CIVL 250

Discussion 3

Updated 2019-06-05

Position

Yes and no. I believe carbon tax is by technicalities, a strategy of working towards a acceptable NDC rate but it is not an appropriate long-term method.

Recall nationally determined contribution defined in The Paris Agreement in COP 21, that it is an amount of effort put in by a country to reduce its national emissions, and adapt to the impact of climate change1. The carbon tax only has minor effect on reducing Canada’s emissions since it’s not direct confrontation to the polluters, and it certainly does not help the country adapt to the impact of climate change as up to 90% of the collected tax are given back to the payers2.

Does carbon tax work? I’m not saying carbon tax doesn’t work at all. It is true that it has been partially successful in British Columbia and in Sweden. In 2008, British Columbia implemented a carbon tax, but there are no significant decrease in carbon emissions between 2005 to 2017 from 63.1 CO2e megatonnes to 62.1 CO2e megatonnes3 (a mere 1.5%). Or 3.7% reduction from 2007 to 20164. In Sweden, carbon tax was implemented in 1991 with a steeper starting price of 27€ per tonne5 with a price of 114€ per tonne today. Sweden managed to reduce emission by 26% and showed that carbon tax does not hinder economic growth, as it grew by 78% in the same period6.

The issue is the difference in context. Sweden is a country with small landmass, with a population less than a third of Canada’s7. Meaning Canada’s population density of 4 people per km2 is more disadvantageous than Sweden’s 22 people per km2 8. Moreover, Sweden’s export of vehicles and fossil fuel only accounts for 10% and 7% of its total export respectively9. Whereas Canada’s export of vehicles and fossil fuel accounts for a total of over 35%10, making Canada’s industries much less resilient.

Carbon tax is a direct attack on consumers, workers, and small businesses. Increasing the tax over time will only exacerbate the financial problem. Companies that pollute will charge more from its clients to offset the cost of carbon tax. Farmers in Saskatchewan are fighting against the carbon tax as it would do more harm than good such as paying more for land, supplies, equipment, and transportation in an industry with already thin profit margins1112. Carbon tax cause political divide due to unhappy citizens and give rise to conservative leaders such as Andrew Sheer, Jason Kenney, and Rob Ford.

I think it’s premature to implement carbon tax without providing abundant supply of clean, tax-free, alternatives for the rest of the country. It’s more appropriate to develop more efficient processes, infrastructures, and buildings; and build better public transportation system. Especially since 45% of Canada’s emissions comes from burning fossil fuel for energy, and 28% comes from transportation13. It is also appropriate to focus on adaptation to the impacts of climate change such as flooding and biodiversity loss. Only when the green alternatives are the mainstream, that we “punish” those who use more than they need.

Living in Vancouver, we often take what we have for granted. Not everyone in Canada has access to year-round t-shirt-weather. Edmonton’s temperature ranges from -40 in the winter to +35 in the summer. Heating and energy in the rest of the country is much more inelastic and irreplaceable. Likewise, most cities such as Edmonton are not advanced as Vancouver, they are not as walkable nor have a good public transit system. Thus residences must drive everywhere. There does not exists alternatives that is adequate to replace these lifestyles in these cities, so the carbon tax would be unfair.

People in this discussion have a general consensus to raise the carbon tax. But how does that help? Would you, personally, be willing to pay an extra $1000+ a year ($50 per tonne × 22 tonnes of average Canadian emission14)? What if you’re in the shoes of a resident in Red Deer, AB who has to drive 150km just to go to an Apple Store? What if you’re a farmer in Saskatchewan making only $40,000 a year?

In conclusion, carbon tax is contradictory to what we have learned in the course so far. It is merely a band-aid to a much larger problem. Carbon tax is a surface level hack and does not consider Canada as a whole system. While it may contribute to Canada’s NDC, it takes a toll on Canadian’s economic well-being.

  1. ClimageScorecard - Canada’s Nationally Determined Contributions: https://www.climatescorecard.org/2018/06/canadas-nationally-determined-contribution/ 

  2. The Guardian - Canada passed a carbon tax that will give most Canadians more money: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/oct/26/canada-passed-a-carbon-tax-that-will-give-most-canadians-more-money 

  3. canada.ca - Greenhouse Gas Emissions: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html 

  4. gov.bc.ca - Carbon tax: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/climate-change/planning-and-action/carbon-tax 

  5. Euractive - Sweden’s new carbon tax: https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/swedens-new-carbon-tax/ 

  6. government.se - Sweden’s Carbon Tax: https://www.government.se/government-policy/taxes-and-tariffs/swedens-carbon-tax/ 

  7. http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/sweden-population/ 

  8. http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/canada-population/ 

  9. https://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/swe/ 

  10. https://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/can 

  11. Global News - Saskatchewan Carbon Tax: https://globalnews.ca/news/5124513/saskatchewan-farmers-carbon-tax/ 

  12. CBC - Carbon tax will turn sustainability into a fight for bottom line warns farmer: https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-april-1-2019-1.5079280/carbon-tax-will-turn-sustainability-efforts-into-a-fight-for-bottom-line-warns-farmer-1.5079283 

  13. Prairie Climate Center - Where do Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Come From: http://prairieclimatecentre.ca/2018/03/where-do-canadas-greenhouse-gas-emissions-come-from/ 

  14. The Globe and Mail - Canada found to produce most greenhouse gas emissions per person among G20 average: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-canada-found-to-produce-most-greenhouse-gas-emissions-per-person-among/