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Andrea Stack: Getting Smart about climate change

The St. John's Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP)
The St. John's Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP) - Contributed

Last month, details about how the federal and provincial governments will try to meet their obligations under the Paris Accord were released.

The Paris Accord saw 195 countries commit to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to limit the increase to 1.5C, in order to substantially reduce the risks and effects of climate change.

Canada’s Paris commitment requires cutting its carbon pollution by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Canada tops the charts in emissions per capita and is one of the world’s most intense emitters. We need to lead by example if we expect other emerging countries to make the necessary changes.

At the Board of Trade, we know greenhouse gas emissions are destroying the planet and we have limited time to act. We do not oppose a tax on carbon. Cleaning up after yourself is a mark of civilization. However, we recommend revenue neutrality that would see a reduction in another tax. Both businesses and residents in Newfoundland and Labrador cannot afford an additional tax burden.

As William Nordhaus, the Yale economist and Nobel laureate, recently told The New York Times

“When I talk to people about how to design a carbon price, I think the model is British Columbia. You raise electricity prices by $100 a year, but then the government gives back a dividend that lowers internet prices by $100 year. In real terms, you’re raising the price of carbon goods but lowering the prices of non-carbon-intensive goods.”

British Columbia has successfully demonstrated that you can grow your economy, by taxing carbon and reducing other taxes, while reducing GHG’s emissions. 

The carbon pricing plan announced by our provincial government has two elements. The first part is a performance-standard system for large industrial facilities and large-scale electricity generation. The second piece, the one that impacts the average business and consumer, is basically an additional tax on fuel.

Governments admit that there needs to be additional measures taken beyond carbon pricing to affect change. There are other means, beyond taxes, to change behaviors with respect to carbon pollution. We are working to effect change. In partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we are bringing a program called Climate Smart to our members.

This new tax will have an impact. In Year 1, the carbon tax will be offset by a reduction in gasoline tax. However, in Years 2 and 3 we will likely see an increase in carbon tax on fuel as higher thresholds have to be met. Of course, the HST goes on top of all of this, so the federal and provincial governments are generating new revenue from the carbon plan. It also means that the cost of every product that is trucked to this province will increase, as the cost of fuel to get these items here will go up.

The carbon tax appears to be heavy on revenue generation, but questionable as to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it will really reduce. Newfoundland and Labrador’s most impactful reductions will come from the actions the heavy emitters take, rather than a carbon tax on residents and small business. 

Governments admit that there needs to be additional measures taken beyond carbon pricing to affect change. There are other means, beyond taxes, to change behaviors with respect to carbon pollution.

We are working to effect change. In partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we are bringing a program called Climate Smart to our members.

Climate Smart is a social enterprise based in Vancouver, British Columbia that enables organizations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen their businesses and build a resilient economy. Climate Smart grew out of the recognition that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the engines of our local economies, have been largely overlooked by climate change policy.

Climate Smart helps businesses measure and reduce their carbon footprint while cutting costs.

One informative tool with Climate Smart is the Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP).  The St. John’s BEEP provides a unique view of the business sector emissions by industry, in particular SMEs of 500 employees or less, and highlights the areas with greatest potential for achieving reductions.

The digital BEEP dashboard is an interactive web-based tool to explore projected GHG emissions by sector, source, business size, and geography.

Key insights from the St. John’s BEEP, specific to SMEs, include:

• 350,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) are attributed to 67 per cent of the SMEs in the St. John’s Metropolitan Area.

• 75 per cent of projected emissions are generated by transportation and fuel oil (heating and processing).

• Businesses with over 20 employees account for over 64 per cent of emissions in the business community.

We are firm believers in the concept that what gets measured gets done, and the BEEP can help business measure their carbon footprint. When you know better you do better, and we are working with our members who are part of the BEEP program to decrease their carbon footprints.

The Board is the winner of a Canadian Chamber of Commerce award for leadership in environmental sustainability.  We encourage all business to get involved.

Andrea Stack is chair of the St. John’s Board of Trade

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