Mixed reaction to carbon-pricing plan

N.B. Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr.Photo: Adam Bowie/The Daily GleanerMixed reaction to carbon-pricing planN.B. Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr. 19:14

Adam Bowie and Katrina Clarke | The Daily Gleaner

The province’s made-in-New-Brunswick proposal to replace the federal government’s carbon-pricing system it says would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 per cent was met with mixed reaction Thursday.

As earlier reported by Brunswick News, the plan is based on an output-based pricing system that would establish emissions performance standards, and large emitters would pay if they exceeded those limits. Those limits aim to reduce current emissions by 10 per cent – 420,000 tonnes – by 2030.

That compares to Ottawa’s target of 20 per cent.

Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr officially released the plan Thursday.

Liberal MLA Cathy Rogers agreed with the need for a made-in-New-Brunswick solution, but said it was a fine line to walk between industry and conservation.

“What was proposed today is an attempt to make large emitters choose between one of two things –​​​​​​​ they can either pay if they’re going to continue to emit, or they can find innovative solutions to reduce their emissions and pay less or not pay,” she said.

“We care very much about remaining economically viable, and we don’t want to hurt our New Brunswick businesses and industries. However, we have a very serious commitment to mitigating climate change and thereby reducing our carbon footprint. We’re very committed to having a plan.”

She was concerned, however, that “administering this could be a nightmare” since the province would need to oversee the system.

Green Party Leader David Coon was more blunt.

“It’s very weak,” he said, noting the slow pace to reach the targeted reduction numbers.

“There isn’t much of an incentive. Because it only would put a price on carbon for 20 per cent of the industrial emissions, this is only going to put, in the first year, a price on carbon for less than one per cent of the industrial emissions rising up to about 10 per cent in 2030.”

Representatives from New Brunswick’s forestry industry reacted more positively.

“The New Brunswick forest industry is committed to contribute and help mitigate the effects of climate change,” read a statement from Forest NB, which represents a big part of the industry. “The forest sector has already reduced its emissions by more than 50 per cent since 1990 and with this proposed plan we will be obligated to continue to make improvements for at least the next 11 years.

“Forest NB hopes the federal government will review the New Brunswick proposal and conclude it is an effective plan to attain our national climate change objectives.”

J.D. Irving, Limited also welcomed the plan.

“We appreciate the government’s effort to define a made-in-New Brunswick plan that recognizes the need to address climate change and sustain good paying jobs,” said Mary Keith, vice-president of communications for J.D. Irving, Limited, in an emailed statement.

“Reducing our carbon footprint has been a priority for decades. JDI’s pulp and paper operations have invested $145 million towards this goal and have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent since 1990. These reductions already significantly exceed both the federal and provincial government’s target for 2030.”

Public consultation on the plan is expected to wrap up July 12, and the province intends to submit it to Ottawa on July 31.

Given that tight timeline, Carr was asked if government would have time to alter the plan if it receives feedback.

“How much things can change, I don’t know, because we have to make sure we stay within the box that the federal government wants to see,” Carr said. “That’s not saying there can’t be some small alterations or some changes. I don’t know. But I’m sure we’ll get some good input.”

Lois Corbett, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, said she hopes the government will seriously consider the feedback it receives and leave time for tweaking if necessary.

“They want to make sure they have their formulas right. And that would be very important. There could be a change in some of the calculation methods,” she said.

“I’m pretty confident that people will submit comments –​​​​​​​ the general population –​​​​​​​ asking for them to be more aggressive. But whether or not that will be taken into consideration at the front end or the back end remains to be seen.”

J.D. Irving, Limited is a privately owned company headquartered in Saint John. Its activities include forestry, paper products, agriculture, food processing, transportation and shipbuilding. Brunswick News newspapers, including the Telegraph-Journal, are published by Brunswick News, Inc., a separate company.