Friday, February 22, 2008

BC government Budget 2008

On February 19th the BC government released it's budget, with some new measures aimed at the environment. Excerpts from the budget news release, titled Greener Future, Stronger Economy include:

To help reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions by one-third by 2020, Balanced Budget 2008 includes a revenue-neutral carbon tax, provides $440 million for a one-time Climate Action Dividend, and over $1 billion for a broad range of climate action programs and tax incentives.

Effective July 1, 2008, subject to approval by the legislature, British Columbia will introduce a fully revenue-neutral carbon tax with built in protection for lower income British Columbians. The tax will begin at a low rate and increase gradually to give individuals and businesses time to adjust. It will apply to virtually all fossil fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, coal, propane, and home heating fuel – making it among the broadest and most comprehensive in the world.

“The principle is simple,” said Taylor. “Tax carbon‑emitting fuels to discourage their use, and give the money back to people, back to businesses, so they have control. They can make their own choices about how the tax affects them. At the same time, by making greener choices more commercially viable, it will stimulate innovation and open up new economic opportunities across British Columbia.”

The carbon tax is forecast to generate approximately $1,849 million over three years.

This revenue will be returned to businesses and individuals through a new Climate Action Credit for persons with lower incomes ($395 million) and reductions to personal income tax rates ($784 million), the small business income tax rate ($255 million), and the general corporate income tax rate ($415 million).

In addition to the revenue-neutral tax reductions, every British Columbia resident will receive a one-time, $100 Climate Action Dividend to help people adopt greener lifestyles. At a total cost of $440 million, the dividend payments will be issued in June, before the new carbon tax takes effect. It is the government’s hope that British Columbians will apply the funds toward purchases that can help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and, by doing so, the amount of carbon tax they would otherwise pay.

The budget also provides, over four years, more than $1 billion to encourage energy efficiency, implement new regulatory requirements, undertake cutting-edge research and make low-carbon investments. These climate action initiatives include: new funding for home energy audits and retrofits; sales tax exemptions for ENERGY STAR appliances; up to $2,000 in reduced sales tax on the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles; a new biodiesel production incentive; an expanded venture capital program aimed at clean technology companies; and funding to reduce emissions at B.C.’s ports and commercial truck stops.

“While the economic forecast sees British Columbia continuing to outperform Canada and the U.S., weakening conditions south of the border and international uncertainty show how important it is to maintain a prudent approach,” said Taylor. “It’s also a reminder that we must always explore new ways to make B.C.’s economy more competitive, innovative, and diverse.”

Link to BC Budget 2008:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pine beetle run it's course?

Heard on the local radio today...

The forest health specialist for Kootenay Lake MoF stated that the mountain pine beetle might reach the end of it's food source in the West Kootenays within the next year or two.

Lodgepole pine is the main species attacked by the beetle, and it forms about one quarter of the forest inventory in this area. Temperature conditions required to kill the beetle over the winter have not been reached (-30 degrees C or colder for 2 to 3 weeks). The West Kootenays are fortunate to have a diverse mixture of tree species (often called a 'Kootenay mix') because no single pest could wipe out the entire forest area. There are other areas of BC that have up to 90% pine forests.

Conditions this year are expected to be suitable for the pine beetle to infect the remainder of available pine in the West Kootenay area.

What does this mean?

The pine beetle will eventually move on in search of new, live pine forests in other areas. We'll be left with the challenge of dealing with the dead pine. Where it's mixed in with other live tree species, you might not notice a change. Areas that have closer to pure pine stands (and don't get harvested) will be a source of fuel for wildfire, or possibly create soil erosion and water quality issues, since the forest cover isn't there anymore to intercept and take up rainfall.

For one, it will be interesting to see what happens in the mountains above the city of Nelson. All the red areas you could see up there last year will be turning grey this summer, the final stage of tree mortality from beetle kill.

Forestry woes in China

Canada isn't the only country in the world suffering from problems in the forest industry.

The past winter's storms in China that you probably saw on tv have cost their forestry sector 57.3 billion yuan ($8.01 billion) in losses.

The worst winter in five decades in some areas damaged 20.86 million hectares of forests, one tenth of the total, setting back efforts to meet a national 20-percent forest coverage target by 2020, according to the administration.

Link to article:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mining exploration in Ontario forests

Article in the Feb 13 Toronto Star - Mining threatens northern forests, activists say

The price for many metals has been going up for a few years, which has increased exploration in Canada for mineral properties. Now, some groups are concerned about the impact of this exploration on forests.

The inside joke in forestry has always been that if you are a forest company, you are held to very high standards in regards to your impact on the environment, and that all logged areas must be reforested. But with mining, you can build roads and explore and not be held to the same standards. I don't know how true this is, but that is the thought out there.

From what I've read, environmental groups seem to be focusing less on forest companies these days, and more on oil and metals exploration and production. In a way this makes sense. If you were in one of these groups, would you chase the company who cuts down a forest and makes sure it's stocked with trees again through planting and natural regeneration, or the company that digs a big hole in the ground?

Highlights of the article include:

The group ForestEthics said it's concerned that the opening in a few weeks of the province's first diamond mine, De Beers Canada's Victor mine, will open the floodgates to overdevelopment in the north and threaten the environment.

An average of almost 400 mining claims have been staked in each of the last four months in the northern boreal forest, and Gillian McEachern of ForestEthics said she's concerned it's just the start of a growing trend of prospectors running rampant in search of precious metals and minerals.

Michael Gravelle, the minister of northern development and mines, said so many claims are being staked across the province because the mineral sector is currently booming. He said it represents a great opportunity for the province, but added the government is ensuring environmental and community interests are addressed. Gravelle said the claim-staking process has a very small effect on the environment and only grants companies temporary use of Crown land.

Link to article: