Ottawa sees way to reach Paris climate target through investment in transit, adoption of new technology


Environment Minister Catherine McKenna speaks at a press conference on Canada's climate plan at the National Press Theater in Ottawa on December 20, 2018.

Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna insists Canada is on track to meet its Paris climate target, despite a report from its department on Thursday that the government does not yet have a clear path to reach it.

At an end-of-year news conference, the minister said the country is making headway in cutting greenhouse gases – despite Ontario's retrogression with a previous plan to cut emissions – and can count on investments in public transportation and adoption of new technologies such as electric vehicles in the next 12 years to close the gap identified in the report of its department to the United Nations.

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The Liberal government is facing a tough battle with several parliamentarians and conservative opposition MPs over the carbon tax that will be launched next year along with a host of other regulations that will impose new costs on consumers and power producers. McKenna acknowledged that the liberal climate plan will likely be a major issue in federal elections scheduled for next fall, but said the government is delivering on the promises made in the 2015 campaign to put a price on carbon emissions to combat climate change.

"We have to fight if we want to protect Canada that we value," she said. "We need to renew our commitments and continue working harder. Our government will remain steadfast in advancing our climate plan with Canadians and achieving our goals. "

A global failure to deal with climate change will impose even greater costs on Canadians, the minister said, pointing to floods, hot flashes and forest fires last year that scientists say will worsen as global temperatures rise.

Canada's Environment and Climate Change report states that policies currently in place will provide three-quarters of the emission reductions needed to meet the country's 513 megaton (MT) target, equivalent to a 30% reduction in 2005 GHGs 2030. However, 79 MT of reductions will have to come from the adoption of new technologies by Canadians or measures such as massive investments in public transport that are underway and being planned – whose impact is uncertain.

The Ontario government's retrogression in the previous provincial plan raised the uncertainty gap by 30 million tonnes, the department said.

Environment and Climate Change Canada also released new details on two of the government's previously announced climate policies: carbon taxation on large industrial emitters and regulations to reduce the carbon content of gasoline, diesel and other fuels.

Ottawa will impose its tax on consumers in four provinces that do not have their own large carbon price, either in the form of taxes or a cap and trade system. They are Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba and New Brunswick. For consumers, the tax will go into effect on April 1, starting at $ 20 a ton – or 4.3 cents per liter of gasoline – and will increase to $ 50 a ton in 2022. All revenues raised by Ottawa will be returned to the provinces. increased, with 90 percent going to families, the government says.

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For major broadcasters, the tax will be released on January 1, but will pay only a small percentage of its total emissions, a system designed to both encourage GHG reductions and protect the competitiveness of Canadian companies. It will be applied in Ontario, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and in electricity and natural gas transmissions in Saskatchewan, which exempted these sectors from their regulations to large issuers.

The federal plan set standards for 38 industrial activities, based on the average emissions of their industries. Most companies will pay carbon emissions taxes that exceed 80% of the industry average. If they are below 80% of the industrial average, they will get credits that can be sold. Several industries will receive special treatment to reflect their high risk to foreign competition. Three sectors – petrochemicals, nitrogen fertilizers and iron and steel – will pay emissions taxes above 90% of the industry average, while cement and lime will have a 95% limit.

Ottawa has also issued a regulatory bill for a new clean fuel standard that will require fuel distributors to increase the amount of ethanol or other biofuels mixed in their products or find ways to improve the energy efficiency of their supply chain. The government expects the clean fuel standard to reduce GHGs by 23 MT from current levels by 2030. Although the cost to consumers is not yet known, McKenna insisted it would be "minimal."


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