Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)

B.C. VOTES 2020

B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

B.C. currently has the highest carbon tax in North America, and its unique lack of protection for export industries like mining and smelting is making it more likely that new copper and steelmaking coal mines are built elsewhere, the Mining Association of B.C. warns.

B.C. currently has 14 operating mines and two smelters, the Teck smelter at Trail and the recently expanded Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter at Kitimat. In a new report, the mining industry notes that B.C.’s copper mines has lower emissions than Chile’s, its metallurgical coal is produced with half of the greenhouse gas emissions of Australia’s, and its aluminum is seven times less carbon-intensive than Russia’s.

That advantage is largely a result of abundant hydroelectric power, and the B.C. industry has been using it to reduce emissions further. But in a price-sensitive world market, mine investment is likely to go to countries that don’t have carbon tax. The industry calls it “carbon leakage,” where a higher carbon tax costs jobs locally and produces more emissions globally.

If B.C. doesn’t offer exemptions to export industries like metal mining and production, “you’ll reduce emissions in B.C. because you’ll close mines,” Michael Goehring, CEO of the Mining Association of B.C., said in an interview. He emphasized that the industry supports a price on carbon and isn’t asking for the B.C. carbon tax to be eliminated, just modified to match Ottawa’s protections for export industries. The Canadian government and all other provincial governments have such protections, and they’re not alone around the world.

“All of the Northern European nations do it,” Goehring said. “California does it.”

Asked about the issue at a campaign stop in Langley Oct. 21, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan said he’s working on the exemption issue, which was first raised in B.C. as its cement makers started losing business to U.S. and China imports.

“This is an issue that we’ve been working on inside of government, and if we’re re-elected on Saturday we’re going to be focusing on making sure that our traditional industries don’t suffer, in fact they benefit from our leadership on climate action,” Horgan told Black Press.

RELATED: NDP breaks on sales tax, carbon tax make LNG happen

RELATED: Delayed carbon tax, sales tax payments come due in B.C.

The B.C. Liberal election platform calls for industrial carbon tax exemptions, committing the party to “work to ensure that our carbon tax system for job-creating export industries does not increase global greenhouse gas emissions by driving investment to higher-emitting jurisdictions.”

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said the issue has to be dealt with “very soon” or B.C. will lose industry and jobs.

“This has been done in many jurisdictions around the world, and it’s high time it was dealt with in B.C.,” Wilkinson said in an interview Oct. 21. “We can’t see our exports losing competitiveness against jurisdictions where there is no such tax.”

Most people see the carbon tax when they fuel up vehicles, with the B.C. tax currently at 8.89 cents a litre on gasoline and 10.23 cents on diesel on top of federal and provincial fuel. It also applies to natural gas, currently at 7.6 cents per cubic metre, as well as propane and industrial fuels like coal. The NDP government increased the tax from $35 to $40 per tonne of emissions in April 2019, then delayed the next increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is due to rise to $45 in April 2021, moving to the federal target of $50 after that.

B.C. NDP platform highlights:

• Reduce B.C.’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2030

• Fast-track B.C.’s industrial electrification strategy for natural gas and other industries

B.C. Liberal platform highlights:

• Work with Ottawa to review scheduled carbon tax increases in light of the COVID-19 recession

• Encourage retrofitting of B.C. homes and businesses to reduce emissions

B.C. Green Party platform highlights:

• Commit B.C. to be carbon neutral by 2045, matching California

• Implement a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has been named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the BC Liberals. (Black Press file photo)
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Previously, Ross was the critic for LNG, Resource Opportunities, and Responsible Development

Coast Mountains School District 82 is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)
CMSD82 coping with bus driver shortage in Terrace area

LNG Project, COVID-19 contributing to driver shortage

The District of Stewart has adopted a strategic plan for 2020/21 with six focus areas. (District of Stewart/Facebook)
Stewart adopts 2020 strategic plan

Economy, community areas of focus

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Most Read