OTTAWA — In a decision that marked an important victory for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate change agenda, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the federal government’s imposition of carbon taxes in provinces that oppose them was constitutional.
Citing Parliament’s power to legislate on matters related to “peace, order and good government,” the court said that fighting climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions was a matter of “national concern” protected under the Constitution.
“This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life in Canada and around the world,” the court wrote in its 6-to-3 decision. “Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future.”
The concept of carbon pricing has been widely endorsed by economists and, according to the World Bank, some form of it has been carried out or is in development in 64 countries, either through direct taxes on fossil fuels or through cap-and-trade programs.
notably California. Money and tax credits to address climate change are expected to underpin much of President Biden’s coming spending proposals, which aides and documents suggest could cost as much as $4 trillion over the next decade.
But several people familiar with the forthcoming infrastructure package in the United States said that there are no plans currently to price carbon emissions. Instead, the president plans to greatly raise fuel efficiency standards for cars, forcing automakers toward electric vehicles through regulation, not legislation. Similarly, Mr. Biden plans to reimpose strict emissions regulations on electric power plants to move the sector away from coal.
Republicans in Congress remain firmly opposed to a carbon tax and have voted repeatedly and nearly unanimously over the years to bar the government from imposing one.
Parliament’s budget watchdog found that most households are paid more in rebates than they spend on carbon taxes. Households can boost that bonus by further cutting emissions by using more efficient or electric vehicles or improving their heating systems.