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.
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.