Canada starts ball rolling to price carbon as Trudeau preps for Washington

MEDIA RELEASE: Canada starts ball rolling to price carbon as Trudeau preps for Washington

Canada starts ball rolling to price carbon as Trudeau preps for Washington

What a difference a year makes. Last spring, the Canadian government was preparing a pledge toward the Paris climate agreement that would eventually be deemed “inadequate.” This year, Canada may be leading the way on climate change mitigation as it moves toward a national policy to price carbon.

Advanced warning: politics is messy and the climate does not care about politics.

On Thursday, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all territorial and provincial Premiers signed the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change. They all confirmed that meeting Canada’s climate targets must remain a priority — and devised next steps:

“To this end, we directed immediate work in four areas: clean technology, innovation, and jobs; carbon pricing mechanisms adapted to each province’s and territory’s specific circumstances and in particular the realities of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and Arctic and sub-Arctic regions; specific mitigation opportunities; and, adaptation and climate resilience. Four working groups will be established to report on these priorities.”

Unfortunately the Vancouver Declaration’s  climate target is still the inadequate one set by the previous federal government (30% below 2005 levels by 2030). Distressingly, the information we have at this point also suggests that an “absolute” minimum carbon price has not been agreed to, yet.

On Feb. 17, PM Trudeau first announced plans for a nationally integrated carbon pricing policy which he can enforce with or without provincial buy-in.

PM Trudeau should impose a nationally integrated carbon tax if some of the provinces continue to drag their feet, because the situation is urgent. On Feb. 25,  the Federal Parliamentary Budget Office reported that flooding in Canada will cost our economy over $900 million per year for the next five years and that 19% of all homes are at risk. As the only G-7 nation without a national flood plan, Canadians, governments and insurance companies are dangerously exposed.

This Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Barack Obama will meet at the White House and are poised to sign on to a continental environment and climate-change strategy.  Earlier this year, the Energy Ministers for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico signed a Memorandum of Understanding  on Climate Change and Energy Collaboration. This is great news because as pollster Nik Nanos observed in 2013, “We are desperately in need of a forthright dialogue between Canada and the United States in terms of carbon policy and the environment.”

In the U.S., the  EPA’s Clean Power Plan, an executive order from President Obama and the centerpiece of U.S. climate plans, has been temporarily halted by the U.S.  Supreme Court. Additionally, it lacks support from Republicans at one end of the political spectrum and social justice groups at the other end of the spectrum.

We can’t wait for the U.S. to act. Not only because of the sheer urgency, but also because Canada is losing out on our global share of the multi-trillion-dollar clean tech business, according to Analytica Advisors and Clean Energy Canada.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby applauds PM Trudeau’s plan for a nationally integrated carbon pricing plan for Canada. We recommend Carbon Fee and Dividend as the overarching carbon pricing policy. For provinces without their own carbon pricing policy, a steadily rising fee would be placed on CO2 content of  fuels. Especially important as the carbon fee rises, all revenue from that substantial and transparent fee would then be returned equally to all households, shielding families from the economic burden of higher energy costs. Border tariffs, placed on imports from nations that do not have equivalent carbon pricing, would protect Canadian businesses and motivate other governments, including the U.S., to follow our lead.

A study from Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission indicated that the Canadian economy would grow by an additional 3.7% by 2020 with a well-designed carbon pricing policy compared to using regulatory mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions.

Enough already with the climate brinkmanship, Canada. Let’s grab our fair share of the global multi-trillion-dollar clean tech economy and finally do our fair share to avert climate catastrophe with a national carbon price.

by Cathy Orlando, March 4, 2016

Cathy Orlando has put her words to work for the climate by getting letters and opinion pieces published in newspapers in every province in Canada. When she’s not safeguarding the climate alongside the best volunteers on the planet, you can probably find her stargazing, dancing, reading books not about climate change, hanging out with her husband Sanjiv, and mothering her three cherished daughters.