The B.C. government has put its recent focus on subsidizing electric cars and charging stations like this one at Egmont on the Sunshine Coast.

Decision time for B.C. carbon tax

Public comments accepted until April 8, and then Premier Christy Clark has to decide on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Premier Christy Clark’s “Climate 2.0” plan is due this spring, including the future of the carbon tax on fuels that has been frozen since 2012.

The government has extended its public input collection to April 8, after receiving a report from its climate advisory panel in November that calls for substantial increases in the carbon tax beginning in 2018. Clark is expected to reveal in the next few weeks what moves the province will make next to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A group of B.C. businesses has added its call to increase the carbon tax by $10 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2018, the same increase recommended by the advisory panel of industry and environmental representatives.

More than 130 businesses, many with financial interest in clean energy development, signed an open letter to Clark, released this week by the Pembina Institute. They include Aeolis Wind Power, Canadian Electric Vehicles Ltd. the B.C. Bionergy Network and Modo Car Co-op.

Even with a series of increases to carbon fuel taxes, the advisory committee estimated that B.C. still won’t meet its target of a one-third reduction in emissions by 2020.

The B.C. carbon tax legislation requires an annual report from the finance ministry to show it is revenue neutral to the government, through a combination of low-income and rural tax credits and reduced personal and business income tax.

Clark argued for the revenue neutral carbon tax approach at a meeting with other premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the end of February, but they emerged with no consensus on a national price for carbon emissions.

Alberta’s NDP government has pledged to have a carbon tax at the same level as B.C. by 2018, but wants to spend the proceeds on energy-efficient infrastructure.

The B.C. environment ministry estimates that average temperatures for all of B.C. have increased since 1900, at a rate of 1.4 degrees per century. Average precipitation has also increased across southern B.C., which the ministry attributes to greenhouse gas emissions.