Climate Talk: Carbon Taxes - Recap

On October 26, 2016, the EPA hosted its second Climate Talk of the semester, and brought in local activist Kevin Washbrook to talk with us about Carbon Taxes. Kevin has been active in the environment and climate change community in Vancouver for many years, and currently serves as a director at Voters Taking Action Against Climate Change. He gave a brief presentation where he stressed the immediate threat of climate change and explained why carbon taxes might not be enough. Below is a summary of Kevin’s presentation, as well as some of the points that were brought up in discussion.


Climate Change:

Scientists warn that at a 2 degree increase from pre-industrial temperatures will have catastrophic effects on the earth. We are currently at 1 degree above pre-industrial temperatures.

      This temperature increase tracks very closely to carbon emissions.

      We have already seen increased drought, collapse of ice sheets off coast of Antarctica, melting of ice caps on land and subsequent rising sea levels, flooding (Maldives, Alaska, Prince Edward Island), fire storms, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification.

      What could come at 2 degrees of warning is not a risk we should be willing to take.

      The Paris Agreement’s aim is to keep the temperature increase below 2 degrees celsius, and ideally at 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

      The first check on member emissions is not scheduled until 2023.


Canada’s Carbon Pricing Scheme:

      Canada is set to implement a national carbon pricing requirement where provinces will have to decide on either a carbon tax, or cap and trade system. The pricing will begin at$10/tonne and incrementally increase to $50/tonne by 2022.

      A $50/tonne tax translates to approximately an additional $0.11/litre at the pump.

      There are many options for offsetting the cost, such as Output Based Aid (OBAs), and reductions in personal and corporate taxes.


What is Needed:

      Supply-side climate policy to avoid lock in on fossil fuel exports.

      Increasing taxes on royalties and exports.

      Divestment campaign.

      Protest (Do not underestimate its power when it comes to political change. Increases awareness and delays any ‘bad’ progress).



      LNG will displace more expensive renewables.

      There are lower costs to face and greater benefits to gain for countries with the highest emissions in the world.

      Do developed nations have responsibility to ensure that developing countries can achieve environmentally friendly and clean development?

      Under WTO trade agreement, countries with carbon tax allowed to put tariff on imported energy from other countries.

      Makes it more appealing to outsource part of manufacturing process or move entirely to another country with no carbon taxes.

      This is already happening so the carbon tax is exacerbating an existing issue.



Carbon tax is currently not enough to make significant changes to consumer and manufacturing activity. Canada already has low targets, and with projects like the Liquid Natural Gas project and a potential Trans-Mountain pipeline, it may only just offset these new projects. Are carbon taxes just a political front to allow for more carbon intensive industries to boost Canada’s economy? When is our government going to take Climate Change seriously and move away from fossil fuels? Is there an economic solution or must we take a short-term economic hit to do what is best for the planet?


Thank you to everyone who came out and contributed to the discussion!