Politics

Scheer climate plan would encompass more big polluters, require investments as penalty

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's climate proposal would change emissions thresholds to capture more large-scale polluters and compel those companies to invest in clean energy technology if they exceed emissions standards.

Conservative leader to unveil environmental policy on Wednesday

Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer will deliver his fifth and final pre-election policy speech Wednesday in Quebec. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's climate plan would change emissions thresholds to capture more large-scale polluters and get those companies to invest in clean energy technology if they exceed emissions standards.

A portion of Scheer's plan, obtained by CBC News, would compel facilities that produce 40 kilotonnes of emissions or more per year to invest in green tech. The Trudeau government's current rules impose emission caps on firms that emit more than 50 kilotonnes per year.

Scheer will outline his party's much-anticipated environmental policy at a speech in Quebec on Wednesday. The Liberals have criticized him for taking such a long time to release a climate plan; Scheer was elected leader of the Conservative Party in May 2017.

Scheer's proposed penalties for emitters would be framed very differently from the current government's carbon tax. The idea is to keep the funds in the private sector instead of collecting them in government coffers, a Conservative insider said.

The policy document says those required investments from offending companies would go into the research, development and adoption of emissions-reducing technology in that particular industry.

Contributions could be used to fund research at Canadian universities, or to support Canadian clean tech companies. 

Under Scheer's plan, every tonne over the 40 kilotonne standard would cost the polluter a set amount. The more a company emits over that threshold, the more it would be required to invest.

Oil and gas sector the big polluter

In 2017, the 1,622 facilities monitored by Environment Canada's GHG Reporting Program accounted for 292 megatonnes of emissions — 41 per cent of Canada's total, according to Environment Canada. The oil and gas sector was responsible for more than a third of those emissions.

Mining and oil and gas have been the only sectors to increase emissions since 2005.

Any repercussions from emissions reduction measures for fossil fuel projects could backfire on the Conservatives, who have accused the Liberals of pursuing a legislative agenda that has undermined the energy sector and its ability to get its products to market.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer laid out his party's vision for Canada's future resource development this week, outlining a plan that would promote the construction of pipelines and other energy infrastructure. 9:37

Conservatives say their environmental plan will focus on using technology, not taxes, to reduce emissions. They say Scheer plans to include measures that will keep businesses competitive while reducing their environmental footprint, though further details have not been released.

The plan says Scheer would consult with provinces, businesses and industry experts to ensure the standards are both fair and enforceable.

The Conservative plan takes aim at the Liberals' carbon tax plan — which came into effect in April in provinces that failed to introduce their own emissions reduction plans to meet Ottawa's target — saying that Canadian families are suffering because of exceptions given to big companies.

Carbon tax and Paris targets

In August, the Liberal government changed its plan after some companies complained the tax would make them uncompetitive.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna originally announced that companies would have to pay for any emissions that exceeded 70 per cent of the average emissions for the industry in question. That benchmark was then increased to 80 or 90 per cent, depending on the sector.

That move meant the country's biggest polluters would pay less carbon tax as the Liberals work toward meeting Paris climate commitments.

Canada's environment commissioner has warned that Canada is on track to miss the goal of a 30 per cent drop in emissions from 2005 levels. The Liberals say their carbon reduction plan will encourage companies to be more green, while any costs to families will be counteracted by tax rebates.

The carbon tax is set at $20 a tonne this year and will rise to $50 in 2022.

Those measures might not be enough on their own. According to a new report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Canada's carbon tax eventually would have to increase to $102 per tonne by 2030 in order to meet international obligations.

Scheer has not said whether he will commit to meet the 2030 Paris targets. A portion of Scheer's speech on Wednesday is expected to address those objectives.

The PBO report only looked at using a carbon tax to meet Paris targets, but it added that other measures to reduce emissions could be costlier.

"Other policy measures (such as regulations) could achieve the same emissions target," the PBO's analysts wrote, "but they would likely have a larger impact on the Canadian economy."

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