B.C. Budget 2018 sets up possible breakthrough on provincial and Metro Vancouver’s transit plans with $1.2-billion, three-year commitment

VICTORIA — British Columbia took a big step toward reducing its carbon footprint today, announcing plans to increase public transit investments and strengthen its carbon tax. However, B.C. Budget 2018 stalls on the promise outlined in the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement to apply the carbon tax to methane emissions from the province’s largest polluter, the oil and gas industry.

“B.C.’s carbon tax gives citizens and businesses an incentive to be part of the solution, by switching to clean energy or adopting more energy-efficient practices,” said David Suzuki Foundation science and policy director Ian Bruce. “Although this is a great start, we need to make sure government uses the revenue generated to help address climate change, through investments in clean energy and other incentives.”

First introduced a decade ago, B.C.’s carbon tax has been frozen since 2012. Annual increases will resume on April 1, 2018, spurring investments in the clean economy.

“Citizens pay their share of the carbon tax. It’s only fair that the province’s largest emitter — the oil and gas industry — pays a carbon tax on its methane emissions too,” Bruce said. “We estimate that because of past government inaction, industry is avoiding paying $100 to $200 million on its pollution. That’s money B.C. could invest in renewable energy solutions.”

A recent Foundation field report, Fugitives in Our Midstconfirms that government and industry continue to vastly under-report fugitive methane emissions from B.C.’s oil and gas industry. The report corroborates findings from a spring 2017 study by the Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University, which found that methane emissions from B.C.’s oil and gas industry are at least 2.5 times higher than industry and government report. This pollution could account for up to 27 per cent of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions.

B.C. Budget 2018 ramps up investment in public transit with $1.2 billion dollars over the next three years. However, the budget did not say how it would address Metro Vancouver’s $80-million funding gap, which is required to unlock the $2.2 billion in federal transit funding. The province has until March 31 to strike an agreement with Metro Vancouver mayors.

“Although this major provincial investment in transit hinges on filling a small gap in regional funding, we hope the B.C. government and the Mayors’ Council will find a solution and unlock this major opportunity,” said David Suzuki Foundation policy analyst Tom Green. “This scale of transit investment would improve the quality of life for British Columbians while also decreasing our collective carbon footprint.”

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For more information, please contact:

Emily Fister, David Suzuki Foundation, 604-440-5470, efister@davidsuzuki.org