Back in 2014, Australia became something of an international pariah when it canceled plans to introduce a carbon tax. Now, the Trudeau administration of Canada has done precisely the opposite, announcing this week that the liberal government will impose a carbon tax on emissions starting in 2018 as part of its drive to meet targets set by the Paris agreement.
“There is no hiding from climate change,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Canadian House of Commons, as reported by the Associated Press. “It is real and it is everywhere. We cannot undo the last 10 years of inaction. What we can do is make a real and honest effort – today and every day – to protect the health of our environment, and with it, the health of all Canadians.”
Canada’s carbon tax, which will come into force in 2018, will allow provinces to put a direct tax of $7.60 per US ton of carbon emissions, and will set up a cap-and-trade system. The latter involves both caps on carbon emissions and a trade network allowing companies to buy and sell allowances for higher temporary caps.
This way, if a company is able to cut emissions easily, it will be able to sell its “extra allowances” to other companies that are finding cuts difficult. In short, this system provides organizations with an economic incentive for cutting carbon emissions.
If a Canadian province or territory has refused to implement any of these carbon-cutting systems by the 2018 deadline, the federal government will impose a basic carbon tax of $10 per US ton on emissions, rising by $10 a year until it reaches $38.11 per US ton by 2022.
The Premier of Alberta, an oil-rich province, demanded that the federal government make progress on new oil pipelines along Canada’s coastline before it considers the specific carbon tax scheme being proposed. The Saskatchewan Premier claimed that the carbon tax will damage the regional economy.
However, Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces, are joining a cap-and-trade program, and British Columbia already has a carbon tax.
Alberta's natural beauty is contrasted by the controversial work on developing new oil pipelines in the region. puttsk/Shutterstock
“Eighty five percent of the Canadian economy is located in provinces where there is pricing on carbon pollution in one shape or another. We are going to bring that up to 100 percent,” Trudeau said.
The debate also discussed the Paris agreement itself, which has most recently been ratified by the US, China, and India, three nations making up a huge chunk of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s lawmakers are expected to also agree to ratify the proposal in a vote later this week.
Canada, despite its size, is only the world’s 11th most prolific carbon emitter, lagging just behind South Korea and producing slightly more than Brazil. As of 2012, it produces only 1.6 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.
Although its imminent ratification of the Paris agreement may not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, every little bit helps when it comes to the groundbreaking climate pact. For it to officially come into force, 55 nations representing 55 percent of the world’s carbon emissions have to ratify the pact.
The European Union today voted to do just that, so when these diverse nations join the agreement later this week, the threshold will be breached and the Paris agreement will officially be enacted – a genuine achievement for our species.
Although, as previous studies have shown, there is a lot more that needs to be done if we’re to save the world from drowning, quite literally, in its failure to control its worst excesses.
Canada's current government is a distinctly environmental one – a huge change from the previous administration. napattorn686/Shutterstock