Federal carbon price falls short

(Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr)

On Monday, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the Government of Canada plans to introduce a national price on carbon in 2018. This demonstrates the government’s firm acknowledgement of the integral role of carbon pricing in Canada’s climate action plan. Sadly, however, the level at which this price is to be set – beginning at $10 per tonne in 2018 and rising $10 per year to reach $50 per tonne in 2022 – will do little to meaningfully reduce Canadian GHG emissions.

The government has also lowered the bar by adopting the inadequate GHG emissions reduction target established by the previous government in March 2015: 30 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030.

At the same time as the Prime Minister made his announcement in the House of Commons, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Catherine McKenna, was meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts to review climate consultation reports and prepare recommendations for the First Ministers’ meeting, now confirmed for December 8-9. Early reports suggest that the provinces and territories are giving the prime minister’s announcement mixed reviews – with some environment ministers walking out of the Montreal meeting. However, national polling data released on Monday by Nanos shows that 62 per cent of Canadians support a national minimum carbon price across Canada.

Back in April, Trudeau marked Earth Day 2016 by signing the Paris Agreement on climate change. Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, in turn, used the occasion to launch national consultations on Canada’s climate action plan.

On the heels of these welcome signals on the future of Canadian climate policy, Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) reiterated our call for an ambitious Canadian climate action plan that establishes a new greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target and contributes equitably to limiting global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels. We did this alongside colleagues from the environmental movement, labour unions, citizens’ groups, churches, energy workers, and others, all of whom, in their own ways, are engaged in efforts to contribute to the healing of the Earth.

Central among the recommendations that we shared with the Government of Canada was a call for a coordinated carbon tax of at least $30/tonne CO2 eq be implemented immediately, with planned regular increases to at least $160 by 2030.

Of course, such a mechanism was understood as just one piece of a suite of policies necessary to effectively reduce Canadian GHG emissions and meet Canada’s international climate commitments. We have called for such additional measures, as well as investments to develop a low-carbon economy. We also emphasized the need to support those directly impacted by climate change.

Canadian Christians were very active in the government’s climate consultations this summer – 1 in 14 (or 7 per cent) of all consultation participants contributed their ideas using CPJ’s submission form.

People of faith from across Canada have made it clear that they support bold action to address climate change, calling for measures to:

  1. Reduce GHG Emissions, including a coordinated national carbon tax and regulation of carbon-intensive sectors;
  2. Develop a Low-Carbon Economy through the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and the investment of federal resources in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and expanded public transportation; and
  3. Provide Justice for those Most Directly Impacted by Climate Change, including those in First Nations, coastal, and Northern communities; workers impacted by the move away from fossil fuels; and those in developing countries.

Christians from across Canada – parents, academics, clergy, farmers, and many others – shared concerns about environmental decline in their neighbourhoods, the devastation experiences by those on the front lines of climate change, and fear for the future of their children and grandchildren. They expressed a clear willingness to make changes to their own lifestyles in order to reduce GHG emissions: re-evaluating where they live, how they get around, and what they consume. Again and again, they also shared a keen awareness that without far-reaching government action, Canada will continue to fall short of our modest climate commitments.

So while CPJ is certainly encouraged by the spirit of the carbon pricing announcement, we lament that the price will not be set at a more ambitious level.

If Prime Minister Trudeau is sincere about the need for Canada to play a role in global efforts to address climate change – if he is genuine about the legacy he wants to leave for his children – he must be prepared to do more.

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