FREDERICTON (GNB) – Premier Blaine Higgs has committed to meeting and exceeding the federal government’s emissions targets with a made-in-New Brunswick plan that regulates large industrial emitters and endorses the 2016 Transitioning to a Low Carbon Economy, New Brunswick’s Climate Change Action Plan.
“New Brunswick is already part of the solution to the global challenge of climate change,” said Higgs. “The federal government’s carbon tax unfairly targets our businesses and is too heavy a financial burden for ordinary residents who need to heat their homes in the winter and drive their cars to get where they need to go.”
New Brunswick has already made significant progress towards contributing to Canada’s 2030 goal of cutting emissions by at least 30 per cent below 2005 levels. Since 2005, the province has reduced its output by 24 per cent, mostly due to closures of coal and oil-fired power plants, incorporation of wind energy, restructuring in the forestry sector and investments in energy efficiency, and is on track to meet the target.
Last week the provincial government announced that it will be intervening in legal challenges against the federal carbon tax in both Saskatchewan and Ontario. The province will also be launching its own legal challenge.
“What has become clear is that the federal backstop, as currently proposed, does not recognize our unique economic circumstances and puts us at a significant disadvantage compared to our neighbours who have been allowed to develop their own systems,’’ said Higgs. “As a newly formed government which has inherited this issue, we will be asking the federal government to put a hold on their plans to regulate our industries and allow our system to be put in place.”
According to Statistics Canada, New Brunswickers spent on average $2,122 on gas and other fuels in 2016, which is the second-highest share of total household expenditures in the country.
In addition, New Brunswickers earn less and spend more on transportation than residents of nearly every other province, except for Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
If the federal backstop remains, New Brunswickers will be paying the highest tax on gasoline in the country by 2022.
In New Brunswick, about 50 per cent of the population resides in rural areas. This is not the case in the rest of Canada, where 81 per cent live in urban areas.
“The reality in New Brunswick is that we have among the highest proportion of individuals living in rural areas. This leaves New Brunswick residents with an unfair disadvantage,” said Higgs.
The Climate Change Action Plan was based upon recommendations made by an all-party committee of the legislative assembly. The plan calls for greater emphasis on renewable energy, a broad-based and co-ordinated approach to energy efficiency in homes and businesses, and a phase-out of coal-fired electricity.
Regarding large industrial emitters, the provincial government intends to develop a made-in-New Brunswick regulatory approach that will strike a balance between reducing greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding putting the province’s industries at a competitive disadvantage.
Based on the federal targets, New Brunswick is being asked to reduce its emissions to 14.1 megatons by 2030. In 2016, the province’s output was 15.3 megatons, a 24 per cent drop since 2005.
The combination of the Climate Change Action Plan and the plan for large emitters is intended to enable the province to exceed the federal government’s goal without a carbon tax.
“New Brunswickers simply cannot afford another tax,” said Higgs. “Our plan will achieve the results the federal government is seeking while recognizing New Brunswick’s unique economic and geographic challenges. Our plan will not unduly burden rural households and families who do not have the option to use less gasoline or home heating fuel.”