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Canada to tax carbon emissions to hit Paris climate agreement targets

'There is no hiding from climate change,' says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 04 October 2016 18:29 BST
Justin Trudeau called for an initial levy of $10 (£6) per tonne of emissions in 2016
Justin Trudeau called for an initial levy of $10 (£6) per tonne of emissions in 2016 (AP)

Canada is to introduce a tax on carbon emissions from 2018 to help it meet a commitment to the targets set by the Paris climate agreement, Justin Trudeau has said.

Canada is on the cusp of ratifying the accord to limit climate change. The House of Commons is expected vote the accord through on Wednesday – the same time as the European Union formally endorses the deal.

“There is no hiding from climate change,” the Prime Minister said, “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.”

Mr Trudeau called for an initial levy of $10 (£6) per tonne of emissions by 2018 that would rise annually until it reached $50 (£30) a tonne by 2022.

A province will be able to opt out of a carbon tax and assume a cap-and-trade system instead – but only if could show the plan would reduce emissions even more than the levy would.

Carbon tax has long been a contentious issue between Canadian provinces. Resource-rich regions argue for greater flexibility while others demand more recognition from the government for enforcing stricter rules.

Whether the province opts for a carbon cap scheme or for the suggested levies, all Canadian provinces will be required to contribute towards Canada's commitment to greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. This is measured as a reduction from from 2005 levels.

Although some analysts have lauded the target, others have dismissed the aim as inadequate. Many expected Mr Trudeau’s government to tighten the Paris commitment put forward by the previous Conservative government - led by Stephen Harper - last year.

“If we persist with Harper-era greenhouse gas targets that are among the weakest in the industrialised world, we will fail to ensure Canada does its part in holding the global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Canadian Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said in a statement. “This is not a theory — it’s basic math.”

Environmentalists have also long-criticised the Canada for advocating for it’s oil sands industry.

Yet Mr Trudeau has made improving Canada’s climate track record a hallmark of his first year in office – and the carbon tax could help him to fulfill that expectation.

It is not without opposition. The environment ministers of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan staged a walkout from a meeting with their federal counterparts in Montreal on Monday to protest the announcement.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said in a statement that “the level of disrespect shown by the prime minister and his government today is stunning.” He said the plan was “one of the largest national tax increases in Canadian history.”

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