With Supreme Court ruling, provinces can no longer delay climate actionPembina Institute reacts to Supreme Court of Canada ruling on Canada’s carbon pollution pricing system

March 25, 2021

Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada. Photo: Roberta Franchuk, Pembina Institute

OTTAWA — ISABELLE TURCOTTE, federal policy director at the Pembina Institute, made the following statement in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on the constitutionality of the federal government’s carbon pollution pricing system:

"The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in favour of the federal government’s carbon pollution pricing system is great news for Canadians all across the country. The court noted that climate change poses a grave threat to the future of humanity, and the federal carbon pricing system — constitutionally valid regulatory charges and not taxes — would apply where provincial or territorial pricing systems aren’t strict enough to reduce global warming. Today’s decision ends a divisive debate that has lasted too long, drawing resources away from more pressing issues facing Canadians. It’s time for governments across the country to work together to tackle climate change for the health and economic betterment of all Canadians. That means robust, measurable, climate plans with five-year targets at all levels of government to achieve deep and early emissions reductions on pathways to net-zero by 2050.

"With this ruling, there is no longer any credible reason for provinces who launched the legal challenge against carbon pricing — Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan — to delay the creation and implementation of strong provincial climate plans that drive down emissions in line with Canada’s 2030 and 2050 targets and attract investment in decarbonization to enable the provinces to compete in a carbon-constrained global economy. As the ruling noted, ‘a provincial failure to act directly threatens Canada as a whole.’

"The critical value of greenhouse gas pricing is highlighted in the court’s decision. A well-designed carbon pricing system is an indispensable part of any cost-efficient and effective climate strategy. Including Norway, the European Union and California, globally there are over 60 carbon pricing systems in place, or scheduled for implementation, covering about 22% of global emissions. The federal government’s climate change toolkit has included carbon pricing since 2016, when it first introduced a flexible approach to pricing pollution across the country, encouraging provinces and territories to implement their own systems, as long as they met minimum benchmark requirements. 

"The introduction of carbon pricing systems with a predictable, progressively increasing price is key to providing policy certainty and a timeline for industries and consumers to plan and make choices that will result in lower emissions. Investors are increasingly aware the return on their investment is at risk if companies don’t have realistic strategies for dealing with climate change. Carbon pricing ensures companies bring the cost of carbon pollution into that strategy. In this way, it helps Canadian industries and businesses better manage climate risks and opportunities, putting them in a better position to compete for global capital. Along with a healthier environment, pricing carbon pollution can benefit Canadians financially as well. In provinces where the federal carbon pricing system is applied, all the money collected is returned to Canadians in a way that maintains a price signal at the point of consumption but puts more money back in the pockets of Canadian individuals and families. 

"Countries across the globe will be convening in November at the 26th United Nations’ Conference of the Parties where they are expected to show up with a beefed-up plan for tackling climate change. With this Supreme Court decision, governments across Canada can get down to business on delivering a strong climate plan that shows Canada is serious about helping to solve this global crisis."



Sarah MacWhirter
Director, Communications, Pembina Institute


Blog: Staying the course on carbon pricing sends strong investment signal
Statement:  Increase to price on carbon pollution key to climate success

About the Pembina Institute

The Pembina Institute is a non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We have offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto. Learn more: www.pembina.org


Our perspectives to your inbox.

The Pembina Institute endeavors to maintain your privacy and protect the confidentiality of any personal information that you may give us. We do not sell, share, rent or otherwise disseminate personal information. Read our full privacy policy.