The last week has been a fantastic one for climate activists in Europe and North America alike. Not only did leaders in the European Union and the United Kingdom commit to reducing their carbon emissions over the next decade, but Canada also announced a series of ambitious measures to help tackle climate change.
At a news conference in Ottawa on Dec. 11, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his government’s new climate action plan entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy.”
With an initial investment of $15 billion, the plan will build on the commitments outlined in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, a federal road map for climate cooperation with provinces and territories released in 2016.
The government also took additional steps towards climate action in the days following the announcement.
Here’s an overview of positive commitments made during an otherwise challenging year for the environment.
Today, @CanadianPM and Min Wilkinson announced Canada’s Strengthened #ClimatePlan for a Healthy Environment & Healthy Economy. This means we will exceed our 2030 climate target & create jobs for Canadians across the economy. https://t.co/L4QkSmmoxO#CanadasCleanGrowthPlanpic.twitter.com/G08uZ7JkZV— Environment Canada (@environmentca) December 11, 2020
1. The federal carbon tax in Canada will gradually increase over the next decade.
In what was considered a “centrepiece” of its climate action plan, the government announced that, from 2023 onwards, the federal carbon tax would increase by $15 a tonne per year to reach $170 by 2030.
Currently, the tax is set at $30 a tonne, according to Reuters.
"It can no longer be free to pollute anywhere in the country," Trudeau said during the news conference, adding that the revenue generated from the increase will be returned to Canadians in the form of rebates on a quarterly basis.
Green groups have welcomed the move — but Ontario Premier Doug Ford is challenging what he says is a “green scam” that would further inhibit economic growth at a time when the province is struggling to get COVID-19 and its consequences under control.
The Supreme Court will soon decide on the constitutionality of the carbon tax hike.
2. The government will spend $3.16 billion to plant 2 billion trees by 2030.
Reiterating a pledge made by Trudeau in the Speech from the Throne and during his 2019 campaign, Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan announced on Monday that the government will fulfill its promise to plant 2 billion trees by 2030.
“There is no path to net-zero carbon emissions that doesn’t involve our forests,” O’Regan told reporters, according to Global News. “Trees increase our community’s long-term resilience to climate change. They reduce the likelihood of flooding and the risk of wildland fires.”
Though the announcement isn’t exactly new news, the government revealed its plan for how it will achieve this goal — namely by investing $3.16 billion in a program set out to begin in 2021.
O’Regan added that this “endeavour of unprecedented scale and size” will help create 4,300 “good jobs” for Canadians — but this is largely dependent on how provincial governments decide to carry out the program.
3. The proposals outlined in the climate action plan will put Canada above its 2030 climate targets.
Under the Paris agreement, Canada has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030.
If the government follows through on its recently announced climate action plan — and on its pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — it will exceed this threshold by 2%.
“During the campaign, our government committed to exceed Canada’s existing 2030 climate target and support new jobs for Canadians,” Trudeau said, according to Global News.
“Today, we have delivered our plan to reach that goal. At the same time, we are laying out new, more ambitious targets for the coming years,” he added. “Canada will continue to lead in the fight against climate change.”
Climate activists have argued the new plan isn’t quite enough and have criticized the government for its heavy reliance on fossil fuels and overall support for oil pipelines.
“This is a serious and well-thought-out plan to achieve our 30% reduction target, but we will need to do much more to fully decarbonize our economy, which is what climate science tells us is the way to protect our economy and ecosystems,” Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart said in a statement. “Canada can’t keep pretending that we can solve the climate crisis while expanding oil and gas production and building new pipelines.”