The Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that the federal government has the power to impose a minimum carbon price across the country in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions “as a matter of national concern.”
The decision is a victory for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government, who have staked the success of their climate plan on Ottawa’s authority to ensure there is a minimum carbon price in all provinces and territories.
In a split 6-3 decision, a majority of the nine judges on Canada’s top court upheld the federal Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act as constitutional in its entirety, dismissing legal challenges from the governments of Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan that argued the law interfered with provincial jurisdiction. The court sided with federal government lawyers who made the case that Ottawa has the authority to impose a minimum carbon price because reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a “national concern” under the Constitution’s “peace, order and good government” clause.
“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,” reads the majority decision written by Chief Justice Richard Wagner.
The court found that provinces are also limited in their ability to combat the threat of climate change alone, and that Canada’s overall effort to reduce emissions would be jeopardized if any one province refused to take part in carbon pricing schemes with a minimum level of stringency.