In an announcement to the House of Commons on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the Canadian government would be slapping a price on every tonne of carbon, but that he wouldn't be laying out how he wants to make businesses pay for their pollution.
The long-expected announcement came as Canada finally steps forward to ratify the Paris Agreement, signed earlier in 2016.
Under Trudeau's plan, which still needs to be approved by Parliament, provinces will be required to put a price on carbon by 2018, at a minimum of $10 per tonne. That price will ramp up to $50 by 2022.
As Trudeau noted on Monday, most of Canada's provinces either have a carbon pricing system in place, or are in the process of setting one up.
Quebec is in a joint cap and trade market with California, a market that Ontario is set to join by next year. Alberta and British Columbia already have carbon taxes in place.
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That puts the vast majority of Canada's economy under a carbon pricing system — those markets generally price carbon at least at $10 a tonne already. Alberta's carbon tax will be $30 by 2018, while the Ontario and Quebec market is designed to eventually ramp up the cost of carbon output.
Rachel Notley, premier of oil-rich Alberta, came out swinging against the plan for not being realistic.
"Alberta will not be supporting this proposal absent serious concurrent progress on energy infrastructure, to ensure we have the economic means to fund these policies," Notley said in a statement released after Trudeau's announcement.
Philippe Couillard, premier of Quebec, told reporters that he's happy the plan "recognizes" the autonomy of the provinces.
Trudeau said that premiers could certainly exceed the carbon price that he set out in the new legislation, but that if they don't meet the target — or, indeed, if they balk at the edict altogether and refuse to set up a carbon pricing system — the federal government will step in and do it for them.
To convince the provincial premiers, several of whom have been skeptical about Trudeau's plan, to come on board the federal government will let the provinces keep all the tax revenue from whichever system they choose.
The plan immediately caught flak from the opposition Conservative Party, which insisted that Trudeau had just announced a national carbon tax — which he didn't, to be fair — and from the third-and-fourth-place New Democratic and Green parties, which argued that the plan didn't go far enough, and that the governing Liberals continue to strive for targets that are simply too low.
The Paris Agreement commits Canada to scaling-back its national CO2 output by 30 percent by 2030. The most recent research indicates that Canada will likely miss that target by a wide berth.
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