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BEPPLE – Kamloops needs an upfront climate change utility tax

(Image: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay.com)

HOT, HOT, HOT.  Any way you look at it, this past week’s scorching weather has sent a clear message.  Climate change is upon us.  Things are getting hotter.

Now more than ever, actions need to be taken to lessen the amount of climate change, and mitigate against the change.

And one action that is needed is knowing the upfront costs of climate change.

It’s time for a Climate Change Utility Tax.  Let’s stop burying the cost of climate change within property taxes.  Let’s be upfront with how much it costs us all to mitigate the consequences of climate change.

Good news that this year the City of Kamloops has created a Community Climate Action Plan. Along with other B.C. municipalities they were mandated to come up with a plan by the provincial government.  The plan addresses everything from zero-emission transportation, to zero-carbon housing, to renewable energy.  The plan includes 67 strategies to move Kamloops to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

But actions cost.  Some initiatives might cost less than $100,000, like buying a new zero-emission City vehicle, but others are well over $1,000,000, like upgrades to transit.  Currently, we pay for these actions through property taxes.

With climate action paid for through property taxes, none of us has any idea how much the City of Kamloops is spending because of climate change.

That’s why we need a Climate Change Utility Tax.

We all understand utility taxes.  Homeowners pay utility taxes for water, sewer, and garbage services.  There are also charges for recycling.  Individual municipalities have other utility charges as well.  For example, West Kelowna collects a drainage utility tax, to cover costs of improving their drainage systems.

Utilities are transparent.  We know how much it costs for water.  For sewer.  And for garbage.

It’s time we know how much it costs for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to lessen the impact of climate change.

Addressing climate changes require services.  Paying for the services shouldn’t be part of the regular property taxes.  Instead, have a specific climate change utility.  When costs are incurred by the City, funds from the utility should pay for them.

Buy electric City vehicles, pay for it with the Climate Change Utility Tax.  Add transit services, pay for it with the utility. Provide homeowners incentives to make their homes energy efficient, pay with the utility.

Be upfront with what climate change is costing, and understand the benefits the taxes are paying for.

One final advantage of utilities.  When we went to a garbage utility, people had the choice of a smaller garbage can at a lower price.  With a water meter, people could choose to use less water and pay less for their water utility tax.  A Climate Change Utility Tax could build in incentives for people to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  Utilities can give people the choice to pay less.

Currently property taxes pay for climate change mitigation.  The problem with that is we all forget how expensive the cost of climate change is.  There are also the political whims of council to contend with.  If suddenly, council wants to have a zero percent property tax increase, the actions for climate change could get sidelined.

Water, sewer, and garbage are utilities because they are essential services that are required by everyone.

Climate change action is even more essential.

Let’s be upfront about the costs of climate change.  Let’s spell out how much it will be costing each and everyone of us to address climate change.   It is far better to know the true cost of addressing climate change than to have the costs buried within various departmental budgets.

It’s time to create a utility that collects the money required by the City of Kamloops to tackle climate change.  We’re far better off to be upfront that tackling climate change is costing us all.  In fact, it might even spur us on to do more, when we see how little is being done for what is considered the biggest disaster to yet face humanity.

It’s time we create a Climate Change Utility and get to work tackling climate change.

Otherwise, it’s only going to get hotter.

Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (8330 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on BEPPLE – Kamloops needs an upfront climate change utility tax

  1. There’s a few problems with this:

    – Echoing the response to the US Senator that carried a snowball onto the chamber and said ‘See … climate change is not real’ … weather is NOT climate. A hot spell and the gradual warming of the earth due to climate change are NOT related climatically. Using weather in a colloquial way to capture the attention of lay people regarding climate change, is misleading at best, and at worse incredibly damaging to the discussion of climate change as it ‘programs’ people to think there is a direct link. There is not, and all it does is incorrectly and bombastically informs climate change deniers to carry around snowballs. This needs to stop.

    Even if in the extreme long term (many, many decades/ hundreds of years), not following through on climate change recommendations will eventually equate higher temperate weather patterns, there is no scientific proof of a direct correlation season to season, making this statement and the undertone of this column during a heat wave, incorrect.

    – Specific to Ms. Bepples’ idea of separating climate change action to being a Utility has fundamental problems … it isn’t a Utility. A Utility is a provision of a service or product, that is facilitated by the city. Amounts are based on base amounts of usage, and increased costs for taxpayers if ‘more’ of the product or service is used (more water, bigger garbage can, West Kelowna drainage) than the average tax payer.

    Conversely climate change oriented objects, purchases or services are privately provided by the tax payer (lets say … solar panels), so the city providing a ‘discount’ for the tax payer who provides themselves with a ‘climate goal product’ is not a Utility based concept. It is not provided by the city. For that reason, Ms. Bepples’ basic premise is non-existent.

    – If we set that aside a moment, just how do you determine the amount to be extracted from general property tax revenues to create a Climate Change Tax? Wheres the math? Do we just say $100 a year? More? Less? Are we now as subjects to Climate Change fear and fervour, and just panicked to the point of throwing out dollar amount dice without mathematically sound, justifiably understood real cost analysis, for not making climate change based societal changes?

    Finally;
    “A Climate Change Utility Tax could build in incentives for people to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”
    – Just how does the city tie into Hydro and Fortis bills to determine individual tax payer action? Does the city ‘just get to’ access our billing history to determine that our recent purchases and actions have saved greenhouse gas emissions or our carbon footprint? Do we have to sign over our rights to privacy with Hydro and Fortis to provide the info to the city? Do we have to drop off a copy of our Tesla or solar panel receipts? Beyond the huge privacy concerns regarding city over reach into private Kamloopian living costs, we may have just doubled or tripled the manpower that the city would need regarding accountants to figure this out … every year … for every tax payer.

    Although it may seem reasonable to ‘hold Council to account’ for their usage of revenues regarding climate action by way of transparency, the nuts and bolts of this ain’t so simple.

  2. Jennie Stadnichuk // June 30, 2021 at 12:57 PM // Reply

    Nancy’s article is 100% right on. City’s actions re Climate Change ought to be shown in the Utilities section so we can see what if anything they’re actually doing (as opposed to what they say they are doing!). And – Pierre’s comments are perfect – Taxing extra heavy duty pickups for starters. It’s rare to see smaller vehicles on the roads of Kamloops and just try driving a smaller, less polluting vehicle (ya, you can’t see in front of your car because of huge vehicles blocking you).

  3. Don’t fully agree. Some of us do a lot to mitigate our personal carbon footprint and ecological degradation, while others to absolutely nothing tangible. It is time to put taxes on things like these extra heavy duty pickups and any other large automobile and motorcycles. It is time to introduce commuting pricing for people to stop driving for “sport”. It is time to tax drive-thru businesses. There are more, but let’s start here. Also can’t trust the City of Kamloops with mitigating climate change because as we see in plain sight, the City is often going the other direction, details matters more than the flashy blitz from the communication department.

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