Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday won the support of provincial premiers to introduce nationwide carbon pricing, but sorting out details was saved for later and there are already signs that the process will be volatile.
In the run up to the Vancouver meeting between the PM and Canada’s ten premiers, local media had reported that Trudeau would push for a national minimum price for carbon emissions of at least C$15 per tonne of CO2e, despite strong opposition in some quarters.
After the meeting, the first ministers released the ‘Vancouver Declaration on clean growth and climate change’ in which all provinces committed to implementing policies to ensure that Canada would meet or exceed its target to cut GHG emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
They committed to “transition to a low carbon economy by adopting a broad range of domestic measures, including carbon pricing mechanisms, adapted to each province’s and territory’s specific circumstances”, the declaration said.
But there were no references to a specific carbon price level or policies, such as a CO2 tax or cap-and-trade programmes.
Four working groups will be established to develop a broad climate policy for Canada, and will make recommendations by October. Policies would be implemented in early 2017.
“The Working Group on Carbon Pricing Mechanisms will provide a report with options on the role of carbon pricing mechanisms in meeting Canada’s emissions reduction targets, including different design options taking into consideration existing and planned provincial and territorial systems,” the declaration said.
“It will consider various elements of carbon pricing policy, including coverage, comparability and stringency, as well as market transactions related to mitigation technologies and international trends in carbon pricing and markets,” it said.
“It will consider the effectiveness of various carbon pricing mechanisms to contribute to the certainty of emission reductions and their efficiency at achieving this objective at the lowest possible cost, and take account of particular challenges, such as those facing northern and remote communities.”
The process will be overseen by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, and comments made after the declaration was issued indicate that provinces will have hugely different approaches.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall – an outspoken opponent of carbon taxes – told reporters he expected his province’s carbon capture and storage programme would be accepted as a pricing mechanism, Reuters reported.
“If there is a notion that comes forward that this (agreement) is some sort of license to pursue a national carbon tax, I will be in disagreement with that,” he said.
Federal New Democratic Party MP Nathan Cullen expressed concern about the broad language in the text, and about Wall’s comments.
“If the provinces are allowed to just claim effort for the things they’re already doing that may or may nor work in terms of tackling climate change, then we’re not going to get anywhere as a country,” he told the Canadian Press.
Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba have or are planning emissions trading systems, while Alberta and British Columbia have introduced taxes on GHG emissions.
Meanwhile, the four Atlantic provinces are considering a regional carbon price, although no decisions have yet been made.
By Stian Reklev – firstname.lastname@example.org