EDMONTON: Today’s split decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal on the federal government’s right to implement a national climate policy, including pricing carbon pollution, is being called a “setback, not a loss” by Ecojustice lawyers and their client, the David Suzuki Foundation.
“While today’s court decision is disappointing, it remains an outlier among the precedents set in Ontario and Saskatchewan that affirmed the federal government’s legal authority to take national action on the climate emergency,” Joshua Ginsberg, lawyer with Ecojustice’s law clinic at the University of Ottawa, said. “Canada is in a climate emergency that requires the federal and provincial governments to work together to implement a comprehensive plan that will get Canada to net-zero emissions by 2050. We also need to make sure that we meet the near-term targets we’ve set for 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Putting a national price on carbon pollution is a critical part of making that happen.”
“We remain confident that the Supreme Court of Canada will uphold the federal government’s right to price carbon and set minimum national standards to fight the climate emergency when it hears the matter next month,” Ginsberg added.
Ecojustice lawyers previously represented the David Suzuki Foundation as an intervener in constitutional references brought by Ontario and Saskatchewan. In both cases, the lower courts affirmed the federal government’s jurisdiction to introduce and implement climate solutions, including its ability to set a minimum national price on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Alberta government is opposing a national approach to pricing carbon pollution in court. Its proposed carbon pricing scheme falls short of the federal standard set for the country. The Foundation and five other interveners are supporting the federal government’s argument that Canada needs national action to effectively address the climate emergency.
“Since these court challenges started, we’ve seen hundreds of communities across Canada declare climate emergencies, more confirmation from the world’s top scientists on the imperative for climate action and hundreds of thousands of people marching in the street demanding a bold government response. And two-thirds of Canadians who voted in the last federal election supported parties with climate plans that included carbon pricing. Consensus has grown for these kinds of proven, effective and fair policies,” Ian Bruce, the Foundation’s director of science and policy, said.
This year, Canada is required to submit its strengthened 2030 climate targets — also known as “nationally-determined contributions” — to conform with its Paris Agreement commitment. A national price on carbon pollution will be a critical policy to meet the new commitment.
“The dimensions of the climate crisis are global and Canada must deliver on its commitments through a national climate plan. No region in Canada, especially one with a poor climate record like Alberta, can be let off the hook for polluting,” Bruce said.
Seven of the world’s 10 largest economies are pricing carbon to drive innovation and clean energy. Carbon pricing gives an incentive for all people in Canada — businesses, industry and households — to be part of the solution by switching to cleaner technologies or adopting greener practices.
The federal carbon levy of $30 per tonne came into effect in Alberta on January 1, 2020 in the absence of a provincial carbon price.
The Saskatchewan and Ontario governments’ appeals are going to the Supreme Court of Canada in March 2020.
The University of Ottawa and Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, are partners in the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic, a problem-based educational learning course designed to help train the next generation of environmental law and policy leaders. Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
The David Suzuki Foundation (davidsuzuki.org) is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, collaborating with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. The Foundation operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.