British Columbia Carbon Plan Eyes Buildings While Caps Ruled Out

British Columbia, pledging to step up the fight against climate change while ruling out carbon caps, is considering tougher building standards, its premier said.

In contrast to her peers in Ontario and Quebec, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark defends her province’s carbon levy as a better approach because it avoids the complexity of a cap-and-trade system, and the revenue can be converted into tax breaks elsewhere to boost the economy.

She said more nonetheless needs to be done to reduce emissions, which have remained steady since 2009 in B.C., Canada’s third-most-populous province.

“The reason we’ve grown our economy is because every penny from the carbon tax has been invested in tax cuts, and that’s the trick,” Clark said Friday in a telephone interview from Washington, where she discussed climate measures, and her province’s approach, with finance ministers from several countries. “We need to start thinking now about the ‘built environment,’” and how energy efficiency in buildings can be increased, she said.

Canadian provincial leaders last week criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper for inaction on emissions and are striving to come up with proposals ahead of a United Nations meeting in December in Paris to forge a new international climate agreement.

The UN’s top climate envoy, Christiana Figueres, said last week that Canada was one of only four industrialized nations to not have submitted its targets. Harper has said Canada will announce emission-reduction goals before June.

Ontario’s Plan

Ontario, Canada’s most populated province, vowed last week to join Quebec and California in an emissions market at a time when the European Union is trying to fix the world’s largest one. Slumping carbon credit prices have discouraged European emitters from investing in abatement technology.

Alberta, home to the oil sands and Canada’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas, requires large industrial emitters to pay C$15 ($12.26) for every metric ton of emissions that exceeds certain limits.

British Columbia introduced its carbon tax, which applies to fuels, in 2008 and set the current price of $30 per ton of equivalent greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012. The tax is designed to be revenue-neutral, with government cutting other taxes for every dollar of carbon tax revenue.

Advocates of cap-and-trade systems argue that the progressive reduction of allowances ensures emission reductions over time, and that carbon levies such as British Columbia’s and Alberta’s don’t.

Clark, however, says cap-and-trade systems are complex to administer and lead to “unintended consequences.” This month, she announced her province would develop the next stage of its own climate plan.

“Hopefully we’ll have some big ideas on the table before we go to Paris at the end of the year,” she said.

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