A more ambitious climate plan is possible

The Liberal Government’s recent carbon tax increases demonstrate they are willing to be ambitious in meeting climate goals of the Paris Accord, which states that our country should have greenhouse gas emissions at 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

David Lochead

On December 11, the Liberal government announced they will be increasing the carbon tax by $15 per tonne each year from 2023 until 2030. Currently, Canada’s carbon tax is $30 per tonne, by 2030 it will be $170 per tonne.

However Canadian environmental policy can be much bolder. As the 10th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, our country can push forward a carbon policy that further challenges the fossil fuel industry in a way that is equitable toward all Canadians.

Several non-governmental organizations have provided a blueprint in how we move forward with a climate policy that builds on the Liberals recent carbon tax increase.

The most obvious fix to the current Liberal plan is to stop growing fossil fuel production in Canada and it is the main point in the press releases from Greenpeace Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The Trudeau government has approved five pipeline projects, including the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline. These pipelines are planned to be in service for many decades. But if Canada is to become a country with zero emissions, stomping out fossil fuel production is inevitable.

“They’re trying to ride both horses,” Keith Stewart, a Senior Energy Strategist at Greenpeace Canada, says about the Liberals trying to fight climate change while supporting the fossil fuel industry.

“And that never ends well.”

Stewart highlights Alberta’s gradual phasing out of coal as an example of how to decrease our country’s reliance on fossil fuel production while ensuring Canadians who work in that sector are accommodated.

“It’s a much bigger job,” Stewart says of transitioning to clean energy from fossil fuels. “But it’s something we’re going to have to do.” 

How Canada allocates the revenue from the carbon tax is important as well. Currently, our country’s carbon tax is revenue-neutral, which means funds are returned to the province where the emissions originated. If Canada wants a carbon tax that helps spur further climate action, putting part of the revenues toward environmental projects is more productive according to Marc Lee of CCPA.

“You’re using the revenues to build (climate projects) we actually want and you’re compensating the lowest-income households,” Lee says of his suggestions in changing the revenue scheme to be more equitable.

Income inequality also dovetails with climate policy. As a country where 40 percent of the population only held 20 percent of the income in 2018, Canada’s carbon policy must as easily be accessible to the working class. Canada’s plans for rebates on buying zero-emission cars or energy efficient upgrades on a home are still green initiatives that are more accessible to the affluent according to Stewart. To him, investing in public transit, which is predominantly used by lower income Canadians, is one area government should look into improving for climate policy.

A more progressive climate plan also means more corporate backlash. Even in the Liberals current carbon tax measures, resistance from the fossil fuel industry is expected.

“They’re going to fight this,” Stewart says of the fossil fuel industry’s reaction to the carbon tax increase. Steward sees a barrage of advertising, whether directly or indirectly supported by the fossil fuel industry, as a technique that will be used.

“They won’t necessarily be stated in press releases but there is going to be a huge lobbying effort,” Lee says.

But clashing with the fossil fuel industry is inevitable for progressive climate policy and the public appears to be on the side of daring climate action. A poll done by Abacus Data reported that 75 percent of Canadians want a clean energy transition.

With the new increases in the carbon tax the governing Liberals are recognizing the importance to fight climate change. But oil production in Canada is still set to increase. For Canada to truly fight climate change, carbon tax increases should be only the first step in a more expansive progressive climate plan. 


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