How Trump Could Screw Up Justin Trudeau’s Climate Plans

Trudeau’s digging in his heels on his environmental policies, but his opponents have been given some powerful ammunition by Trump’s election to the White House.

Nov 11 2016, 3:05pm

Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reiterated his support for a national carbon pricing plan to be realized by 2018, even though there are questions of how the country will compete with a southern neighbour that has no plans to implement carbon markets. If provinces don't introduce their own carbon pricing plan, Trudeau has said he intends to set one for them.

That plan is unchanged after news of Donald Trump's surprising win, at least for now. "We know that putting a price on carbon pollution is a way to improve our response to economic challenges, to create good jobs going forward and to show leadership that, quite frankly, the entire world is looking for along with the solutions that go with it," said Trudeau on Thursday, after having his first conversation with President-elect Trump.

Opponents are now calling Trudeau's plan "complete insanity"

Opponents of Trudeau's plan have wasted no time in calling for its demise after Trump's win. Should provinces not come up with their own plans, the price on carbon would start at $10 for every tonne of greenhouse gas emitted, and would be raised to $50 in 2022. But Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said that trying to compete with a tax in place on carbon would be "complete insanity," according to the CBC.

Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, who's been a thorn in Trudeau's side when it comes to climate efforts, has been given more ammunition by Trump's victory. "It makes no sense for our federal government to push ahead with imposing a national carbon tax when our biggest trading partner—and our biggest competitor for investment and jobs—is not going to have one," Wall said, according to the National Post.

Trudeau's stubbornness on carbon pricing might be well-founded. British Columbia has already been operating with carbon taxes since 2008—$10-per-tonne increased to $30-per-tonne in 2012—and Alberta will be executing their $20-per-tonne pricing sometime next year. Decisions to implement both plans were made at a time when there was no sign that the the United States might also introduce similar policies.

Read More: Controversial Keystone XL Pipeline Comes Back to Life With News of Trump Win

There's also a solid partnership between Quebec and California's cap and trade market through the Western Climate Initiative. In 2015, the market raised over a billion dollars through auctions on the amount of emissions companies could produce. Ontario is expected to begin participating in that carbon market in 2017.

There's evidence that when carbon prices are leveraged, good things start happening.

Provinces could stand to benefit from the reversal of climate change policy under Trump

In BC, even though businesses and voters saw fuel costs rise, many of them actually started to like it: people in the province embraced its reduction in output of greenhouse gases, according to a 2015 report from Environics Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation. And when you have a carefully tuned carbon tax, you don't need as many regulations, as MIT's Christopher Knittel argued in the New York Times. Carbon emissions are reduced through companies just needing to save money to stay in business, no overbearing rules required.

With a carbon tax, provinces could stand to benefit from the total reversal of climate change policy that is expected to occur under the Trump administration. Carbon pricing would take advantage of forthcoming developments like the Keystone XL pipeline, blocked last year but now anticipated to be restarted early in the Trump presidency, by raising funds for the provincial governments where the projects are based.

This election has changed the tenor and tone of the relationship between Canada and the US, which have the longest undefended border on the planet. Trade deals like NAFTA are back on the table for renegotiation, and the two countries may not coordinate as much as either would like on climate policy.

But it looks like, in this case, Trudeau has made the decision to carry through on his plans without the US onboard, at least for now.

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