Federal Conservatives unveil carbon plan

The Conservative Party of Canada’s climate change plan now includes putting a price on carbon.

Party leader Erin O’Toole made the announcement April 15 after a long campaign of vehemently opposing such policy.

Backed by credible and professional modelling, the proposed plan forecasts reducing emissions at the same rate as Canada’s current policy.

O’Toole is pledging the plan “will maintain a price on carbon, without one penny going to the government.”

Doing so, the CPC says, will be accomplished by creating a “personal low carbon savings accounts” that will see consumers pay for pollution before receiving a rebate allowing them to make government-approved green purchases.

Also included in the plan is a tax credit for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) to “rapidly accelerate” deployment of the technology “in the energy sector and in important industries that have few alternatives to burning fossil fuels, like fertilizer and chemical production.”

A $5 billion spending pledge is tied to CCUS.

The party says it will also invest $3 billion before 2030 in “natural climate solutions focused on management of forest, crop and grazing lands and restoration of grasslands, wetlands and forests.”

Sustainable practices in agriculture would be recognized by several measures, like “establishing transparent and reliable standards for carbon credits associated with land management practices with the eventual goal of establishing a national carbon offset market.”

The Liberals are in the midst of developing similar policy.

Critics of that plan have said the federal government isn’t recognizing emissions-reducing practices like low-till and no-till and 4R Nutrient Stewardship. O’Toole’s plan pledges to do so.

O’Toole’s plan says a CPC government would explore, “The use of incentives to preserve and enhance natural infrastructure on private lands that contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation, with a particular focus on working landscapes with downstream impacts on populated areas.”

International trade was clearly in mind of the policy’s authors, as it aims to tie Canada’s price on carbon to major trading partners, like the United States and European Union.

“This will ensure that we travel the path to our Paris targets together while reducing the risk that serious climate action will just shift jobs out of Canada to competitor countries,” the plan says. “We will assess progress after two years and be prepared to set industrial carbon prices on a path to $170/tonne by 2030, but only if the combination of adopting a price based on that of our major trading partners and working with the U.S. on North American standards has not assured us that we are on a path to our Paris commitment.”

O’Toole also says he will propose minimum North American standards to Joe Biden’s administration for key industrial sectors, “backed up by border carbon adjustments to prevent leakage of emissions, and jobs, to countries with lower environmental and emissions standards like China. This will allow us to raise standards for trade exposed sectors.”

To force high-polluting countries like China to “clean up their act”, the CPC says it will study putting in place carbon border tariffs, “which would reflect the amount of carbon emissions attributed to goods imported into Canada.”

“Producers in countries with emissions reductions mechanisms that are compatible with our own will be exempt. We will urge our American trade partners to adopt this approach as well.”

Carbon border adjustments are a hot-topic in international trade circles, including in the European Union where its Green Deal includes plans, albeit contentious and complicated ones, for the world’s first carbon tariff.

O’Toole’s announcement of a price on carbon incited strong pushback from loyal CPC members, including many on the prairies. Already on tenuous ground with his members, O’Toole is gambling having a credible climate plan will succeed in bringing moderate voters into the fold.

His predecessor, Andrew Scheer, ran and lost the 2019 election with many analysts blaming the loss on the lack of a policy on carbon pricing.

Maintaining the enthusiastic support of CPC members who continue to oppose such policy will be a challenge; but farmers who have long opposed carbon pricing aren’t likely to find a political home elsewhere, as each of Canada’s major parties remain in favour of it.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe appears to be placing himself in this category. While claiming he remains opposed to both plans, he is favouring the CPC over the Liberals.

It is unlikely Moe and his caucus colleagues in the Saskatchewan Party will be forced to burn their CPC membership cards, as the few remaining Saskatchewan Party MLAs with Liberal memberships did following the introduction of Trudeau’s price on carbon.

A federal carbon pricing plan will only be needed in instances where provinces choose not to implement an adequate climate plan of their own.

About the author

explore

Stories from our other publications