First Ministers’ Summit Ends Without a National Price on Carbon

Justin Trudeau

By Arman Kazemi

March 10, 2016

The First Ministers’ meeting in Vancouver ended last week with a broad agreement between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers on the need to move forward on carbon pricing.

But the Vancouver Declaration was light on details about what a national carbon-pricing scheme would look like or whether there will even be a minimum rate.

While Ottawa initially seemed prepared to impose a Canada-wide carbon price if the premiers failed to agree, Trudeau eventually yielded to a much more ambiguous commitment to adopt “a broad range of domestic measures, including carbon pricing mechanisms.” And that will come only after an additional six months of committee meetings.

During this time, working groups will be tasked with assessing four areas related to climate change: “clean technology, innovation and jobs; carbon pricing mechanisms; specific mitigation opportunities; and adaptation and climate resilience.”

The premiers are planning to meet again in October to finalize a national strategy.

Trudeau presented Thursday’s agreement as a sign that “we have agreed to carbon pricing mechanisms right across the country,” according to the Globe and Mail. But Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, the loudest critic of a national carbon price, did not waver in his opposition.

“If there is a notion that this is some sort of license to pursue a national carbon tax,” he told reporters, “I will be in disagreement with that.”

The October meeting will also come well after April 22, when world leaders are supposed to sign the Paris Agreement and commit to the targets laid out during the climate talks in December.

For Canada, that target remains a 30 per cent reduction in emissions below 2005 levels - a target set out by the previous Conservative government.

“The impact of Canada missing this [April 22] deadline is incalculable. We have the opportunity of going to that meeting and saying ‘Here’s our goals and here is how we are going to meet them,’” Lynne Quarmby, the Green Party’s science policy critic, told the EcoReport.

“If we go to that April 22 meeting and all we have to take is what Harper gave us, we are making an enormous space for other countries who are dealing with the same political pressures to come in and behave badly.”