Here’s a list of the top 5 misconceptions about the BC carbon tax prepared last year by a consortium of environmental groups that includes the Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club of Canada, Pembina Institute,the BC Sustainable Energy Association and the Western Canada Wilderness Committee:
Myth 1: The B.C. carbon tax won’t reduce emissions.
Economic modelling conducted by M.K. Jaccard and Associates concluded that the B.C. carbon tax will reduce B.C.’s emissions by three million tonnes annually by 2020. That represents just over eight per cent of the effort required to reach B.C.’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020 (about a 36-milliontonne annual reduction).
This projection actually underestimates the potential of the B.C. carbon tax because it assumes the B.C. carbon tax would not increase past its 2012 rate of $30 per tonne of carbon pollution. A carbon tax is a powerful economic tool that can reduce much more of B.C.’s harmful emissions if it continues to increase over time beyond 2012, and if it is coupled with other strong measures (for example, tough regulations for the energy efficiency of vehicles and homes, as well as a major scale-up of transit investments).
Under the existing legislation, increases in the carbon tax would be accompanied by decreases in personal and some business income taxes, as well as tax credits for low income earners.
Myth 2: Big industry is let off the hook.
Not true: B.C.’s carbon tax covers emissions from burning fossil fuels, for both business and individual consumers. Because industry and business burn more fossil fuels than thouseholds, they will pay more of the carbon tax. The carbon tax applies to about twothirds of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by industry.
B.C.’s carbon tax applies to 70 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Of the remaining 30 per cent, about 14 per cent are associated with emissions produced by agriculture and decaying garbage in landfills. Another 16 per cent are associated with industrial emissions that do not come from burning fossil fuels. These include emissions released intentionally or unintentionally during the production, processing, and
transmission of fossil fuels in the oil and gas sector, such as leaks from natural-gas pipelines. Another example is the production of lime in making cement, which has carbon dioxide as a byproduct.
The B.C. government has promised to reduce emission sources not subject to the carbon tax through regulations (at municipal landfills, for example) or through a cap-and-trade system for industrial emitters. This is a legitimate and practical approach as long as these regulations come into effect by early 2009 and are well designed. An alternative approach would be to broaden the carbon tax to cover these additional sources. A delay in implementing these regulations (or in broadening the carbon tax) on the remaining industrial emissions would be unfair as B.C. households and many businesses are taking responsible action now because of the carbon tax incentive.
Myth 3: B.C.’s carbon tax is a “tax grab” or additional tax.
B.C.’s carbon tax is not an additional tax. It’s a tax shift – and it’s revenue neutral. By law, all revenue collected through the carbon tax must be returned to British Columbians through cuts to personal income taxes and some business taxes. As well as receiving these tax reductions, British Columbians can also choose to save money by making green choices that don’t expose them to the carbon tax. A higher price for higher-carbonemission choices also makes greener options more commercially viable, thereby encouraging businesses and entrepreneurs to develop innovative and affordable lowcarbon alternatives for households and businesses.
Leading economists and environmental experts agree: seeing that cost and making it real will give us incentives to change the technologies and habits that created global warming in the first place.
Myth 4: B.C.’s carbon tax will unfairly penalize consumers who are reeling from high international oil prices.
A carbon tax can help protect B.C.’s economy from high oil prices by creating an incentive to shift to greener options that diversify our energy resources and away from oil and other fossil fuels. A carbon tax provides the economic incentive for companies and households to pollute less by investing in clean technologies or by adopting greener practices. A shift by households, businesses, and industry to cleaner technologies
increases the demand for energy-efficient products and helps spur innovation and investment in green solutions. And although the carbon tax makes polluting activities more expensive, it makes green technologies affordable and actually helps get these greener solutions into use.
B.C.’s carbon tax will be phased in slowly, starting at a low rate and increasing gradually to give individuals and businesses time to adjust. The carbon tax is also fair to lowincome families in the two years now covered by the B.C. government’s plan because the tax relief and tax credits more than offset the carbon taxes they will have to pay. The concern that the carbon tax could grow faster than the low-income credit over time
should be addressed as the tax evolves. By law, B.C.’s finance minister must develop a three-year plan every year that clearly demonstrates how the revenue will be recycled back to all British Columbians, including low-income earners.
Looking at where those dollars flow illustrates the significant difference between rising international oil prices and increases to B.C.’s carbon tax. As international oil prices rise, British Columbians pay more for gasoline and diesel. That money leaves the local economy, generating profits for foreign oil and gas companies. But, as the B.C. carbon tax increases, the money is returned to British Columbians through lower income taxes as
well as some lower business taxes.
Note: The B.C. carbon tax coming to effect July 1st has had nothing to do with high gas
prices experienced internationally due to market forces.
Myth 5: B.C. has introduced a “gas tax”.
It’s a carbon tax. B.C.’s carbon tax applies to the burning of nearly all fossil fuels in the province, whether the greenhouse gas pollution is from industry or individual consumers.
In fact, gasoline accounts for less than a quarter of fossil-fuel emissions subject to the carbon tax. More than 75 per cent of the carbon tax revenue will come from other fossil fuels, including coal, coke, diesel, and natural gas.
You can read the entire document here in PDF: The B.C. Carbon Tax: Myths and Realities