Alberta dropped out of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate change plan Thursday after a federal court halted construction on the much-contested Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
On Thursday, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the pipeline expansion, citing inadequate consultations with Indigenous peoples. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said she was “angry” about the decision, adding that the province will no longer be part of the federal climate change plan unless Trudeau gets the pipeline expansion back on track.
Speaking to reporters, Notley said this move sends a strong message and, “until the federal government gets its act together, Alberta is pulling out of the federal climate plan and let’s be clear, without Alberta, that plan isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
WATCH: Rachel Notley reacts to Federal Court of Appeal’s decision on pipeline
What is the national climate change plan?
In 2016, Trudeau put together a climate change agreement with all the provinces — minus Saskatchewan — that aimed at lowering the country’s carbon footprint.
The national plan laid out guidelines for how provinces can reach the goals, such as implementing a carbon tax with prices starting at C$10 a tonne and increasing to $50 a tonne by 2022.
In the federal plan, all carbon-tax money collected in a province would remain in that jurisdiction.
The provinces have until September to submit carbon plans to the federal government that meet standards, or face an imposed carbon tax starting Jan. 1, 2019.
WATCH: Trudeau comments on Alberta pulling out of climate plan, says will still pursue Trans Mountain pipeline
British Columbia has a carbon tax of $35 a tonne. Alberta has one at $30 a tonne and Ontario and Quebec have a cap-and-trade system.
What does this mean for Alberta?
“It’s very bad news for Trudeau, but it does not matter much for Notley and won’t make a difference in Alberta,” said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto. “In fact, it may help her.”
After Notley announced the province was leaving the national climate change strategy, she said Alberta will still keep its provincial climate plan, including its current carbon tax, which was implemented before Trudeau imposed a national price.
WATCH: Alberta won’t support Ottawa’s climate change plans without a pipeline, Notley says
She said Alberta is going to keep the current carbon tax price of $30, rather than increasing it to $40 by 2021 as planned under the federal climate change agreement.
But if the province does not keep up with the national carbon tax price, the Trudeau government will impose a national carbon tax.
WATCH: Thursday’s court ruling on the Trans Mountain project raises new questions about pipelines and politics. Julia Wong reports.
Alberta’s participation in the Canadian climate change plan was going to be a “fraught one” in the next provincial election anyways, according to Matthew Hoffman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto and co-director of the Environmental Governace Lab.
“It’s pretty clear if the Conservatives win, they were going to pull out of the national plan anyways,” he said.
What does this mean for Trudeau?
Wiseman believes that Alberta’s move to leave means the plan is “probably dead” as the oil-rich province is responsible for such a large part of Canada’s emissions.
On Friday, Trudeau responded to Notley’s move, saying the feds have to take their time to “understand the court ruling” before making a decision on what to do next regarding the pipeline.
WATCH: Justin Trudeau announces framework for deal on climate change
In terms of his climate change plan, he said: “We still have a concrete plan that will meet its targets.”
“And of course, the ideal situation would be for us to do it with provinces, but if there are provinces that don’t want to participate, the feds will do it alone. I recognize what Alberta has said, but in any case, their own plan on climate change will continue to be in place,” Trudeau added.
Alberta’s decision to pull out of Trudeau’s climate change initiative comes as other provinces push back at the plan.
In July, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he is going to axe province’s cap-and-trade agreement and challenge the federal carbon tax on the basis that it’s a money grab that won’t help the environment.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the fed’s plan to raise the carbon tax is endangering the province’s economy and he’s prepared to take them to court over it.
In Alberta, opposition United Conservatives party leader Jason Kenney has promised to do away with the tax altogether if elected in 2019.
WATCH: The impact of Alberta dumping the federal climate plan
“The larger impact here is a political one,” Hoffman said. “The Trudeau government tried to put quite a stock in putting a climate change policy in a federal-provincial partnership, but it’s breaking down.”
Will this impact the federal election?
Although this is a blow to the Trudeau government now, Wiseman believes by the time the federal election rolls around in 2019, many voters will forget about the issue.
“Climate change is not a pivotal issue for most of Canadians,” he said. “It is an issue for some people but not the overriding one. This is a short-term body blow to Trudeau and his government but a year from now the public may forget about this.”
READ MORE: Carbon tax won’t harm economy, but climate change will, study says
But Hoffman said it may be a political factor as carbon pricing is becoming an election issue. Trudeau has tried to “take a middle ground on the issue” but it is failing, he said.
“It’s opening up problems on both left and right,” he said. “Environmentalists aren’t happy and the people who rank fossil fuel high are seeing a failed support for it.”
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