In less than a decade, you could be driving an electric car charged using solar panels installed on your south-facing roof.
Or, you could be going through caffeine and chocolate withdrawal, unable to afford the one-time mainstays of many Canadians’ diets.
Which scenario Canadians find themselves in will depend largely on the outcome of this week’s federal debate on whether the government should ratify last year’s Paris agreement on climate change, said Keith Stewart, who leads Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaign.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off the debate Monday afternoon, announcing the government’s intention to establish a “floor price” on carbon pollution of $10 a tonne in 2018, rising to $50 a tonne by 2022.
In the pact, nearly 200 countries agreed to curb the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
Here’s a look at some ways the Paris agreement could affect Canadians at home:
The bottom line: will there be more or less money in your pockets?
Putting a price on carbon can translate into increased costs for consumers, as the Alberta NDP indicated last year while unveiling its climate change strategy. At that time, the provincial government estimated that increased costs of gasoline, groceries and home heating could add as much as $500 in spending per household per year.
On the flip side, revenue generated by carbon pricing could see investments in public transit systems or advancements in programs intended to help homeowners learn to insulate better and cut heating costs, said Stewart.
More to the point, however, Stewart said that in order to meet the ambitious targets set out in Paris, Canadians will have to change energy consumption habits.
In the short term, energy costs will increase, he said, quickly adding that learning to curb energy use through increased use of public transportation, buying electric vehicles and installing solar panels, for example, will save households more in the long term.
This idea was echoed in an article published earlier this year by the Pembina Institute, a think tank focused on energy.
“If consumers reduce their emissions — turn down the heat when no one is home, choose more fuel efficient cars, use public transit, walk, bike, take advantage of coming energy efficiency programs — they can reduce their ‘actual” cost,’ the article read. “Add to that the direct savings from using less energy and you get extra cash in your pocket.”
Job killing vs job creating
The notion of whether Trudeau’s climate policies are “job killers,” as the Conservatives allege, or job creators remained a central point of contention in the House of Commons on Monday.
“Provinces and territories will have a choice in how they implement this pricing,” he said. “They can put a direct price on carbon pollution, or they can adopt a cap-and-trade system, with the expectation that it be stringent enough to meet or exceed the federal benchmark.”
The often-discussed cap-and-trade system is one in which a legislature sets maximum allowable levels of pollution then issues permits to companies, laying out exactly how much carbon they can emit per year. Exceeding the limit results in penalties unless a company buys extra permits from under-emitting peers.
Still, Conservative MPs maintain a price on carbon is little more than a federal tax grab that’ll increase the costs of living for Canadians while lining the pockets of the government.
Conservative environment critic Ed Fast accused Trudeau of taking a “sledgehammer” to the provinces after having promised to usher in a new era of federal-provincial collaboration.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, meanwhile, didn’t hold back in criticizing the prime minister, saying Trudeau showed the provinces and territories a “stunning” level of disrespect.
The premier said Trudeau’s plan will siphon more than $2.5 billion from the province’s economy once fully implemented, and cost the average family $1,250 a year, calling it “one of the largest national tax increases in Canadian history.”
Trudeau said there are billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of good, well-paying jobs on the table for countries that get carbon pricing right, and they need to get it right.
“There is no hiding from climate change. It is real, and it is everywhere,” Trudeau said.
The Commons is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to ratify the Paris agreement.
Canadian farmers and food security
The Paris agreement, adopted by nearly 200 countries last December, aims to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius between now and 2100. The commitment was a key demand of poor countries ravaged by rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.
Climate scientists have linked unpredictable and extreme weather to the Earth’s increasing temperature.
Reliable weather patterns are the backbone of successful farm crops. This past summer, Albertans battled several weeks of severe weather, resulting in a spike in insurance claims from farmers.
And when fewer crops are available to go to market, consumers end up paying more, even for basics.
Costs of food imports
Canadian wallets can feel the impact of unpredictable weather, even when it occurs on the other side of the globe.
“If you want an affordable cup of coffee, the best thing you can do is burn less fossil fuel,” Stewart said, suggesting the biggest threat to coffee and cocoa beans, is climate change.
Last year, unpredictable weather took a heavy toll on Ugandan coffee farmers. Warmer and wetter weather conditions encouraged the spread of pests, diseases and leaf rust, a parasitic fungus that can kill entire crops of coffee beans.
Beyond Canadians feeling the pinch while buying their coffee, shortages put the livelihoods of coffee farmers at risk.
-With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press