Carbon levy increase impact ‘small’ on agriculture: PBO

Action limited to only certain activities and will result in a small carbon reduction

An increased carbon levy, and other measures aimed at achieving Canada’s emissions targets, won’t impact agriculture relative to other industries, according to a new report.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) released a report June 23 assessing impacts of the government’s plan to exceed the 2030 Paris reduction target for Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our assessment shows that the largest economic impact of reducing emissions will fall on the transportation and oil and gas sectors,” said PBO Yves Giroux in a statement.

The report assumed the measures to meet Canada’s emissions targets outlined in the recent budget would be the lowest-cost options.

“That is to say, they are inherently optimistic,” Giroux’s statement said.

Promoted as being an environmentally friendly spend and an economic kick-starter, the 2021 budget looks to usher in a smattering of new green policies.

“Increasing the federal fuel charge to $170 per tonne and tightening (output-based pricing systems, or OBPS) will help Canada achieve over half of the 168 Mt reduction projected in Budget 2021,” Giroux said. “Nonetheless, significant reductions from less visible non-price policies, already announced, will be needed to reach that objective.”

But while there is a fairly proportional spread across sectors seeing reductions, agriculture is an outlier.

For example, PBO estimates the additional $120 carbon levy and output-based carbon market will reduce emissions by 96 Mt before 2030, but have the weakest effect in agriculture.

“Though the agriculture sector is subject to the levy on some of its activities, such as natural gas heating of buildings, the impact is small,” says the report.

An additional $120 in carbon pricing and OBPS will, according to the PBO, result in a one per cent drop in agricultural emissions. That ranks lowest among industries. Electricity (31 per cent), buildings (23 per cent) and transportation (17 per cent) expect the greatest reductions.

Non-price measures are being employed through a range of policies across the country to combat emissions, as well.

Like the pricing measures, the PBO estimates a fairly proportional distribution of reductions, but agriculture remains an outlier. Electricity experiences the biggest proportional decline in the PBOs scenario.

All told, additional price and non-price measures to combat climate change lead to a very limited amount of reductions in agriculture when compared to other industries.

According to the PBO, increasing the cost of carbon and tightening carbon standards will negatively impact the transportation, oil and gas sectors – but agriculture’s real GDP is projected to grow.

Exemptions and opportunities in the output-based market mean agriculture is sheltered from the full cost of carbon pricing, relative to negatively impacted industries.

The report notes workers in the oil and gas industries are projected to see the largest overall income loss, while real labour income is expected to “rise modestly” for workers in the agriculture sector.

Between 2018 and 2030, emissions in agriculture are expected to continue increasing.

About the author


D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.



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