Trudeau says Canada is not falling behind the U.S. on climate action

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is downplaying fears that Canada is falling behind the U.S. on climate action as Washington begins rolling out billions of dollars in new spending to reduce emissions.

Unlike the U.S., Trudeau says, Canada has a price on carbon to help lower emissions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a Q&A as part of the Canadian Climate Institute’s conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is downplaying fears that Canada is falling behind the U.S. on climate action as Washington begins rolling out billions of dollars in new spending to reduce emissions.

Trudeau suggested the federal government doesn't need to match the $369 billion the U.S. government announced in its Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) because Canada has a price on carbon and one of the world's most detailed climate plans. 

"We're going to absolutely stay competitive," Trudeau said. "One of the reasons the U.S. has to do so much more is they don't have a price on pollution. They have to do through regulations and incentives and subsidies what we are already doing a lot of heavy lifting on with a price on pollution."

The prime minister made the comments Tuesday during a question and answer session at a conference in Ottawa hosted by the Canadian Climate Institute and Canada's Net-Zero Advisory Body. During that session, the moderator challenged Trudeau to explain why Canada hasn't met any of its emissions targets and asked whether Canada was falling behind the U.S. on climate ambition.

"(The IRA) is raising the bar in a great way." Trudeau said. "They are starting to catch up to where Canada is, which is a good thing. But we still have advantages with a price on pollution."

Canada's price on pollution is a cornerstone of Trudeau's climate policy, which he and other economists say encourages consumers and businesses to burn fewer fossil fuels. Some Canadians get back more in carbon pricing rebates than they pay, the federal government says. The carbon price will rise steeply from its current level of $50 per tonne of emissions to $170 by 2030.

Despite its name, America's Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) earmarks massive spending to encourage Americans to make, sell and buy electric vehicles, heat pumps, wind turbines and solar panels.

The NDP has been among those calling on the government to follow U.S. President Joe Biden's lead in rolling out massive climate stimulus spending.

"We see that Biden is transforming the American economy with good-paying union jobs, yet the prime minister has missed every climate target he has set," Charlie Angus, the NDP critic for natural resources, said during question period on Tuesday.

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have been calling on the Trudeau government to get rid of its price on carbon to help Canadians cope with inflation.

"Will the prime minister show some mercy for those people who are struggling to heat their homes and cancel his plan to triple the tax?" asked Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked during question period on Tuesday.

While the U.S. has committed more than $300 billion to climate action, Canada is deploying $109 billion. That sum, said Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault, is greater than what the U.S. has committed on a per capita basis.

Guilbeault said Canada will always be criticized for moving too fast or too slow compared to the U.S. on climate.

"Until recently, we were being told we're way ahead of the Americans, and how dare we be ahead of the Americans," Guilbeault said. "With IRA, people are saying, 'Oh my God, how come we have fallen so far behind the United States?'"


David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories. He can be reached at david.thurton@cbc.ca

With files from Nick Boisvert