Justin Trudeau Is Facing a Carbon Tax Backlash. He’s Not Alone.

  • Date: 08/12/18
  • Ian Austen, The New York Times

Three years ago, Canada joined 194 other countries in Paris to announce a landmark agreement on climate change, now informally known by the French capital’s name. This week began in Paris, however, with startlingly violent discord over fuel taxes stemming from that climate deal.

The protesters, clad in the yellow safety vests France requires motorists to carry, are the most visible and extreme example of a backlash against taxes intended to save the world from a carbon-induced climate disaster.

But they are far from unique in their opposition. Under President Trump, the United States has vowed to quit the Paris Agreement, and the country’s deteriorating relationship with China has become a potential roadblock to global progress.

In Canada, a meeting this week between the country’s premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was preceded by vocal opposition from the leaders of Ontario and Saskatchewan over plans to impose a federal carbon tax in their provinces.

And as the world’s environment ministers meet this month in Poland for follow-up talks on the Paris climate accord, many of the signatories — Canada included — remain far off-course on the goals of the agreement.

As part of my reporting on the carbon challenges ahead for Mr. Trudeau, I went to Saskatchewan, the epicenter of carbon tax opposition in Canada.

During our meeting in Saskatchewan’s legislative building, Scott Moe, the premier, repeatedly emphasized that despite his opposition to carbon pricing, the province isn’t avoiding climate action. While the federal government and many environmentalists don’t think its efforts are sufficient, no one is criticizing steps like replacing coal energy with natural gas, wind and solar power. Saskatchewan will also require companies that spew the most carbon to cut emissions by 5 to 15 percent.

Mr. Moe is not a climate change denier. But he is flatly dismissive of the large body of work by economists showing that carbon pricing is an effective tool. “I don’t think it’s fair to say, in any way, that it does work,” he told me.

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