In an interview with Bloomberg, Canada PM Justin Trudeau defended the country’s climate action record against criticisms that its emissions targets aren’t ambitious enough, saying that the government’s carbon tax plan is “concrete.”

Trudeau was adamant that the country will be able to reach its updated goal of reducing emissions by between 40% and 45% of 2005 levels by 2030, despite missing previous targets. Recently released data shows that Canada is the only country in the G7 to see its emissions actually rise between 2015 and 2019. 

Canada’s updated NDC, announced at Joe Biden’s climate summit last week, is not as ambitious as the 50% target by the US and the UK’s goal of cutting emissions 78% from 1990 levels by 2035. 

Trudeau said in the interview, “We don’t just want to talk about a great target. We need to have a concrete plan too that’s going to bring us to that target.”

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Central to this plan is a carbon tax, which was recently upheld by 6-3 majority at the Supreme Court of Canada. This tax would see the baseline price of carbon rise to USD$137 per metric ton by 2030. In its budget last week, his government proposed billions in new funding to help green the economy, develop clean technology and slash industrial emissions. However, Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves and the energy sector accounts for about 10% of its total economic output. 

Trudeau said, “The fact that we have one of the realest prices on pollution of all our peer countries and that we are at the same time an exporter of energy and a producer of energy- that is a challenge that not all other countries have.”

He blamed his country’s record on emissions to date on the previous Conservative government, which in 2011 withdrew from the Kyoto protocol. He added that four years of climate skepticism in the US under Donald Trump also effectively held Canada back.

Trudeau said that the US and Canada are more aligned on climate policy with the arrival of Biden into the White House, even if there are tensions over specific projects like TC Energy Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge Inc.’s existing Line 5 conduit under the Great Lakes.

Trudeau added that Canada can’t be blamed for helping meet global demand for fossil fuels, even as it attempts to curb domestic consumption habits through its carbon tax. He said, “It’s not just about the oil sands themselves. It’s also about consumption,” Trudeau said. “As long as the world is still dependent on oil, there will be a business case for continuing to look for more reliable sources.”

Greenhouse gas emissions in Canada increased slightly in 2019- the first year that the national carbon pricing mechanism was in place- according to a new report. Canada produced 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in 2019, an increase of one megatonne- or 0.2%- over 2018, which means Canada will have to do more in the years ahead in terms of climate action to meaningfully reduce emissions.

Featured image by: Flickr