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Federal carbon tax will be imposed in Alberta on Jan. 1: environment minister

WATCH: Just one week after the Alberta provincial carbon tax was repealed, the federal government announced they will impose a federal carbon tax, effective Jan. 1. As Adam MacVicar reports, the Alberta government is planning to challenge the tax in court.

Ottawa plans to impose the federal carbon tax on Alberta starting Jan. 1 and federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says she has written the province about the decision.

“We need to move forward to tackle climate change,” McKenna said in Ottawa before question period on Thursday.

“We see the impacts of climate change through extreme weather, including in Alberta where there are forest fires that are burning earlier than ever before, that are burning stronger, and that (are) having serious impacts on the lives of Albertans as well as on their economy.”

WATCH: Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has notified the Alberta government they will face a federal carbon tax on Jan. 1, 2020.

McKenna announces Alberta will face federal climate tax in 2020
McKenna announces Alberta will face federal climate tax in 2020

READ MORE: Albertans will pay either provincial or federal carbon tax. Which will hurt less?

Alberta passed legislation to repeal its provincial carbon tax last week to fulfil a promise United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney made during the campaign for the April election.

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“It’s unfortunate because Alberta had a made-in-Alberta plan to put a price on pollution, and we clearly need Alberta to be part of our national climate plan as Alberta has the highest emissions in the country,” McKenna said.

Watch below: It’s official. Alberta has repealed its carbon tax

Alberta carbon tax dead, federal carbon tax looms
Alberta carbon tax dead, federal carbon tax looms

McKenna said 90 per cent of the money collected is to go back to Alberta taxpayers in rebates. An average family of four can expect to get $888 returned next year. The remaining 10 per cent is to go toward making buildings more energy efficient.

The tax currently stands at $20 a tonne and is set to rise to $50 a tonne by 2022.

LISTEN BELOW: Global News reporter Adam MacVicar joins the Ryan Jespersen Show

Kenney said he doesn’t believe McKenna.

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“I just can’t buy any of these promises about the carbon tax,” he said in Fredericton where he was meeting with the New Brunswick premier.

“Minister McKenna’s own Environment Department has said that it should go up to $300 a tonne to meet Paris climate targets. If you really believe in a carbon tax as an instrument of climate policy, then you need a carbon tax of $200 to $300 minimum to have any meaningful effect on consumption.”

Several studies have shown that British Columbia’s carbon tax has reduced that province’s emissions by 15 per cent and reduced its per-capita gasoline and natural gas use.

Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon called the time lag before the federal tax is imposed an opportunity.

“This opens up several opportunities over the coming months to have a conversation about the way that we intend to handle climate change,” he said.

“With the federal election in between, many things can happen between now and Jan. 1.”

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The results of the federal election could put a stop to the federal carbon tax.

“[Conservative Leader] Andrew Scheer has promised to get rid of the federal carbon tax, so we’ll see what happens,” said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. “If Scheer wins, does he remove it? And if Trudeau wins, expect that it will kick in on Jan. 1.”

Watch below: Alberta environment minister reacts to federal implementation of a carbon tax on the province.

Alberta environment minister reacts to federal implementation of carbon tax on province
Alberta environment minister reacts to federal implementation of carbon tax on province

Although Alberta has removed the tax on consumers, it retains it for heavy industrial emitters.

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“Our made-in-Alberta climate change plan has been scrapped for some unknown climate change plan that Ottawa is going to impose on Albertans,” said NDP environment critic Marlin Schmidt.

“[Kenney] is actively campaigning at the federal level against a [carbon tax] — he won’t introduce one here in Alberta. We need to act on climate change urgently.”

LISTEN BELOW: Dan McTeague with Gasbuddy.com joins the 630 CHED Afternoon News

Alberta joins four other provinces — New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan — which have refused to implement a price on carbon, prompting Ottawa to impose its own.

“I continue to believe that pricing of pollution is an important measure to help align incentives from households to big business to make investments in reducing our reliance on things that cause pollution,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said.

“One tangible example is, it makes a big difference for the return on investment on our electric bus procurement, for example. We’re incented with carbon pricing to do the right thing with our fleets and that’s making a difference in what we buy and what we operate. And it’ll mean cleaner air for citizens, less noise and lower costs in the long term.”

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READ MORE: Alberta Election Fact Check: myths and misconceptions of the carbon tax

Keith Stewart of Greenpeace said the back-and-forth swings as politicians try to undo the work of others only makes things worse.

“This kind of policy disruption is bad for our climate, our health and our economy,” he said.

“Let’s have as smooth a transition as we can. Canada needs an urgent co-ordinated response to the climate crisis, not politicians putting their heads in the sand.”

McKenna did not explain why the tax won’t come into effect until Jan. 1.

Kenney had already said that if Ottawa were to impose its fee, he would join Saskatchewan and Ontario in their constitutional challenge of the tax.

“I think the result will be similar to what we saw in Saskatchewan,” Bratt said. “I think the federal government has clear jurisdiction in this area.

“Even the minority opinion in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal case also said that the federal government had jurisdiction. It was just a question of how it was designed.”

–With files from Global News’ Adam MacVicar