The B.C. government's climate advisory panel wants to start increasing the province's carbon tax with a 33 per cent jump in 2018, and says even with higher fuel tax the province won't meet its current target to reduce greenhouse gases one third by 2020.
The carbon tax has been frozen at $30 a tonne since 2013, a rate that translates to about seven cents a litre on gasoline and similar taxes on diesel, natural gas and other carbon-based fuels. The government's advisory team recommends increasing the carbon tax by $10 a tonne each year starting in 2018, with increased rebates for low-income and rural B.C. residents.
Environment Minister Mary Polak released the panel's recommendations Friday, as the B.C. delegation led by Premier Christy Clark prepares to attend the United Nations climate change meetings in Paris next week.
Polak was skeptical about one of the panel's recommendations, to cut the provincial sales tax from seven per cent to six and replace the revenues through higher carbon taxes in the years ahead.
"It is one of their recommendations, and so we'll be looking at it along with the others, but I think at first blush, the numbers probably don't work," Polak said.
The panel, appointed in May with industry and environmental representatives, concluded that the 2020 reduction target isn't going to be met. It recommends a new target of a 40 per cent reduction by 2030, and says the original target of an 80 per cent cut can still be reached with "aggressive" carbon pricing and expansion of the tax to include industrial emissions.
Polak said she accepts that assessment, and will consult with industry and B.C. residents before setting new policies next spring to meet the new 2030 target.
NDP leader John Horgan said the Clark government has frozen the carbon tax and delayed progress on Metro Vancouver transit with a referendum they expected would fail.
"Rather than reduce emissions, they've gone up," Horgan said. "And we're not even counting liquefied natural gas."
Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver said the recommendation to resume increases in the carbon tax is "bold," but the report also shows Clark's government gave up on the 2020 target that is still in legislation.
"The key thing is that these recommendations are completely incompatible with the government's LNG plan," Weaver said.