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Carbon pricing lets industry ‘off the hook’ for emissions, N.B. conservation council says

Click to play video: 'Carbon pricing lets industry ‘off the hook’ for emissions, New Brunswick conservation council says'
Carbon pricing lets industry ‘off the hook’ for emissions, New Brunswick conservation council says
WATCH: While New Brunswick’s carbon tax plan will go ahead, there is some concern from environmental advocates. They say the new regulations don’t go far enough to pressure the province’s largest emitters into reducing greenhouse gases. Robert Lothian reports.

The largest carbon emitters in New Brunswick are being let off the hook by the recently-approved federal carbon pricing plan, according to the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

In a news release, the organization stated the federal test will allow big industry to pollute mostly for free.

On Tuesday, Ottawa accepted the province’s updated carbon pricing plan, which includes the output-based pricing system.

Louise Comeau is the director of climate change solutions at the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.

Read more: New Brunswick can keep former gas tax cut, with some caveats

“The principle behind carbon pricing is that we want to send a signal to invest and reduce pollution, but we don’t want to make households worse off, and we don’t want to make industry uncompetitive,” she told Global News on Wednesday.

“But the way that they’ve done it is that there’s a small portion of industrial emissions that face the tax.”

Under the federally-approved provincial draft regulation, New Brunswick’s industrial polluters will pay a carbon price on greenhouse gas emissions above an annual emissions limit.

In 2023, the emissions limit is 96 per cent, which is 4 per cent below levels in 2020. Each year emissions must decline by an additional 2 per cent to reach 82 per cent of the 2020 emissions levels by 2030.

Those who fail to stay below the limit must either secure credits from a company outperforming its limit, buy offsets or pay the carbon price.

Read more: Ottawa imposes its consumer carbon price plan on 3 Atlantic provinces next summer

Concerns by the conservation council have been echoed by New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon.

“If it’s something that’s going to rise more rapidly in terms of carbon pricing over a number of years, that sends a strong signal that they’ve got to make fundamental changes in their processes, and that’s the kind of signal that needs to be sent,” Coon told reporters on Wednesday.

Coon stated the bar set by the federal government is too low, and the regulations must be set to target the majority of carbon emissions.

“I mean, the inequity is striking between consumers paying carbon tax on just about every kilogram of carbon they emit and industry, and NB Power are paying tax on such a tiny portion of their emissions,” Coon added.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick premier asks for delay in implementing carbon tax'
New Brunswick premier asks for delay in implementing carbon tax

The increases to the carbon tax next year are expected to generate an extra $250 million in revenue for the province. While the province has taken to using carbon tax revenue for income tax cuts, Comeau stated changes must be made.

“We need the money to help us invest, and we would like to see more of the carbon pricing pressure, if you will, over time to be added to the industrial side, because right now, they get a bit of a break that we don’t get,” Comeau remarked.

Instead, she said, the revenue should be used to send cheques to New Brunswick families this winter to ease the burden of higher heating costs.

Comeau added future revenue must be directed towards climate initiatives that help consumers and industry shift away from fossil fuels.

— with files from Silas Brown.

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