Canada Prices Carbon Pollution. Citizens Come Out on Top

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced carbon will be priced starting in 2019 as a part of their national climate action plan, saying, “It is free to pollute, so we have too much pollution…Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. We are going to place a price on the pollution that causes climate change from coast to coast to coast. We’re also going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality.”

Clip from Canadian news coverage

As I’ve said before, putting a price on carbon to reflect its true cost to society is likely the most effective thing that we can do to reverse global warming. Our current market is broken. Not just broken, but actively harming us. Putting a price on carbon pollution makes capitalism and the power of the free market work for us, rather than against us. It’s fair because the biggest users of fossil fuels no longer get to dump the pollution into the atmosphere for free, they have to pay for the harm they cause everyone.

What to know:

  • It’s not really a “tax” because the government doesn’t get any money out of it – “every nickel” goes back to Canadians.
  • 70% of Canadians come out ahead, getting more money in their yearly “climate action incentive” checks than they pay in higher prices. Based on ranges given, I’d estimate the average family is up $100 after year 1 and more so after that.
  • Carbon costs $20 per ton in 2019, rising $10 a year through 2022.
  • Half of Canadians already live with carbon pricing. British Columbia is excelling under it. This national policy is for the other four provinces which have yet to implement anything.

I have to give a shout out to Citizens’ Climate Lobby here. This policy is almost exactly what they’ve been advocating for. Since 2010, CCLer’s met with Parliament nearly 800 times and wrote thousands of letters op-eds and letters to the editor!

The next Canadian election is at the end of 2019. Trudeau’s opponents are latching on to this move and falsely claiming it will hurt the average person’s wallet. It’ll be super interesting to see what voters think since they’ll have received their first “climate action incentive” checks by the time the next election comes around.

As David Roberts of Vox put it, “What possible reality-based reason could there be for opposing a policy that simultaneously reduces carbon emissions (in the way economists almost unanimously agree is most efficient and costs the least) and fattens the pockets of most voters?”

This post originally featured in the Crowdsourcing Sustainability newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter below!

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