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Raise the carbon tax, B.C. businesses say

138 small- and medium-sized businesses have signed an open letter to the premier to ask for a tax hike.

Chevron Refinery in Burnaby, B.C. on Monday March 18, 2013.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Eric Dreger

Chevron Refinery in Burnaby, B.C. on Monday March 18, 2013.

Nearly 140 businesses from across B.C. are calling for a stronger carbon tax.

In an open letter to Premier Christy Clark, the signees argue that starting in July 2018, the provincial government should increase the carbon tax by $10 per tonne of C02 equivalent emissions per year (the tax rate has been pegged at $30 per tonne since 2012).

“It would mean a stronger incentive to reduce carbon pollution in the province and get the province back on track for reducing emissions,” Matt Horne, associate B.C. director for Pembina Institute, told Metro.

The revenue-neutral carbon tax was implemented in 2008 under Gordon Campbell’s Liberals, one year after B.C. set greenhouse gas reduction targets based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The policy adds additional carbon taxes to fossil fuels burned for transportation, home heating and electricity. That money is then returned in the form of corporate and income tax breaks.

“In 2008, the Climate Action Plan – with the carbon tax as its central pillar – helped move the province’s economy ahead, it helped boost the province’s reputation and it helped the environment,” the open letter reads. “Taking the next steps on the carbon tax as part of the Climate Leadership Plan is an opportunity to build on those initial successes, and it is an opportunity we must seize as a province.”

A new Climate Leadership Plan is expected later this spring. Last November, a Climate Leadership Team – made up of academics, First Nations, business advocates and people from the environmental sector, like Horne – submitted a list of recommendations for the new plan. Raising the carbon tax was one of 32 suggestions.

As of 2014, over 68,000 British Columbians were working in clean economy jobs, Horne noted, up 13 per cent from 2010. A higher carbon tax would allow the province’s clean tech businesses to thrive both domestically and internationally, he said.

“We know the world is moving away from fossil fuels and there’s going to be more and more demand for renewable energy and clean technology. Whether that’s renewable energy producers, transportation providers, clean tech companies, they’re all looking for more markets.”

Small and medium-sized businesses, meanwhile, control close to one-third of B.C.’s carbon pollution, according to the Pembina Institute. Strengthening the carbon tax in conjunction with incentives like a tax credit will encourage businesses to invest in solutions like training, technology, retrofitting and improved processes, outlines the letter.

Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said his organization is completely opposed to any increase in the carbon tax and that the government should reassess who it’s giving tax breaks to.

“Take some of these tax credits that are going to really boutique industries that not everyone can access and change it to be fairer and more across the board,” he said, adding that 138 businesses is a tiny fraction of the overall entrepreneurial landscape.

The letter – with signatures from companies like Aeolis Wind Power, Blue Fuel Energy and Modo Car Coop – was submitted as part of the public comment period for the Climate Leadership Plan. Anyone can submit their thoughts and concerns until noon on April 8.

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