Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given provinces until 2018 to adopt a carbon pricing scheme, or the federal government will step in and impose a price.
A tough-talking Trudeau told MPs in the House of Commons that provinces can craft a cap-and-trade system or put a direct price on carbon pollution — but it must meet the federal benchmark or “floor price.”
“If neither price nor cap and trade is in place by 2018, the government of Canada will implement a price in that jurisdiction,” he said.
Trudeau made the announcement in leading off parliamentary debate on the Paris climate change agreement Monday, making the case for Canada to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Trudeau said the proposed price on carbon dioxide pollution should start at a minimum of $10 a tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022.
Provinces and territories that choose a cap-and-trade system must decrease emissions in line with both Canada’s target and with the reductions expected in jurisdictions that choose a price-based system.
Whatever model a province chooses, Trudeau said it will be revenue neutral for the federal government, with any revenues generated under the system staying in the province or territory where they are generated.
Trudeau insisted the plan will be good for the economy, good for innovation and good for jobs.
But Conservative MP and environment critic Ed Fast accused Trudeau of taking a “sledgehammer” approach with the provinces.
“Here, he lowers the boom on the provinces and said, ‘I’m not going to cooperate with you. It’s my way or the highway,'” Fast said.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May praised the Liberal government’s “leadership” at last year’s climate talks, but said keeping the 2030 target set by the previous Conservative government under former prime minister Stephen Harper is “incompatible” with the commitments made there.
“How can he reconcile adopting the Paris agreement while accepting the Harper target which will make achieving Paris impossible?” she asked.
NDP environment critic Linda Duncan also accused the Liberals of backtracking on targets they once denounced as inadequate, weak and catastrophic.The government has signed on to the Paris agreement without a clear plan and firm measures to meet targets.
“Are we looking for Kyoto No. 2?” she asked.
Environment ministers meet
Debate in the House comes as Canada’s environment ministers meet in Montreal to discuss collective efforts to fight climate change.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is trying to reach consensus with provincial and territorial ministers on a pan-Canadian plan, but is facing some fierce pushback on a national carbon-pricing scheme.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was incensed that Trudeau would make the announcement as his minister pushed a “collaborative” plan with the provinces.
“The level of disrespect shown by the prime minister and his government today is stunning,” he said in a statement. This is a betrayal of the statements made by the prime minister in Vancouver this March. And this new tax will damage our economy.”
Wall said that Saskatchewan “will investigate all options to mitigate the impact of one of the largest national tax increases in Canadian history.”
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley released a statement Monday saying she supports a common price on carbon, but wants a pipeline approved to make it economically feasible for her province.
She said Alberta would not support the federal plan without “concurrent progress on energy infrastructure.”
“Albertans have contributed very generously for many years to national initiatives designed to help other regions address economic challenges,” she said. “What we are asking for now is that our landlock be broken, in one direction or another, so that we can get back on our feet.”
Applause for plan
But Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard applauded the federal plan.
“We believe it’s good, and it’s not going to affect the functioning of our trading system,” he said.
According to figures from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission, an independent research firm, Alberta and B.C. are the only two provinces with a direct carbon tax system.
Alberta’s phased-in regime will be $20 a tonne by January 2017 and $30 a tonne one year later.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark has promised to hike the current $30-per-tonne price on carbon.
Ontario and Quebec have cap-and-trade systems, but neither province is on track to meet federal targets.
Quebec’s current estimated equivalent price is about $16.40 per tonne, and is expected to climb to $18 per tonne by 2020
Ontario’s plan would have an estimated equivalent price of $19.40 per tonne by 2020
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