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Climate version of handwashing

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials have repeated clear messages about handwashing, physical distancing and mask-wearing. These are relatively simple preventative measures to limit the virus’s spread.
Responding to climate change isn’t so simple, yet it’s every bit as urgent. Although many paths can help steer us toward meeting our 2030 and 2050 climate commitments, evidence shows some policies are essential to the mix. They’re the climate version of handwashing in a pandemic. One of these is putting a price on carbon to make polluters pay.
The Supreme Court of Canada is about to hear a case that references carbon pricing but speaks to bigger issues of constitutional jurisdiction and climate policy. It goes to the heart of how our country is tackling the climate crisis. Three provinces led by conservative premiers asked their highest courts to rule on whether the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, which requires provinces to put a price on carbon pollution or adhere to the federal carbon tax, exceeded federal authority. The federal government won its cases in Saskatchewan and Ontario’s Courts of Appeal but lost in Alberta. All three provinces appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which will hear the case this week.
Pollution doesn’t stop at borders, and the greenhouse gases that go into the air of one province affect the entire country’s ability to meet its Paris Agreement commitments. People in Canada are among the highest per capita carbon emitters in the world, so we have a long way to go to tackle our fair share in the fight to address global heating. Provinces that do as little as possible on the climate front hurt us all.
As Canada makes choices on whether its economic recovery will be green and just, moving ahead with a carbon pricing requirement throughout the country makes even more sense. Those who pollute the most will help fund a green recovery. Putting a price on carbon works. Emissions in BC would be up to 15 percent higher if the province had not put its carbon tax in place in 2008.
Large industry must also pay its fair share under the federal carbon tax. The policy rewards low-carbon innovation and, through “output-based allocations,” ensures that producers from polluting countries don’t have an advantage over our own industries when they export carbon-intensive products to Canada.
Carbon pricing isn’t the only climate policy needed at this time. But it is an essential one that must be part of the mix.
David Suzuki

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