Editorial: A price for carbon
March 28, 2016 - The Canadian government is targeting September of 2016 to have a plan in place for a national carbon tax strategy. To get there, the government wants to create small working groups of stakeholders to discuss how much the tax should be, and its implementation across Canada.
By Andrew Macklin
This would establish a baseline price that all provinces must adhere to, with the flexibility to establish an even higher price if a provincial government wanted to do so.
Without surprise, the starting place for the discussion sits at $15/tonne, the lowest cost of all of the existing carbon taxes currently in place in Canada. B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec already have carbon tax plans either implemeneted or in place, so the introduction of a carbon tax at the federal level won’t directly impact them.
So where does that leave the rest of the country?
A few others have flirted with the idea before, but none had taken the initiative to implement a strategy. Saskatchewan, which goes to the polls just as this magazine is arriving in your mailbox, decided that it would wait for guidance from the federal government. Manitoba, which heads to the polls on April 19th, has a current NDP government suggesting a cap-and-trade system. But the Green Party has attempted to bring the carbon tax issue to the forefront of its issues campaign, suggesting a $50/tonne tax.
You would have to think that, on the heels of a collective meeting of the provincial energy ministers in January, individual provincial plans are likely going to be put on hold until after the federal standard is established.
So where does that put the role of biomass and biofuels?
One of the sectors that will have to be targeted for a serious push to control emissions is transportation. Renewable biofuels offer far lower carbon emissions than their gasoline and diesel counterparts, so there should be an opportunity to push for an increase to the provincial and national mandates for renewable fuel. The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association has been pushing hard on this issue, and hopefully it can become part of the small group discussion being had to help set up the national carbon tax.
On the biomass side, the push for domestic growth should be part of this national carbon tax push. There are three natural places where biomass can be immediately implemented to help reduce carbon emissions: replacing remote heat generation with biomass (versus trucked/flown in diesel), grants to allow residents to replace heating units with pellet stoves, and pellets as a replacement for coal.
With the pending implementation of a nationwide carbon tax, the federal government is ready to listen to strategies to permanently reduce carbon emissions in Canada. There is no better time than now for the industry to do its best to reach out to government officials to talk about the solutions that biomass and biofuels can offer.