CALGARY—A federal Liberal government would set national targets for reducing carbon emissions but would allow provinces to design their own policies to meet them, leader Justin Trudeau said.
Trudeau said he would work with premiers to establish a standard for carbon reduction and would provide federal funding to help provinces achieve targets.
And he promised he’d do it all within a few months if he wins the federal election scheduled for mid-October.
He said he would meet with premiers and territorial leaders within 90 days of next December’s United Nations (UN) climate change conference.
Trudeau prefers a flexible approach to imposing a “one-size-fits-all” plan.
He said some provinces have already begun bringing in their own efforts, including carbon taxes in British Columbia and Quebec, and a mix of regulation and cap-and-trade in Alberta.
“We have 85 per cent of Canadians now represented in provinces that now have a price on carbon. The federal government can draw together that leadership—and will—if we have a federal government that believes in climate change,” Trudeau told reporters after a speech in Calgary.
He declined to say how he would persuade all provinces to join a national program.
“That means sitting down with the provinces and discussing and negotiating ways to actually achieve that,” Trudeau said.
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice, speaking on a conference call from New York, was non-committal and said he wants to study the idea further.
“We’re always happy to work together with others, but I think Alberta has exercised its jurisdiction over the environment responsibly,” said Prentice.
“I think we have the best environmental standards of any oil-producing jurisdiction anywhere in the world.”
The federal NDP immediately criticized Trudeau’s plan as lacking substance.
“This speech was nothing but platitudes and vague promises. It’s clear that Mr. Trudeau has no plan for balancing the environment and the economy,” said New Democrat environment critic Megan Leslie.
“His speech showed his lack of experience and lack of understanding about the need for real and urgent action on climate change.”
Environmental groups welcomed Trudeau’s position but worry it doesn’t go far enough.
The Sierra Club Canada Foundation said the Liberal leader’s proposal isn’t new since Ottawa set targets after sitting down with the provinces in 1998.
“We were hoping for something more youthful and robust. This timid plan to talk about it with the provinces and do what’s affordable while exporting oil won’t cut it,” said John Bennett, the foundation’s national program director.
Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, said Canada can’t continue to duck the issue since many countries around the world have carbon taxes.
He said Trudeau’s priorities are contradictory because he talks about both getting resources to market and reducing carbon pollution.
“Mr. Trudeau needs to explain how he will green-light export pipelines, which will increase carbon pollution from the tarsands, while reducing Canada’s carbon pollution significantly,” Gray said.
“Expanded tarsands production, the pipelines that carry that oil, and their sky-rocketing emissions are the number one barrier to Canada finally meeting its international obligations on climate change.”
—With files from Dean Bennett in Edmonton