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Cathy Orlando: Fed gov’t plan means Canada finally has a real carbon fee and dividend policy

The local climate activist said when she heard the news last month, it was one of the best days of her life
Cathy Orlando. (Supplied)

On Friday, Dec. 11, Canada announced its most ambitious climate plan ever. This plan includes 64 new measures and is a cornerstone of the government’s commitment in the 2020 speech from the throne to create over one million jobs, restoring employment to pre-pandemic levels. 

The backbone of Canada’s new climate plan is carbon pricing akin to the policy I have been lobbying for since September 2010 with Citizens' Climate Lobby.

In June 2018, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act achieved Royal Assent. Our volunteers at Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada were pleased with the plan in 2018. They saw it as a great start and continued to lobby for improvements in the policy, including:

  • Canada must gradually increase the national carbon price past 2022 in the range of $10-20 /tonne/year.
  • The carbon price must continue to be revenue-neutral. We must receive our Climate Action Incentive rebates at least twice yearly through a dividend cheque or a direct deposit.
  • Specifically, we recommend that Parliament study the implementation of Border Carbon Adjustments, work with the European Union and hopefully the USA, in the design of their Border Carbon Adjustments.

Here are the key changes to Canada’s carbon pricing policy in A Healthy Environment and A Healthy Economy.  As you will clearly see, what Citizens’ Climate Lobby advocated for and what the government enacted overlap significantly:

  • Continue to put a price on pollution through to 2030, rising at $15 per tonne after 2022, while returning the proceeds back to households such that the majority receive more money back than they pay in provinces where the federal system applies.
  • Move from carbon pollution pricing rebate payments being distributed on an annual basis to quarterly, starting as early as 2022.
  • Explore the potential of border carbon adjustments, and work with like-minded economies—including the E.U. and Canada’s North American partners—to consider how this approach could fit into Canada’s broader strategy to meet climate targets while ensuring a fair environment for businesses.

I was ecstatic when I read the news and I sent the volunteers the following message: “Canada has a real carbon fee and dividend policy! Almost everything we have been lobbying for the past two years is in the new legislation introduced today. WE DID IT! This is the best day of my life minus my wedding day and when my children were born. I was shaking when I read it. I have not been this emotionally overwhelmed since I heard the conclusions from the 4th report of the IPCC in February 2007. But this time I am shaking in joy and not fear. Thank you for helping to make the monster go away.”

Most importantly, this policy will significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions. Modelling by Clean Prosperity suggests the price schedule announced will allow Canada to exceed Canada’s Paris Agreement targets and get more than halfway to net zero.

The polling data for the policy looks good too. A Dec. 9 poll found that two-thirds of Canadians would like to see their country as either “world-leading” or “among the most ambitious” in the shift to clean energy and clean technology, according to the latest in a series of surveys conducted by Clean Energy Canada and Abacus Data.

A September 2020 poll conducted in the 905 region of Ontario by Léger and Clean Prosperity showed that Canadians favour pricing carbon when they understand how much money is returned to them. The facts are 80 per cent of Canadians come out ahead, farm diesel is exempt and people living in rural areas get a 10 per cent top-up.

What comes next for Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada? We will continue to be dedicated to action and building political will for improving and protecting Canada’s national carbon pricing policy.

Sudbury’s Cathy Orlando is the international outreach manager for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.


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