WATCH: Former Quebec premier and adviser to Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission Jean Charest explains why the group is suggesting the provinces lead the charge on reducing carbon emissions.
OTTAWA —There is “no reason” for the Harper Conservatives and NDP to not get in line with the Liberal plan to reduce overall carbon emissions by allowing provinces to design their own policies to meet them, said former Quebec premier Jean Charest.
Earlier this year, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said that should he become prime minister, his priorities would include sitting down with the provinces to set national environmental goals. Although the goal would be national, it would remain up to the provinces to decide how to achieve them.
“I think that’s good. I think there’s no reason the Harper government and NDP should not be in the same place,” Jean Charest, an adviser to the Ecofiscal Commission, said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “What’s important is we get some action.”
As Canada’s premiers prepare to meet in Quebec City for a summit on climate change, Charest was speaking on a recent Ecofiscal report that suggests the only way Canada can meet its environmental targets is if provinces implement carbon pricing and leave Ottawa to take on a coordinating role down the road.
Ecofiscal commission’s report suggests the policies have to be both broad and stringent, encompassing as many emitters as possible.
But the study’s economic modelling determined that federal co-ordination, including a common carbon price across the country, is actually the least important piece of the policy puzzle and can be negotiated down the road.
Placing the onus on provinces, however, doesn’t mean Ottawa is off the hook, Charest said.
“The idea behind the report is to focus on what’s most important to move on the issue of applying fiscal measures to environmental issues,” he said.
“It works on the assumption that a carbon tax is what’s most effective to try to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and it then concludes the provinces have everything they need to move ahead … to reduce carbon levels.”
WATCH: Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford says the Conservative government want information from the provinces and territories before finalizing Canada’s targets for Paris.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet, however, has never been fond of Trudeau’s plan.
“What we agree with is jurisdictions … making policy choices that fairly reflect the kinds of industrial activities that drive their economy,” said federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford.
In an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark, the minister likened the Liberal plan to “an effective tax on everything.”
The Conservatives, meanwhile, are committed to their sector-by-sector approach, which has been widely criticized as well.
A letter sent last week from Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq to her provincial counterparts suggests Ottawa hasn’t had an easy time getting necessary data from the provinces.
“Canada is committed to the timelines set out in the Lima Call for Climate Actions and will submit its contribution … in advance of the December session,” she wrote, for example, to Ontario’s Environment Minister Glen Murray. “That said, we have not yet received information for the post-2020 period at a level of detail that would satisfy the expectation of the Lima Call for Climate Action. I hope you will be in a position to share such information soon.”
The federal government needs information surrounding each province’s 2020 commitments in order to comply with a UN review.
A spreadsheet compiled by the environment minister’s office showed while some provinces have met their targets others, including Ontario are a ways away.
Rickford, meanwhile, said he is hoping the federal government can get some of the missing data at next week’s provincial and territorial meeting.
“There’s a provincial-territorial meeting next week, and we’ll gather some important information from the positions of provinces and territories and this will help us finalize our submissions and targets for the summit in Paris this year,” Rickford said. “That’s the kind of leadership that the federal government will continue to show.”
Several provincial governments are already moving on their own, though.
Ontario is expected to sign an agreement Monday with Quebec, for example, on a cap-and-trade system to put a price on carbon in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“British Columbia has a program that is frankly outstanding and has produced results,” Charest said. “If Ontario joins the carbon trading system with California and Quebec that will really form a critical mass that will make the federal government’s position easier as they move into a position of coordinating.”
British Columbia has a program that is frankly outstanding and has produced results.
– Jean Charest
Harper on Saturday, while visiting Panama, said Canada will unveil its targets for greenhouse gas emissions before the G7 meetings in June —even though his government missed the March 31 target date for countries to submit emissions reduction pledges ahead of December’s United Nations climate summit in Paris.
Speaking to reporters in Panama where he attended a hemispheric summit, the prime minister said Ottawa wanted to give the provinces a chance to have their own conference to discuss their emission targets.
The provinces are to meet in Quebec City on Tuesday.
The U.S. recently made a formal pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 per cent over the next decade.
With files from The Canadian Press