Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard raised an additional obstacle to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s quest for a Canada-wide price on carbon, warning that such a price cannot come at the expense of his province’s three-year-old emissions cap-and-trade system.
While leaving the door open to discussion of a national carbon price that “does not conflict with our carbon market,” Couillard said abandoning the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) emissions-trading area, in which Quebec has already joined California, “is out of the question.”
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“We already have a price on carbon, it’s important to realize that,” Couillard told The Huffington Post. “Not only with the carbon market, but we have specific taxes on gasoline that also signal a very strong price, in Quebec, on carbon.”
Central to the WCI is the mutual recognition of member jurisdictions’ carbon emission permits. Quebec and California—soon to be joined by Ontario and Manitoba—issue yearly permits to industries that emit 25 megatonnes or more of CO2 or the equivalent, with the total permitted emissions declining annually. Companies that reduce emissions below their permitted level can sell their surplus permits to otherwise non-compliant emitters within the market.
British Columbia has dawdled on a long-standing commitment to join the WCI, but Mexico has hinted that it may also join the already international market—a step that would dramatically widen the scope for emission-reducing investments.
The system delivers significant benefits to Quebec, Couillard said. Permit auctions have so far raised C$967 million, shared with California, and the province anticipates that future auctions will bring in as much as C$3 billion in new revenue by 2020.
“It gives us resources that we otherwise wouldn’t have, that will permit us to do things that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise and that we must do,” Couillard argued, pointing to Quebec’s goals for expanding the use of electric vehicles and public transit.
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