Letter to the PM: Do not weaken carbon pricing measures

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As part of its commitment to addressing climate change, the Government of Canada promised to introduce a national price on carbon, effective January 2018. Already, implementation of the federal carbon pricing backstop has been delayed by at least a year, and in late July, Environment and Climate Change Canada released plans to weaken the output-based pricing system for the country’s largest emitters.

Recognizing the urgency of the climate crisis, and the need for increased climate ambition, CPJ wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau to express concern about the changes announced and to urge his government to return the output-based standards to at most  70 and 80 per cent of GHG emissions intensity as outlined in the January 2018 framework document.


August 9, 2018

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing on behalf of Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) to express concern and disappointment at your government’s recent decision to soften carbon pricing measures for Canada’s largest industrial greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters.

CPJ is a national organization of members inspired by faith to act for justice in Canadian public policy. Our research, policy analysis, education, and advocacy work are grounded in an understanding of the sacredness of creation and the dignity of all people. From this perspective, the central role of government is to promote the well-being of citizens and residents, and the flourishing of the Earth.

At CPJ, we celebrated Canada’s ratification of the Paris Agreement, the introduction of a federal carbon pricing mechanism, and the historic Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. From the beginning, however, we have had concerns that Canada’s climate policy lacks the ambition necessary to meet the Paris temperature goals. What is more, your government repeatedly undermines climate measures with energy policies that continue to boost the oil and gas sector – Canada’s largest single source of GHG emissions. Most specifically, I refer to the continued subsidization of the fossil fuel industry and, of course, the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

This summer’s record-breaking heat waves and wild fires reinforce Minister Catherine McKenna’s emphatic statements on the urgent need to take action on climate change. Thus, we see this decision to weaken the output-based pricing system (OBPS) for emissions-intensive industries as contradictory to campaign promises.

Climate change is causing serious human and environmental impacts in Canada and internationally: food insecurity, degraded environmental services, damaged infrastructure, poorer human health, lost economic opportunities (now and in the future), and forced relocation – to name a few. We appreciate your government’s commitment to climate action, but as the global climate crisis intensifies, it is imperative that measures to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions be augmented, not reduced. Ambitious action can no longer be delayed.

As part of the global community, we are still on track to exceed a temperature increase of 3°C over pre-industrial levels, even if every country on the planet meets their nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement.

As you know, carbon pricing is a quantification of the economic cost of damage done by emitting CO2. Adjusting the cost of carbon-intensive goods and services to reflect their true cost drives sustainable innovation and ensures that both businesses and consumers make more efficient use of our resources.

According to World Bank data, as of April 2018, there are over 50 national and subnational jurisdictions around the world with carbon pricing mechanisms in place. Of course, this includes Alberta, B.C., and Quebec, but also the European Union and key U.S. states. In several other jurisdictions, including China and South Africa, carbon tax regimes are scheduled for implementation in 2019 and 2020.

As Minister McKenna said in her department’s April 30, 2018 press release, “any credible plan to fight climate change must include a price on pollution.” Already, implementation of the federal carbon pricing backstop has been delayed by at least a year, and now, you’re making plans to weaken the OBPS, which will all but exempt “high-emitting” sectors from paying for the pollution they produce.

Climate change is a crisis and must be confronted as such. Rather than continuing to prop-up major polluters, Canada must embark on a just transition. As you enter the final phase of your OBPS analysis, we urge you to return your output-based standards to at most 70 and 80 per cent of GHG emissions intensity as outlined in your January 2018 framework document.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


(Rev.) James C. Dekker
Chair of the Board

cc Hon. Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

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