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Trudeau unveils Canada carbon price plan for 2018
[OTTAWA] Canada will impose a national minimum carbon price in 2018 in order to meet its Paris accord commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday.
"All Canadian jurisdictions will put a price on carbon pollution by 2018... To get there, the government will set a floor price for carbon pollution," he said in a speech to parliament.
Each province will have a choice in how they implement the pricing, he added, for example, by imposing a carbon tax or adopting a cap-and-trade system.
The federal government, Mr Trudeau said, is proposing a minimum price of C$10 (S$10.41) per tonne of carbon pollution in 2018.
This price would rise by C$10 each year to a maximum of C$50 per tonne in 2022.
Opposition parties and several provinces immediately pushed back, saying a new tax would sink the economy while accusing Trudeau of overstepping federal jurisdiction.
"Canadian families are struggling to make ends meet," said Conservative MP Ed Fast. "The last thing they need is a massive carbon tax forced down their throat." Canada's ratification of the landmark Paris accord on climate change is expected to come later this week, after the debate in parliament.
Canada accounts for 1.95 per cent of global emissions, according to United Nations figures.
An independent parliamentary watchdog said in April that the country's carbon emissions linked to global warming have stabilised at just over 700 million tonnes per year.
That's 208 million tonnes short of Mr Trudeau's commitment at the climate summit in Paris last December, which was to reduce emissions by 30 per cent compared with 2005 levels, by 2030.
Mr Trudeau's government has reached out to Canada's 13 provinces and territories, which share responsibility for the environment with Ottawa, to hammer out a national climate strategy.
But each has insisted they would tailor plans for their respective regions, which have vastly different economic circumstances and goals.
Also, some have already imposed a carbon tax, while others have joined a fledgling continental cap-and-trade system with the US state of California.
Provincial environment ministers meeting on Monday in Montreal with their federal counterpart Catherine McKenna to try to find consensus on climate action had mixed reactions to Mr Trudeau's bombshell announcement.
Saskatchewan province, which has been developing carbon capture technology on a massive scale, remained adamantly opposed to any carbon tax.
Oil-rich Alberta, meanwhile, said it supports a national carbon price in principle for creating a level playing field, but put conditions on agreeing to Trudeau's scheme.
Specifically, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley called for the construction of new pipelines to get the province's oil to tidewater in order to sell it overseas, and "to ensure we have the economic means to fund these (climate) policies."
Alberta has seen several projects falter or fail to get regulatory approval over the past decade as environmentalists fought a fierce public relations war against the oil industry.
Seeking to allay concerns, Ms McKenna noted in a statement that "already 80 per cent of Canadians live in a province where there is pollution pricing.
"We want to continue this trend and cover the final 20 per cent," she said.