Canada’s Bold New Carbon Pricing Plan Isn’t Enough to Meet Emissions Goals

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Combatting climate change requires everyone to work together, internationally and domestically, but that’s not always easy to achieve. The Canadian government is aggressively pushing for cooperation with a new federal price on carbon that will be forced upon the provinces and territories if they fail to come up with their own plans by 2018.

Canada has committed to reducing carbon emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030—not an easy task, but a necessary one as the country is already feeling some of the disastrous effects of climate change in the form of raging fires and floods. Taxes on fossil fuels and carbon emissions provide an economic incentive for companies to reduce the amount of pollution they spew into the air.

The carbon pricing plan, which the government is calling a “backstop,” was revealed in a document sent to reporters on Thursday. The plan calls for a hybrid approach to reducing carbon emissions: a levy on fossil fuels, which will be implemented early in the supply chain and included in the price of fuel for consumers, and a price on carbon emissions for industry.

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The price for carbon will be set at $10 per tonne in 2018, and will increase by that amount every year until 2022, when it will be $50 per tonne. This will constitute a new floor price for carbon in Canada, and provinces that fail to meet it will be required by the federal plan to “top up.” Provinces and territories have the option to come up with their own schemes by 2018, as long as they conform to the federal rates.

This is an important step towards reaching Canada’s emissions goals, but it should just be the beginning, according to Dale Marshall, National Program Manager for Toronto-based nonprofit Environmental Defence.

“This is not enough to reach our 2030 [emissions] target, and we know that based on the framework itself–there’s a gap of 44 megatons that needs to be filled somehow,” Marshall said over the phone. “If Canada moves forward with this carbon pricing framework, we’re going to fall short.”

The price of carbon would need to continue increasing beyond 2022 if Canada hopes to meet its goal, Marshall said.

Many Canadians might balk at the idea of paying more for fuel, but the profits will be distributed back to the provinces. However, the technical document suggests the feds haven’t quite figured out the best way to do that yet. “The federal government is open to feedback on the best mechanism to achieve this,” the document states.

The plan is part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which was introduced in 2016 and has been signed by every province except Saskatchewan. Premier Brad Wall has been an outspoken critic of carbon taxes and the federal plan, saying that it would undermine the province’s economy and that it takes legislative power away from the provinces.

The newly-announced federal plan is bound to be a bitter pill for some, but hey, it’s our future we’re talking about here.

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