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New Brunswick mum on how it plans to reduce industry emissions

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WATCH: New Brunswick released its updated climate change action plan yesterday. But some say the plan is lacking in ambition, and question why many of its items weren't underway already. Silas Brown has more.

New Brunswick’s updated plan to address climate change doesn’t include any new action items to reduce emissions from industry, other than a proposed update to its carbon pricing scheme, the details of which haven’t been released.

The province’s new Climate Change Action Plan lists a handful of initiatives already in progress, including industrial energy efficiency programs, requirements for large emitters to report on emissions and submit management plans and the province’s output-based carbon pricing system.

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No new items specifically targeting industry have been added and the amount of emission reductions expected for the sector by 2030 are listed as TBD (to be determined).

That’s because the province is waiting for federal approval of its updated carbon pricing plan, which will have to fall in line with more stringent federal requirements. The current system sees about 11 cents applied to each litre of gasoline sold, with a separate output-based model for large emitters.

But the province isn’t releasing details of the new proposal until Ottawa accepts or rejects it.

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“We are committed to delivering a carbon pricing system that is fair for New Brunswickers and are confident that we have made a proposal that will be received favourably by the federal government,” said Vicky Lutes, a spokesperson for New Brunswick’s department of environment and climate change.

“We won’t be discussing our carbon proposal for 2023 to 2030 until the federal government has had time to review. We look forward to their response as we work together to solve our climate change challenges.”

The action plan says that industry accounts for 34 per cent of emissions in the province, the most of any sector.

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Green MLA Megan Mitton says she’s disappointed the plan didn’t include more direct actions to lower GHGs from industry.

“(Carbon pricing) is one tool in a tool box, the key thing really is to make sure that industry is paying their fair share,” she said.

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Louise Comeau, the director of climate change research at the New Brunswick Conservation Council says the lack of details on the updated carbon pricing plan, and lack of direct actions to combat industrial emissions, are worrying.

“We’ve committed to a carbon price, but it’s not clear what that’s going to be, so that’s concerning,” she said.

Comeau says that the updated plan should force industry to pay their fair share for the carbon they emit and wants to see the proceeds of the carbon tax recycled back to consumers, like the federal backstop that sees quarterly rebate cheques sent to taxpayers.

“It’s important that the public and our small and medium sized businesses receive the revenue back to support them in reducing their energy use,” she said.

“Of course cost of living is a big concern for everybody and the priority of the project should be full implementation of the climate plan while we are reducing energy costs to all households.”

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Since New Brunswick implemented its own carbon pricing system in 2020, much of the revenue generated from the tax has gone to tax cuts. Of the $206 million in expected carbon tax revenue this year, $149 million is tied up in tax cuts. That includes $81 million for the 4.4 cents per litre cut to the provincial gas tax in 2020 and $68 million in income tax cuts. Another $36 million goes to the Climate Change Fund, while the rest is used to subsidize home heating fuel.

The update action plan has a total of 30 recommendations, 14 of which the province says it will aim to complete in the next two years.

New action items include the development of a clean energy strategy, which will help the province reach net zero for power generation by 2035, a target to have electric vehicles make up half of  the new vehicles sold in the province by 2030 as well as the development of a plan to get the province to net zero by 2050.

But Mitton points out that many of the action items are promises to develop plans in the future, something she says shows a lack of urgency.

“We see that a lot of the action items are around creating reports in the future, I feel like why haven’t these already been done and in fact governments have fought against some of these things like getting off coal,” she said.

“Why aren’t we moving and are further along on a lot of these items?”

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