On April 3, 2008 British Columbia announced carbon Cap and Trade legislation, further establishing the province as a North American leader in climate change policy.
The new Act allows B.C. industries to trade emission credits with Manitoba and seven states in the U.S. in the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), a regional effort established in February 2007 to create a market-based system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Act places caps on levels of greenhouse gas emissions, but also allows large polluters to participate in a government-monitored trading system that permits them to offset some of their emissions levels for given periods of time by trading or buying pollution credits, according to BC Minister of the Environment Barry Penner.
'It is designed to spur innovative, low-cost solutions to reduce carbon pollution,' Penner said. 'In B.C., the Greenhouse Gas Reduction (Cap and Trade Act) will provide the authority to set a hard cap that will apply to designated large emitters. The cap will consist of a limited number of emissions allowances that will be distributed by the government.'
Businesses able to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions will be able to sell their surplus pollution credits, he said.
The B.C. law authorizes the creation of a emissions credit tracking system for the banking, transfer and surrender of emissions compliance units, said Penner.
'It’s a very important step forward in terms of building a continental carbon market,' said Ian Carter, an Ottawa-based policy co-ordinator for the International Emissions Trading Association. 'No one has actually done [what B.C. is doing] in North America. B.C. is definitely pioneering here.'
The law also includes penalties that will be levied against polluters who do not comply with their caps or trade allowances, but penalty amounts were not mentioned when Penner introduced the law.
Details of the cap and trade system such as emission caps, penalties or how many credits will be auctioned, have not been established.
The announcement of the BC cap and trade system is the latest of several serious actions the province has taken to help achieve emission reductions of 33% by 2020.
'The greenhouse gas reduction cap-and-trade act will help us achieve those targets by enabling a market-based system to limit greenhouse gas emissions in B.C.,' said BC Minister of the environment Barry Penner.
On April 1st, Energy Minister Richard Neufeld introduced legislation requiring a five-per-cent mix of biodiesel in diesel fuel and a five-per-cent mix of ethanol in gasoline across the province by 2010.
'This legislation will support British Columbia’s commitments to climate action, will reduce the environmental impact of transportation fuels and will contribute to a sustainable, low-carbon economy,' Neufeld told the legislature.
Neufeld noted the biofuels could be made within the province and that the biodiesel could be produced from excess wood created by the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
The legislation allows the BC government to set benchmarks for the amount of renewable fuel that must be blended into gasoline and diesel. The benchmarks have yet to be established; however the government does require carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles to be reduced by 10% by 2020.
In November of 2007 the BC government released the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act which pledged to make all BC government operations carbon neutral by 2010. The Act also marked the development of the Climate Action Team, a group of climate experts from across Canada, including members of the UN International Panel on Climate Change with the purpose of developing strategies for achieving BC’s climate change goals for 2020.
In January of 2008 Premier Gordon Campbell announced plans for the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, which will bring together top scientists, researchers, governments and the private sector to develop innovative climate change adaptation and mitigation solutions.
The Institute will be a joint collaboration between the province’s four research-intensive universities - the University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and University of Northern British Columbia - the private sector and government. It will bring provincial, national and international climate researchers together to work with governments and the private sector to develop ideas that can be applied and transferred to government, industry and the public.
The institute has three primary objects:
- Bring together leading universities to serve as a source of information and research on cutting-edge solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
- Promote the development of climate change solutions and partner with the private sector to find research solutions that may be applied commercially.
- Bring together the various climate change-related experts found in British Columbia’s research-intensive universities, including climatologists, economists, chemists, modelers, ecologists, biologists, geologists and oceanographers.
In the 2008 Provincial Budget, British Columbia announced a revenue neutral carbon tax. The new tax will start July 1 at $10 per tonne of carbon or about 2.4 cents on a litre of gasoline and 2.8 cents on a litre of home heating fuel and rise to $30 per tonne of carbon - about 7.2 cents on a litre of gasoline by 2012.
The government expects the carbon tax to raise $1.8 billion over three years, and that money, by law, will be returned to businesses and individuals in tax cuts and environmental rebates.
Across Canada, British Columbia has arguably taken the most serious action towards mitigating climate change.
'We’d like the federal government to acknowledge that what we’re doing is meeting their requirements and perhaps going beyond,' said Penner.