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(Reuters) - Canada's British Columbia unveiled a new climate action plan on Friday that kept its carbon tax frozen at C$30 per tonne, a move environmental groups warned would undermine the province's target of cutting 2050 emissions by 80 percent from 2007 levels.
Premier Christy Clark said British Columbia is the only province in Canada to currently have a carbon tax, which has been unchanged since 2012, and raising it further would undermine jobs and drive capital into other jurisdictions.
"What happens in situations like that is polluters just move right across the border and pollute where it's cheap, and we want to make sure we fight pollution across Canada and across the world," Clark told a news conference.
"We will consider raising the carbon tax once other provinces catch up."
Clark said British Columbia will reduce net annual greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25 million tonnes below current forecasts by 2050 through steps including making electric vehicles more affordable and reducing emissions in natural gas production.
The province's legislated emissions target for 2050 is 13 megatonnes.
Josha McNab, B.C. director at the Pembina Institute, said under the plan carbon emissions would not start to drop significantly for almost 15 years, and fell short of the level of ambition needed to reach the 2050 target.
"The key missing ingredient continues to be a strengthened carbon tax and the province-wide incentive it would provide to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency," McNab said.
Canada committed to reducing 2030 carbon emissions by 30 percent at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris last year. The provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are projected to see emissions fall by 26, 22 and 23 percent, respectively, by 2030 based on actions they have taken or committed to.
Alberta, home to Canada's oil sands and the country's biggest polluter, plans to introduce an economy-wide carbon tax in 2017, while Ontario will soon join Quebec in having a carbon cap-and-trade regime.
Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada, said Clark was too focused on attracting investment in proposed liquefied natural gas export terminals on the Pacific coast.
"Her vision is not a vision of a clean energy future, it's a vision of an LNG future," Smith said.
Smith was a member of the province's Climate Leadership Team, which last year put forward a number of proposals to tackle emissions, including raising the carbon tax.
Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by Chris Reese