The Hamilton Spectator

Putting a price on pollution part of the solution


If you’re confused about the carbon tax, you’re not alone. Putting a price on pollution is being used as a political football now by naysayers with snappy slogans and misinforma­tion. The reality is carbon taxes make all of us part of the solution.

The first carbon tax was levied in Alberta by a Progressiv­e Conservati­ve government in 2007. British Columbia followed shortly thereafter. In 2008, both the federal Conservati­ve and Liberal party election platforms included carbon pricing.

Canada’s carbon tax has been in place since 2019. Provinces and territorie­s were given the option of developing their own plans if they matched the same incrementa­l pricing as the federal program. This April, it will be $85/tonne on its way to $170/ tonne in 2030.

There are two aspects to the program to reduce emissions. Large industrial emitters like steel, oil and gas, and concrete remit their carbon tax through the Output-based Pricing System. They pay more if they produce more emissions and get credits if they produce less. The money goes to industry decarboniz­ation projects.

The Canadian Climate Institute concluded that “marketbase­d policies targeting industrial emissions (i.e. industrial emitters) are having the biggest impact” as one in “a mix of major climate policies across Canada.”

B.C.’s 2008 carbon tax “reduced emissions in the province by between five per cent and 15 per cent since being implemente­d …(and) … the tax has had negligible effects on the aggregate economy,” wrote Nicholas Rivers, University of Ottawa professor and former Canada research chair in climate and energy policy.

The amount of carbon tax you personally pay is based on the amount of gas you use to drive, heat your home, and power your appliances. On your home gas bill, it’s shown as the federal carbon charge. As you reduce or replace your gas use, you will pay less.

Four times a year you will receive a rebate to ease the increased cost of paying to burn oil and gas. Your bank statement in April should show the rebate as Canada carbon rebate, although not all banks are using the same wording. The amount differs between provinces. If you live outside a large urban area, you are also eligible for a small town/rural top-up.

The cost of inaction, compared to these incrementa­l expenses, is a world of hurt. Warmest winter in 70 years, worst wildfire and wildfire smoke ever in 2023, flooding, atmospheri­c rivers, drought, and wind storms … the cost, and pain and suffering is exponentia­lly more expensive.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada reports over $3.1 billion in insured damage in 2023. The Catastroph­ic Indices and Quantifica­tion Inc. (CatIQ) president and CEO, Laura Twidle, writes: “In July and August, there were more catastroph­es than Canada has previously seen in an entire year,” including a first-ever in the territorie­s from wildfires.

By making it gradually more expensive to pollute, both industry and individual­s have time to adapt their buying habits and behaviour to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions.

The cost of inaction, compared to these incrementa­l expenses, is a world of hurt

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