Clear the air: carbon tax panel in Sackville

Written by Brian Beaton on February 13, 2019

A panel on Feb. 11 agreed that carbon pricing is a good first step to addressing the climate change crisis before all of us. The “Clearing the Air” panel at the Vogue Cinema in Sackville included Dr. Brad Walters, coordinator of Mt. A Environmental Studies, Megan Mitton, Green Party MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar and moderator Dr. Michael Fox, Mt. A Geography & Environment professor. The session is part of EOS Eco-Energy’s Climate Change Week.

Making polluters pay is one way to make them either clean up their act or pay their share for destroying the earth, land, water and air. Panel members said the system needs to change to support everyone who is doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. Misinformation is being spread by the provincial PC government and the Premier about the federal government carbon pricing plan. Most individuals will receive more in their carbon rebate payment than they pay for producing carbon.

On the afternoon before the panel, Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands, and Megan Mitton hosted a discussion on climate change with Mt. A students, setting the tone for evening session.

Both panelists began by explaining their support for the new carbon tax regime being implemented by the federal government. Walters described it as a good first step for charging for the pollution being produced that is creating so many of the environmental challenges everyone is now trying to address. Mitton spoke about how the revenue raised through the tax will be returned to individuals through rebates. The money raised will be given back as well as used in “helping industries adapt their use to renewable energy sources .. give the money back to individuals” while encouraging and supporting them to invest in energy-saving retrofits, explained Mitton near the start of the session. That suggests a question: How big will your next carbon cheque be?

In reference to another question, Walters explained the federal government, “estimates that roughly 80% of residents [in New Brunswick] will get more money back in rebates than they pay out in tax because most residents are low consumers of fossil fuel. It is the high consumers, those who flying around here and there, business people, the wealthy, those with the bigger houses who will be paying more.”

Walters went on to describe some of the other policy incentives like stronger building code requirements, performance standards in appliances, cars and machinery that consume energy. “There is well-documented history of benefits when strong regulations are put in place of innovation occurring,” he said, describing how a range of products have improved over time, such as how “refrigerators are much more efficient today than a few years ago”.

Mitton explained why there seems to be so much confusion about the carbon tax when she spoke about the “misinformation being thrown around.” Some politicians are saying things publicly that are not true about the carbon tax, she said. Mitton explained how governments and the media need to be “shifting the responsibilities off of the individual .. we do need systemic changes .. we need to be working together” to solve this issue.  As well, until we see a better plan, “the burden of truth needs to be on the people who are fighting against this plan to provide their plan!”

The panel raised challenging questions and considerations that encourage everyone to begin to think about how we can reduce our carbon footprint: How can I reduce the amount of carbon tax I will be paying so I can benefit even more from the rebate payment I will receive? Should I walk to the nearby store or drive to the box store that trucks in their products from far-away places? Should I replace the old windows in my house now or add that extra layer of insulation in the attic? Is it time to replace my oil or gas furnace with air exchange unit? And many more questions are thought about how each of us might do those little things that will mean reducing our use of fossil fuels.

The panel event was webcast by the team at EOS Eco-energy using Facebook Live and is now available online for everyone to watch and learn from. This week is busy but exciting in the Tantramar region thanks to the hard work of the team at EOS Eco-Energy, a not-for-profit environmental organization based in Sackville. Climate change is the theme of the series of free activities planned for everyone all week, including the panel in Sackville.

All the events for their Climate Change Week can be found on their Facebook page where the archived video version of the panel is also located. The same information is also on  their website. Their bilingual web site provides more details about the organization along with their programs and services. There are lots of other tips for those willing to take more actions in your own home to help reduce and adapt to climate change.

Brian Beaton is a Fredericton-based contributor to the NB Media Co-op and a friend of the RAVEN project.

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