Ottawa, Oct 5: Canada was set to ratify the landmark Paris climate accord today despite significant domestic pushback over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's carbon price proposal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A vote in parliament was scheduled at 6:00 pm local time (2200 GMT), 30 days before the pact comes into force globally. Parliamentarians were expected to split along party lines, with Trudeau using his Liberal majority to push through ratification as the opposition Tories accused the government of heavy-handedness and betrayal.
The Paris accord requires all countries to devise plans to achieve the goal of keeping the rise in temperatures within two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels and strive for 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible.
Last year Trudeau reached out to Canada's 13 provinces and territories, which share responsibility for the environment with Ottawa, to hammer out a national climate strategy. But each insisted they would tailor plans for their respective regions, which have vastly different economic circumstances and goals.
On Monday, in a bid to break the deadlock, Trudeau warned that he was prepared to impose a national minimum carbon price if a deal was not reached with the regional governments soon. He proposed a minimum price of Can$10 (US$7.60) per tonne of carbon pollution in 2018, rising incrementally to Can$50 per tonne in 2023.
"This is right for the economy, right for the environment and it's about time Canada had leadership on this file," Trudeau said. Officials from Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, however, walked out of a meeting with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in anger after Trudeau's bombshell, saying they felt "railroaded" and "betrayed" by the feds after nearly a year of consultations aimed at finding a consensus.
Ahead of the vote Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion dismissed the political firestorm, saying if the opposition or the regions were not on board, "too bad." His position was buoyed by a recent poll showing most Canadians want the federal government to take a leadership role on climate.
"It's very important that humanity comes together to fight against one of the worst threats of our century, which is global warming," Dion said. "And so we must act." Canada accounts for 1.95 percent of global emissions, according to United Nations figures.
An independent parliamentary watchdog said in April that the nation's carbon emissions linked to global warming have stabilised at just over 700 million tonnes per year. That is 208 million tonnes short of Trudeau's commitment at the climate summit in Paris last December, which was to reduce emissions by 30 percent compared with 2005 levels, by 2030.