Carbon tax hikes, carbon capture key to Canada's new climate plan

Five years after Canada signed on to the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new federal climate plan has, for the first time, put those goals within reach.

“This is a good day for our planet. It’s a good day for Canadians,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday in Ottawa.

The Liberal government’s blueprint involves roughly $15 billion in spending on projects across sectors, from transit to agriculture. The plan, titled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy,” also involves substantially increasing the price on carbon.

Previously, the Liberal government had announced plans to raise the carbon tax to $50 per tonne by 2022.

Now, by 2030, Canadians are looking at potentially living with a $170/t carbon tax.

Trudeau explained while this is the Liberal plan, Canadians will have a chance to decide whether this is the path they want to take in elections before the price increase comes to fruition.

Prior to the announcement, Canada was far off-track to reach the targets pledged in the Paris Agreement: to lower emissions by 30 per cent over 2005 levels by 2030.

In 2005, the country emitted 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere, according to the national inventory report.

In 2018, the latest year of data available, Canada emitted 729.5 mt of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Climate Action Tracker, an independent international analysis project, considers countries’ actions against their emissions pledges. CAT’s best-case scenario for Canada was a 15 per cent reduction in emissions to 2030.

Ian Mauro, executive director of the Prairie Climate Centre at the University of Winnipeg, says the ambitious shift is welcome.

He pointed to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report released in 2018 that showed limiting global warming to 1.5 C would avoid many of the catastrophes predicted should the number reach 2 C.

“They’ve realized in the years since (the) Paris (Agreement) was signed that we actually have to have a much more ambitious plan than even what the Paris accord says. So global governments are trying to recalibrate, and I think this is our federal government recalibrating to the newest science,” Mauro said Friday.

The pledges made by individual countries in the Paris Agreement to date are estimated to only constrain warming to 2.7 C this century. The international goal is to limit warming to well-below 2 C.

Last week, the United Nations Environment Programme released its annual production gap report, which concluded Canada is one of seven nations with plans to continue the expansion of the oil and gas sector outside of what aligns with the country’s (and world’s) emissions goals.

The new Liberal plan relies on two key measures to reduce emissions from the sector, which accounts for approximately a quarter of Canada’s emissions.

First, the increasing price on carbon. Second, investments in technologies to capture carbon and reduce the emissions generated through the production process.

“Now we are pointing to the road ahead, for the next 15 years, saying companies need to make sure that they are making the investments to seize on those low-cost opportunities to reduce their methane emissions. But in addition to that, the price on pollution will have a positive effect on these companies’ decisions in terms of making investments in innovation that help them reduce their emissions,” said Isabelle Turcotte, director of federal policy at the Pembina Institute, a Canadian energy think tank.

The plan is likely to cause a great deal of tension between the provinces and Ottawa, particularly in Alberta.

Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon called the proposed increase in the carbon tax an attack on provincial jurisdiction, but also said Alberta would offer input as legislation is developed. He also applauded the decision to invest in the technological approach to try lowering emissions in the oil and gas sector.

Manitoba also adopted a fighting stance.

“The federal government’s high carbon tax plan will penalize Manitobans for having invested billions of dollars in clean hydro-electricity. We will continue to pursue our made-in-Manitoba climate and green plan with a low, flat carbon price — not a high and rising carbon tax,” Conservation and Climate Minister Sarah Guillemard said in a statement.

Overall, Turcotte said she is confident, if the plan is implemented as written, Canada could attain at least the 31 per cent drop in emissions it projects.

In a technical briefing Friday, federal officials said the increase in the carbon tax of $50/t in 2022 and $170/t in 2030 would equate to roughly $0.27 per litre more at the gas pump.

The Supreme Court of Canada has yet to make a decision on the case before it brought by some of the provinces as to whether the carbon tax is constitutional. However, federal officials said there is no plan B — the government is confident in the constitutionality of federally mandated carbon pricing.

Investments in the plan will be made in green urban infrastructure such as electric buses. There will also be a return to incentives to retrofit homes, commercial and government buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency.

Mauro said he thinks the timing of the announcement is politically risky, but necessary to take advantage of COVID-19 pandemic stimulus spending.

“I think it’s a lot for Canadians to take on. We’ve got a public health crisis, we’ve got to deal with the climate crisis, and it’s asking a lot of Canadians, to grapple with the challenges,” he said. “But we have to be having these complex conversations about the multiple risks and stressors facing society.”

This article appeared on the Yahoo News website at https://ca.news.yahoo.com/carbon-tax-hikes-carbon-capture-030630475.html


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