The long awaited federal budget is a subject deserving of much spilled ink. Here is what we think you should know if you care, even just slightly, about clean air and water, and a safe climate:
1. A $109M budget for Carbon Pricing, over 5 years
With this money, the federal government pledges to support the development and
implementation of the long-awaited carbon pricing system. With such commitment, the government is working with provinces to put a price on carbon across the country, to help shift the balance toward more sustainable products and energy sources.
If carbon pricing already exists in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, the draft legislative proposals released by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, earlier this year is meant to expand the mechanisms to other provinces.
2. $20M over 5 years committed for the Evaluation of Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change & Clean Growth (PCF)
The Pan-Canadian Framework is Canada’s plan to meet our greenhouse gas emissions targets and build resilience to the changing climate. The $20M is dedicated to engaging external experts to assess the effectiveness of the measures included in the Framework, as well as to better identify available best practices. This might increase transparency in the whole process.
3. 119.9M over 5 years to help Canadian Weather and Water Services adapt to climate change
This money is primarily going to be used for the modernization of Canada’s weather forecast and severe weather warning systems. Part of the money will also be used to improve water stations that might have to withstand an increasing number of floods. This initiative is meant to help equip provinces with the tools to be prepared for the increasing frequency and severity of floods and other extreme weather events.
Following disastrous floods last year, the province of Quebec is also acting in the same direction: it declared on February 28 that cities will have two years to put in place natural disaster emergency systems.
4. $123M over 5 years to extend the tax support for clean energy
The tax support for businesses to encourage investment in clean energy and promote the use of energy efficient equipment is a crucial step in the transition towards a low carbon economy. Since the tax provision promised by the government was set to expire in 2020, this renewed support will increase the after-tax income of about 900 businesses, increasing their disposable income while helping to reduce their carbon footprint.
5. Continued subventions of the fossil fuel industry
10 years ago, the federal government committed to decrease and eventually suppress the funding towards unsustainable sources of energy, gradually shifting the economic incentives towards cleaner sources. However, none of that really happened. For example, the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit has been extended. This 15-per-cent tax credit helps junior exploration companies to find new sources of fossil fuel and will cost the government $45 million in only 1 year. This is just one of the many tax subsidies that fossil fuel companies have access to in Canada, which could be invested in low-carbon energy sources of the 21st century. In a warming world, any government that keeps funding oil exploration activities is not serious about solving the climate crisis.
Indeed, these subsidies have consistently enabled the industry to keep low and competitive prices, making sustainable sources of energy comparably more expensive. Even if innovation in the renewable energy sector has helped dramatically decrease costs over time, fossil fuel subsidies impede this progress from reaching its full-fledged potential. Until the government decides to let go of preferential treatments to the oil industry, we as Canadians who care about a climate-safe future maintain our right to be disappointed by the federal budget.