Under Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada has chosen a carbon tax as its national policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions, a move that could have major repercussions around the world, and especially for its neighbor to the south.
The move – fulfilling a campaign promise and hailed by most environmental groups, is truly groundbreaking, one that will propel Canada to the forefront of the green revolution.
“We are standing at the threshold of an incredible opportunity to build a strong and clean economy, one that will protect our environment and create opportunities for middle class families today and in the generations to come,” said Catherine McKenna, Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, in a press statement.
It is also a stark contrast from the Canada of just a year ago, ruled by pro-oil, climate-denying Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Under his administration, Canada saw its emissions rise faster than almost any other developed nation. And it went well over its emissions targets under the predecessor to the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol. Much of this was due to the development of the Alberta tar sands, widely considered the most destructive industrial project in the world.
The carbon tax, which will come into force in 2018, will change that. It will impose a carbon price on all provinces that haven't done so on their own. So far, just one, British Columbia, has a genuine carbon tax in place, while a few others have some form of pollution pricing. In BC, the tax has actually resulted in economic growth by allocating resources – and investment – where it is needed.
"A carbon price provides a clear market signal that makes clean technology more affordable and polluting technologies more expensive,” said Ian Bruce, director of science and policy for the leading Canadian NGO the David Suzuki Foundation, in a press statement.
If there is any criticism, it is that the price – CAD$7.62 per metric ton in 2018, rising by $7.62 each year until it reaches $38.11 per metric ton in 2022 – is too low. Many groups, such as Greenpeace, want it to go higher. And it likely will. As we all know, the hardest part is getting a new policy into place.
Canada has acted. Now it’s America's turn, and the ball is in our court. We’re also part of the Paris Agreement, but we don’t yet have a plan to reduce emissions. In fact, one of the key achievements of the coming administration will be the policies that its leader implements to have America meet its climate goals.
Sadly, climate has been barely mentioned this election season -- not in the presidential race, nor in the possibly more important House and Senate races, where the true roadblock to climate action lies. While most environmental groups attest that Donald Trump – who once said he thinks climate change is a hoax – is not the right choice, Hillary Clinton has set some bold climate goals. But she has not released emissions reductions goals specifically. Perhaps she can look north for some inspiration, to a country where a recent change in government has led to real action.
Image credit: Flickr/Karim Rezk
Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on environmental, social, and economic issues around the world, with specific expertise in Southeast Asia.