Decision on raising carbon price won’t be made for at least 2 years: environment minister

The federal Liberals will not make a decision about hiking the carbon price beyond $50 a tonne for at least another two years, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says.

Wilkinson said his first priority in the new Parliament will be figuring out how Canada is going to meet its target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions made four years ago as part of the Paris climate change agreement.

After that, he will map a way to fulfil the Liberals’ election promise to exceed that goal. He intends to have a new target ready for the United Nations climate change conference in November 2020.

Wilkinson said the forthcoming plan will lean heavily on developing clean technology to reduce the emissions from oil and gas production, and manufacturing industries.

But at the moment, Wilkinson is signalling that hiking the carbon price won’t be part of the plan.

That price, which is at $20 a tonne now, is to be reviewed after it hits $50 a tonne in 2022. Wilkinson said Wednesday that he is not going to “prejudge” the outcome of that review.

“We committed to review carbon pricing as we approach 2022, we plan to do that for sure,” he said. “It’s part of the plan, but I would say to you carbon pricing is not the only tool in the tool box. We’re going to use a whole range of them to achieve this in a way that is acceptable and works for Canada.”

Last week, Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission issued a report saying Canada can hit its emission targets if the carbon price quadrupled to $210 a tonne by 2030, calling it the most economically efficient way to get there. The report said regulations, such as forcing cleaner burning fuels, or subsidies, such as helping Canadians buy electric cars, cost a lot more and are often less clear to people than the carbon price.

Wilkinson said he appreciated the Ecofiscal report, but noted it comes from a purely economic efficiency perspective, and the government has to take more things into consideration.

“Our view has been that the pricing of pollution is part of a robust climate plan, but it is not a climate plan in and of itself,” he said.

In 2015, the new Liberal government was just weeks old when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Paris and promised that by 2030 Canada would cut emissions to 70 per cent of what they were in 2005. It was the same target set earlier that year by the former Conservative government, and in the years since has been heavily criticized by political opponents and climate experts alike for not going nearly far enough.

The government’s current climate policies, including phasing out coal power, the carbon price and encouraging more energy-efficient buildings, leave Canada 79 million tonnes shy of its 2030 goal to reduce emissions to no more than 511 million tonnes.

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