Trudeau plan to increase Canada’s carbon tax draws mixed response

Ottawa says the plan will help it meet its climate goals, but some environmental groups say it does not go far enough.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticised for promising bold action to fight climate change while also supporting oil pipeline projects [Blair Gable/Reuters]

Canada will increase a tax on carbon emissions in a push to meet its commitment to fight climate change, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Friday, drawing mixed reactions from politicians, environmental advocates and rights groups.

In a news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said that Ottawa plans to gradually increase a federal tax on carbon emissions to approximately $133 a tonne (170 Canadian dollars) by 2030. The tax is currently set at about $24 (30 Canadian dollars) a tonne.

“The cleaner your economy, the faster and stronger it will grow. There is no time to waste,” Trudeau told reporters.

Trudeau said the measures would help Canada meet its Paris climate accord target of a 30 percent cut in 2005 greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The plan also includes additional investments in clean energy projects, among other measures.

Canada has routinely missed its emissions targets, and the Trudeau government has been criticised for promising bold action to fight climate change while it approved several major resource development projects, such as oil pipelines.

Trudeau has insisted that those projects will help fund climate programmes, but environmentalists have said Canada cannot build or expand new fossil fuel projects and hope to meet its targets.

The country is a major oil producer and the tar sands in the province of Alberta are a significant source of emissions.

‘Bold move’

Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, said the increased carbon price is “a bold move to embed the polluter-pay principle in Canada’s climate plan”, which also includes regulations and investments in clean energy.

“This is a serious and well-thought out plan to achieve our 30 percent reduction target, but we will need to do much more to fully decarbonize our economy, which is what climate science tells us is the way to protect our economy and ecosystems,” Stewart said in a statement.

“Canada can’t keep pretending that we can solve the climate crisis while expanding oil and gas production and building new pipelines.”

Rachel LaFortune, an environment and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the plan unveiled Friday “does not deliver the ambitious climate action Trudeau has long promised, nor does it reflect the urgency of action needed to help prevent devastating impacts.”


The leader of the federal Green Party of Canada, Annamie Paul, added that, while the plan looks promising at first glance, it does not go far enough.

On the other end of the spectrum, the premier of Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, slammed the planned carbon tax increase, saying it goes too far and would increase the cost of living for people already struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ontario is currently fighting the current federal carbon tax and the Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear the challenge.

“I just can’t understand for the life of me why anyone would want to put a burden on the backs of the hardworking people of this province,” Doug Ford told reporters on Friday.

He said the increase would result in most expensive goods and services, including gas and groceries. “I was floored when I heard this,” Ford said about the plan.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies