and coal-fired power plants. In July of that year, B.C. be­came the first province to im­ple­ment a car­bon tax—with pro­ceeds go­ing back to tax­pay­ers.

In the 2008 fed­eral elec­tion, Con­ser­va­tive and Lib­eral lead­ers both in­cluded car­bon pric­ing in their plat­forms. The Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment of Stephen Harper won a mi­nor­ity man­date with a cam­paign that pledged to “de­velop and im­ple­ment a North Amer­ica-wide cap-and-trade sys­tem for green­house gases and air pol­lu­tion, with im­ple­men­ta­tion to oc­cur be­tween 2012 and 2015.” Fol­low­ing the elec­tion, Con­ser­va­tive en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Jim Pren­tice be­gan to ex­plore a na­tional car­bon mar­ket, “some­thing that has never been done be­fore in this coun­try,” he said. That plan was dropped when the Con­ser­va­tives won a ma­jor­ity govern­ment in 2011.

Fast-for­ward to 2016 and by the time Lib­eral Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau an­nounced plans for a na­tional car­bon pric­ing plan, sev­eral prov­inces—ex­clud­ing, most no­tably, Saskatchewan— al­ready had one in the works.

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