An environmental group in New Brunswick says the province’s plan to combat climate change offers no incentive for motorists to reduce the amount of fuel they burn.
“I understand what the government is trying to do by saying we’re going to take some action on climate change, but just a repurposing of the gas tax account doesn’t actually rise to the challenge or the urgency of the issue we’re trying to deal with,” said Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick.
The government unveiled details of its carbon-pricing plan Thursday, which includes redirecting some of the existing tax on gasoline and diesel to a climate-change fund, rather than increasing the amount consumers pay at the pumps.
The federal government says the provinces must collect the equivalent of $10 on every tonne of carbon emitted in 2018, rising to $50 per tonne in 2022.
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New Brunswick Environment Minister Serge Rousselle says 2.3 cents per litre of the 15.5 cents per litre provincial tax on gasoline will go to a climate-change fund next year, rising to 11.64 cents per litre in 2022, while the amount for diesel will be slightly higher.
It’s estimated that will raise $37 million in 2018, rising to $180 million in 2022 when new industrial performance standards will be imposed on large industrial emitters.
But Corbett said the new legislation misses the mark on protecting families and communities from the worst of climate change.
“There are no new incentives, financial or otherwise, to innovate, reduce pollution or change behaviours,” she said.
She said more must be done now, rather than slowly ramping up efforts, especially when those efforts will be more expensive in the future.
But Rousselle said there will be incentives to reduce fuel consumption and move to cleaner fuels as the program goes forward.
“We believe that by using this fund we will combat climate change. We will use different energy efficiencies and things like that,” Rousselle said.
“New Brunswick is already a climate-change leader,” he said. “We have met our own 2020 provincial targets and we have also equalled Canada’s 2030 emissions target.”
Corbett said there are some aspects of the new legislation she does like, including annual reporting on progress and how the money is being spent.