The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the federal government can impose a carbon price across the country against the will of some provinces, ruling that “global warming is causing damage beyond provincial borders and that it is of a matter of national interest ”.
The move will be seen as a rationale for Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party, which has made the climate a centerpiece of its 2019 re-election bid and in December hired the country – the largest oil exporter to the United States – United – to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions. emissions by 2050.
The six-to-three majority decision rejects a challenge by the oil-rich provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, joined by Conservative-led Ontario in asserting that the 2018 federal carbon tax law infringed their jurisdiction.
The Court said there was “a broad consensus among international expert bodies that carbon pricing is a critical measure for reducing carbon emissions. [greenhouse gas] emissions ”.
Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said the decision “reaffirms that climate change has an impact on Canadians, no matter where they live. . . and that the federal government can continue to ensure that pollution is not free ”.
Justifying the federal government’s right to set national carbon prices, the court said climate impacts would be disproportionately felt by vulnerable communities in Canada.
“It is well established that climate change causes significant environmental, economic and human damage nationally and internationally, with particularly significant impacts in the Canadian Arctic, coastal regions and indigenous peoples,” said the Court. .
“The impact on these interests justifies the limited constitutional impact on provincial jurisdiction.”
The Trudeau government, which came to power in 2015, enacted carbon pricing law in 2018 and said last year that the tax would drop from C $ 30 ($ 24) per tonne to C $ 170 / tonne in 2030 , one of the most aggressive in the world. -the pricing regimes.
In December, the government presented a plan to achieve economy-wide net zero emissions by 2050 and said Canada would “exceed” its targets. Paris climate agreement targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
From Canada Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, tweeted after the ruling that carbon pricing was “a small, market-based, c-conservative tool that harnesses the market’s capacity to innovate.” It’s stable. Predictable. And 100% constitutional. So let’s move on.
Although the ruling confirmed the federal government’s authority over carbon prices, provinces can still set their own carbon prices if they exceed those set by Ottawa. By leaving that wiggle room, the decision succeeded in “threading a fine needle,” said Andrew Leach, energy and environmental economist and professor at the University of Alberta.
“But the battle to end this particular bill is over,” Leach added, saying this would put Canada firmly “at the forefront” of the international fight against climate change.
The Trudeau government has faced opposition to its climate plans, especially in the center-right governed western provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan, where production and exports of fossil fuels are economic pillars.
Alberta has its own carbon pricing system, but it applies to large industrial emitters, not the economy as a whole.
Alberta politicians reacted angrily earlier this year when US President Joe Biden finally rescinded the proposed Keystone XL pipeline between Canada’s oil sands sites and the US Gulf of Mexico coast, and accused Ottawa of failing to defend Canada’s energy interests.
Earlier this month, members of Canada’s federal opposition Conservative Party voted against adding green policies to its platform and language saying “climate change is real”. The party is committed to removing national carbon pricing.
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