EV manufacturing ‘critical’ to climate plan: Ontario Liberals

Ontario’s Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says the federal government’s investment in battery-electric vehicle manufacturing in Ontario is a “critical piece” of the Liberals’ plan to cut carbon pollution.

Wilkinson’s comments come as Canada’s independent Parliamentary Budget Office released estimates Thursday on how much the federal carbon tax would need to rise to meet the nation’s Paris Agreement target in the absence of any other new measures that would cut pollution.

Parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux’s new analysis said the carbon tax would need to rise to between $117 per tonne and $289 per tonne by 2030, depending on whether the government would apply such a tax broadly across almost all industries or cap it for big emitters.

This price range would be sufficient to close the 77-megatonne (Mt) gap that is not accounted for between Canada’s Paris target and current measures that have been announced, said Giroux.

Giroux noted the report does not assess the merits of carbon pricing versus other approaches.

“We’re not getting into a debate as to whether a carbon tax or regulations are the best instruments — we leave that to those who are in the political arena, or policy wonks,” he said.

Federal parties have been promoting a broader approach to tackling Canada’s carbon pollution than just using a carbon tax.

The Liberal government’s strategy, for example, has been a mix of carbon pricing and other measures, such as regulating coal-fired power plants and methane leaks from oil and gas facilities and investing in electric-vehicle infrastructure to encourage the decarbonization of the transport sector.

On Thursday, Wilkinson pointed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s and Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s announcement of $295 million each to help repurpose an assembly plant in Oakville, Ont., for battery-electric vehicle production as a climate-fighting move.

Speaking during question period, the minister named energy efficiency and renewable energy as two elements of an “effective climate plan” that would aim to “reduce emissions in all sectors across the country.”

“Certainly, the announcement today by the prime minister and Premier Ford with respect to zero-emission vehicle manufacturing is a critical piece of that plan as well,” he said.

Canada’s emissions gap is due to the fact that current government projections, which include measures such as the clean fuel standard and the fuel charge, show that emissions will decline to 588 Mt in 2030.

But the Paris target requires the country to cut carbon pollution 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, which translates to a level of 511 Mt, or 77 Mt below projections.

Giroux’s report also does not account for the escalating economic and environmental costs of the climate crisis or compare the cost of a rising carbon tax to the cost of doing nothing. Giroux said his office didn’t have the resources necessary to crunch the numbers.

“The staff here is very good, outstanding, but they’re economists,” he said. “To assess the costs of doing nothing, you need a broad team of climatologists and economists, and it’s not something that’s widely done.”

Wilkinson has previously said he is confident Canada will close the emissions gap by 2030 and even “exceed” Canada’s Paris target. Wilkinson’s mandate letter says the minister is expected to introduce “new greenhouse gas reducing measures.”

Other federal parties have different ideas for what those measures might be.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul has proposed that Canada implement a carbon border adjustment that would put a carbon price on certain imports from countries that have “weak emission reduction policies and practices” or policies that are below a minimum threshold.

In an interview Wednesday, Paul said the border adjustment would be “one of the most extraordinary opportunities for Canada to really punch above its weight, and to show true global leadership on getting other countries to set a strong, nationally determined contribution target and actually meet them.”

Paul also wants to see Canada adopt a target of 60 per cent fewer emissions than 2005 levels by 2030, in line with scientific calculations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said global carbon pollution needs to drop by almost half from where it was a decade ago in order to avoid more extreme consequences of climate change.