Harper Gets Behind Pricing Carbon Alberta Style

Fighting climate change requires strong government policy. You need to put a price on carbon.

In 2008, British Columbia recognised this and introduced North America's first carbon tax - currently $30 per ton. Studies suggest that the BC carbon tax has lowered emissions while also benefiting the economy.

Importantly, the carbon tax was set up to be "revenue-neutral", which means that any tax raised on fossil fuel burning is returned in the form of tax reductions elsewhere, for example lower income tax and tax relief for low income households.

Despite the success of BC's carbon tax, for years Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has consistently attacked a "jobs killing" carbon tax at federal level as he moulds Canada into an "energy superpower".

With a federal election coming up next year, and with Canada expected to blow through its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, due to the rapid expansion of the Alberta oilsands, Harper appears to be striking a more conciliatory tone on pricing carbon: he says he favours an Alberta approach to pricing carbon. This is from Harper's end-of-year interview with CBC television's Peter Mansbridge.

PM Stephen Harper "We've said for some time we're seeking a continental response on this particular question [regulating greenhouse gas emissions], not just with the United States, we'd like to see Mexico as well in it."
Peter Mansbridge: "So why don't we propose something then?"
PM Stephen Harper: "We have proposed something."
Peter Mansbridge: "What have we proposed?"
PM Stephen Harper: "Well the Province of Alberta, excuse me, the Province of Alberta itself already has a, it’s one of the few GHG regulatory environments in the country. It has one. I think it’s a model on which you could...on which you could go broader."
Peter Mansbridge: "This is the carbon levy?"
PM Stephen Harper: "This is the tech fund price carbon levy and the... the... it’s not a levy, it’s a price and there’s a tech fund in which, in which the private sector makes investments. So look, that’s what Alberta has done, that’s a model that’s available but you know as I say, we’re very open to see progress on this on a continental basis. I’ve said that repeatedly to our partners in North America and we look forward to working on that."

So what is the Alberta approach on pricing carbon?

Environmental economist Mark Jaccard explains in this video: