The leader of Canada’s opposition and head of the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP) on Sunday set out his plan to introduce emissions trading across Canada should his party win the Oct. 19 federal election.
At a town hall meeting in Toronto, Tom Mulcair said if elected he would take “immediate steps” to develop a pan-Canadian cap-and-trade system that would let any provinces with existing or planned CO2-cutting programmes opt out while imposing federal regulations on the rest.
“We’ll allow those provinces that have set up something to continue, as we’re not going to replace something that’s working,” Mulcair said.
“I will reduce greenhouse gases with a ‘Made in Canada’ solution.”
Mulcair said it would be federally revenue-neutral, and that carbon permit proceeds raised under his plan would be returned to the provinces so that they can be reinvested into GHG reduction efforts. It was not clear whether the provincial schemes under the NDP’s federal plan would then be linked together.
“My record as Quebec’s environment minister means Canadians and the international community will be able to count on Canada’s NDP government to make polluters pay and do our part on climate change,” he added.
The NDP, which is currently polling neck-and-neck with the rival Liberals and ruling Conservatives, has suggested if elected it could deepen Canada’s emissions target to a 34% reduction below 1990 levels by 2030, and 80% below by 2050.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has said he does not see climate change as an election issue, earlier this year pledged a much weaker target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.
Mulcair said his plan will recognise any provincial efforts, for example those already under way in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, provided they are equivalent to or exceed federal objectives.
BC in 2008 introduced an economy-wide, revenue-neutral carbon tax that is currently frozen at C$30/tonne.
Alberta has an eight-year old climate levy, the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), under which companies emitting more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2e are forced to pay C$15 per tonne.
The province’s new NDP government, which swept to power in May, has announced that it will increase the levy to C$30 in 2017 and raise the GHG reduction goal to 20% below historical baseline from the current 12%.
Quebec has a provincial emissions trading programme that is linked to California’s state scheme, while Ontario is currently developing its own carbon market.
Mulcair’s plan resembles the plan upon which the Liberals are campaigning – the party under whom Canada signed up to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and who subsequently introduced few policies to help the country subsequently hit its target.
The strategies also echo the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which will set overarching GHG-reduction goals, give states flexibility towards meeting them, and impose federally-crafted rules on any states that fail to act accordingly.
Mulcair said that if elected he would also lead Canada’s delegation to UN climate talks in Paris later this year.
“It’s the perfect opportunity for Canada to not only show up at the negotiating table, but to lead,” he added.
Under Harper, Canada has shied away from being prominently involved in international climate talks, pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol in late 2011.
The Harper administration has also been accused of ‘muzzling’ scientists, with several publicised accounts of government-employed scientific experts being fired for speaking to the media.
Mulcair pledged to seek the reinstatement of any fired climate scientists.
“I never thought any political leader in this country would have to say ‘I believe in science’, but that’s where we are,” he said.
By Mike Szabo – firstname.lastname@example.org