Design, Experiences and Issues
Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation series
Edited by Larry Kreiser, Mikael S. Andersen, Birgitte E. Olsen, Stefan Speck, Janet E. Milne and Hope Ashiabor
Chapter 1: A template for the world: British Columbia’s carbon tax shift
Throughout the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries, the Mountain Pine Bark Beetle, a relatively innocuous five millimetre-long member of the weevil family, was known to attack and kill a limited number of mature pine trees annually in the forests of British Columbia (BC). That changed in the late 1990s when the beetle launched an assault on British Columbia’s pine forests that by the mid-2000s had become ‘the most severe bark beetle infestation in recorded North American history.’ By 2012, approximately one-third of British Columbia’s 55 million hectares of forest had been afflicted by the pine bark beetle. Over 50 per cent of the stock of commercially valuable pine was dead, representing some 710 million m3 of wood. The harvest and processing of a cubic metre of timber in BC yields some $110–$130 to provincial GDP; hence, even though it was possible to harvest some of the dead pine trees, the net economic impact of the pine bark beetle has been severe. As concern about the economic, social and environmental implications of the beetle epidemic grew, the Government of BC accepted that the beetle outbreak had been facilitated by warming associated with greenhouse gas emissions. The strong-willed Premier of the day, Gordon Campbell, decided that BC had to take steps to contribute to climate change mitigation by reducing fossil fuel use.