Today Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the federal government will require all provinces to have a carbon price of at least $10 per tonne by 2018, rising in $10 increments to $50 per tonne in 2022. There’s a lot of politics at work here. The Alberta government says they will only accept the plan in exchange for an export pipeline, while climate activists emphasize that the whole point of a carbon price is to prevent such projects. Trudeau seems to think he has split the opposition in Parliament, and set up an approach that most Canadians will support:
Polls suggest there is overwhelming support for the idea of carbon pricing, and that many Canadians back the imposition of a national climate change target. Trudeau alluded to that generosity of spirit when he said Canadians are prepared to work together and follow through on the commitments to fighting climate change made in the Paris Agreement on climate change. But such good will has its limits.
Environmental groups rushed Monday to condemn the planned price as being too low to take a bite out of Canada’s emissions. Dale Marshall of Environmental Defence said the carbon price needs to rise at the same rate beyond 2022 — a point on which Trudeau was mute.
It’s a perfectly sound strategy, provided he forsakes his environmentalist allies. It is becoming clearer by the day, they are not going in the same direction as he is.
Trudeau needs to have the courage to tell Canadians that fossil fuels are on the way out as a source of jobs, tax revenue, and economic prosperity. Building new extraction and export projects is wholly at odds with the direction Canada and the world need to go. A price on carbon is a mechanism for discouraging fossil fuel projects, not an excuse for letting them proceed.