The House

Paris targets still within reach, despite carbon tax shift: minister

Changes to Ottawa's plan for a carbon tax are raising questions about the impact on Canada's ability to meet their climate commitments, but is the environment minister concerned? Not at all.
The Liberal government is preparing to impose a carbon tax on provinces without their own in 2019. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen9:17

Changes to Ottawa's plan for a carbon tax are raising questions about the impact on Canada's ability to meet their climate commitments, but is the environment minister concerned? Not at all.

"It won't have an impact," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told The House.

The Liberal government adjusted its plan to price carbon pollution after hearing concerns from Canadian industry officials about how the tax would affect their ability to compete.

Ottawa's plan will come into effect in January and will be imposed on provinces who haven't implemented their own measures.

Back in January, McKenna set the benchmark at 70 per cent of an industry's average emissions performance, meaning companies would have to pay a tax on emissions they produced in excess of that benchmark.

Canadian industries hope the change will help keep them competitive abroad, but environmentalists see this as Trudeau pulling back from his commitment. 2:02

McKenna's office later confirmed they've adjusted the proposal to set the benchmark at 80 per cent of the industry average of emissions — and 90 per cent for producers of cement, iron and steel, lime and nitrogen fertilizer. Emissions produced beyond that point would still be subject to the tax.

The tax is set for $20 a tonne in 2019 and will rise to $50 in 2022.

However, McKenna is not worried it will affect Canada's ability to keep the promises made in Paris in 2015 — to reduce 2005 emissions levels by at least 30 per cent less by 2030.

When asked about the shifts in the carbon plan, McKenna said the targets were set based on science and consultations.

Not all provinces agree with her government that the carbon tax was designed properly. Saskatchewan and Ontario are engaging in court challenges to determine whether the federal government has the jurisdiction to impose a plan on provinces.

Meanwhile, across the border, the White House has proposed a weakening of fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks.  California and 18 other states are planning to fight President Donald Trump's plan.

McKenna said her government will keep an eye on that situation, but Canadian climate policy is the focus.

"We will make decisions based on science evidence and facts and after listening to folks."

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna on why her government's updated emission targets for large industrial polluters are less strict than what was originally pitched. 9:17