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Canada Falls Far Short of Climate Targets as Businesses Tout Carbon Price

digifly840 / Pixabay
digifly840 / Pixabay

A group of more than 60 major businesses, including oil, gas, and mining companies, is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the provincial premiers to stay the course on carbon pricing when they convene later this year to finalize a pan-Canadian response to climate change.

“Putting a price on carbon, to reflect the real environmental costs, is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, stimulate innovation, and drive energy efficiency,” the executives write in a letter organized by Ottawa-based Smart Prosperity. “Coordinated Canada-wide carbon pricing, rising predictably over time, can do much of the heavy lifting towards meeting our climate targets.”

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The companies signing the letter represent 15% of Canada’s GDP, with C$300 billion in annual sales and more than a million employees, CBC reports.

“It’s vital to hear from business leaders that a strong climate policy can also help the economy,” said Smart Prosperity Co-Chair Stewart Elgie.

“We think it’s the best way to send a market signal to reduce emissions,” added Pierre Gratton, president of the Mining Association of Canada, in an interview with CBC. “This is something the industry believes. It’s a generally held view that [this] is the best way forward to fight climate change.”

Interim Opposition leader Rona Ambrose has called it “complete insanity” for Canada to price carbon with Donald Trump on his way to the White House—even though the Obama administration never introduced a carbon price, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wasn’t proposing too. Smart Prosperity Co-Chair Lorraine Mitchelmore, former president of Shell Canada, begged to differ with Ambrose’s assessment.

“Whenever your largest trading partner does something different you pay attention, but that doesn’t mean you change your long-term goals. You adjust as you move forward,” Mitchelmore said.

“You can’t just have a knee jerk reaction,” she added. “You have to think about the long term. This is a multi-decade business, and so how do you position it to compete today and tomorrow?”

While Ambrose and Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall mount a last line of defence against the growing consensus for a Canadian carbon price, climate and energy analyst Barry Saxifrage notes that the Trudeau government’s carbon policies—including a floor price on carbon and an accelerated coal phase-out—won’t begin to offset the impact of new fossil projects the government has approved, or has under consideration.

Writing on the National Observer, Saxifrage notes that Canada’s 2030 carbon target—a 30% emissions reduction carried over from the Harper regime—would require a 200-megatonne carbon cut. The accelerated coal phase-out and the floor carbon price will deliver 23 Mt between them.

But the recently-approved Petronas liquefied natural gas project will add 70 Mt to the ledger, TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline will load on another 190Mt if Trump approves it, and other assorted pipeline proposals add up to 440 Mt.

Since being elected, Trudeau has repeatedly promised that Canada will do its part to keep dangerous climate disruption to ‘well below’ a 2°C increase in global warming,” Saxifrage writes. So “how much longer will Canada’s pattern of climate failure continue? How long do we want it too? And if our new clean-talking Prime Minister isn’t going to change our course, who will?”