Justin Trudeau gives provinces 2 years to adopt carbon price plan

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given provinces two years to adopt a carbon pricing scheme, or the federal government will step in and impose a price.

A tough-talking Trudeau told MPs in the House of Commons that provinces can craft a cap-and-trade system or put a direct price on carbon pollution — but it must meet the federal benchmark or “floor price.”

“If neither price nor cap and trade is in place by 2018, the government of Canada will implement a price in that jurisdiction,” he said.

Trudeau made the announcement in leading off parliamentary debate on the Paris climate change agreement Monday, making the case for Canada to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. is carrying the debate in the House of Commons live.

Trudeau said the proposed price on carbon pollution should start at a minimum of $10 a tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 a tonne by 2022.

Provinces and territories that choose a cap-and-trade system must decrease emissions in line with both Canada’s target and with the reductions expected in jurisdictions that choose a price-based system.

Whatever model a province chooses, Trudeau said it will be revenue neutral for the federal government, with any revenues generated under the system staying in the province or territory where they are generated.

Trudeau insisted the plan will be good for the economy, good for innovation and good for jobs.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a speech at the start of the Paris Agreement debate in the House of Commons Monday – announcing a “floor” carbon price of $10 a tonne by 2018, and $50 a tonne by 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

‘Sledgehammer’ approach

But Conservative MP and environment critic Ed Fast accused Trudeau of taking a “sledgehammer” approach with the provinces.

“Here, he lowers the boom on the provinces and said, ‘I’m not going to cooperate with you. It’s my way or the highway,'” Fast said.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May praised the Liberal government’s “leadership” at last year’s climate talks, but said keeping the 2030 target set by the previous Conservative government under former prime minister Stephen Harper is “irreconcilable” with the commitments made there.

NDP environment critic Linda Duncan also accused the Liberals of backtracking on targets they once denounced as inadequate, weak and catastrophic.The government has signed on to the Paris agreement without a clear plan and firm measures to meet targets.

“Are we looking for Kyoto number two?” she asked.

The Trudeau government has called that goal a “floor” rather than a “ceiling” for what can be accomplished. 

Debate in the House comes as Canada’s environment ministers meet in Montreal to discuss collective efforts to fight climate change. 

Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna is trying to reach consensus with provincial and territorial ministers on a pan-Canada plan, but some are pushing back on a national carbon-pricing scheme.

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