Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his provincial and territorial counterparts along with indigenous representatives are to meet in Ottawa on Friday for talks that will attempt to finalise a “pan-Canadian” framework that stitches together the country’s patchwork of climate and energy policies following months of sometimes testy negotiations.
The federal government has over the last year unveiled a raft of measures aimed at meeting the country’s target of a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 2005 levels by 2030: a national carbon price, phase-out of coal-fired electricity, and a new low-carbon fuel standard.
An ultimatum delivered in October that provinces must adopt a carbon price of $50 a tonne by 2022, either by emissions trading or a carbon tax, has met with a push-back by Saskatchewan in particular, whose conservative premier Brad Wall largely favours technological solutions to the emissions challenge, notably carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the development of a small modular nuclear reactor industry. Nova Scotia, which largely depends upon coal-fired generation for its electricity, and the territories, whose remote communities that cannot access hydropower and remain very diesel-dependent, have also rejected the carbon pricing strategy.
However, when the federal government announced in November a phase-out of coal-fired generation by 2030, both provinces quickly signed up to “equivalency agreements” that allows them to keep their coal plants open so long as comparable reductions to what would have occurred are achieved elsewhere in the economy.
Also in November, Ottawa said it wanted a nationwide low-carbon fuel standard that will cover not just what goes into the gas tank of your car, but into buildings and industry as well. The government is looking to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 megatonnes annually by 2030 with this regulation.
Ottawa recently released its long-term strategy for deep decarbonisation, a reduction of 80 percent on 2005 levels by 2050. Modelling work suggests that to do so, the country will need a mammoth increase in non-emitting electricity generation, largely from controversial new hydro and nuclear sources.
In February, the provinces established four working groups to explore options for clean technology, carbon pricing, mitigation opportunities, and adaptation to the climate change that is already locked in. The groups have now all released lengthy reports.
The December 9 meeting in Ottawa will attempt to draw all this together in a tidy package.
As well as introducing a suite of climate actions, the federal government has also given the green light to a liquefied natural gas project in BC and a pair of pipelines taking petroleum from Alberta’s oil sands region to the BC coast and Wisconsin. Ottawa is also hoping that the incoming US president will reverse Washington’s decision to block construction of the Keystone XL pipeline stretching to Texas tidewater.
Energy economist Mark Jaccard helped design BC’s carbon tax, and he still supports it. But he questions just how politically viable a stringent tax—at the level needed to meet climate targets—can really be. So he also continues to explore how other policies that the public find more acceptable could work.