Prime Minister Trudeau announces federal pollution pricing system

October 23, 2018

My friends, I’m here to talk to you about something that you think about all the time: your future. As students, you probably spend a decent amount of time wondering what kind of job you’re going to have, what kind of community you’re going to live in, what kind of country you’re going to inherit. Well, I want to talk about an issue that will shape your generation’s future more than any other -- climate change -- and what’s at stake for you in the next few months as we debate whether to finally do something real about it.

I don’t need to tell you how important it is; you see what’s happening all around you. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent in number, more expensive to clean up, and more devastating for Canadian communities. We see climate change in loss of habitat, species’ extinction, poorer air quality, easier disease transmission, and forced migration for millions of people around the world.

There has never been a year in your life where climate change has not been a topic of discussion. Just look around you and it is clear that our environment is changing in alarming and unprecedented ways. And we know that human activity is causing these changes.

We’ve known for a long time that we have polluted our planet too much, and the consequences have grown more... more obvious, and more serious. So the very real question that we have to face as a country is this: will we ignore what’s right in front of us or will we act? Will we kick this can down the road, yet again, to be dealt with in another place, or at another time, or will we show some courage and do what needs to be done for this generation and the next?

In recent years, we’ve seen floods from downtown Toronto to Cape Breton Island; while in my hometown of Montreal more than 50 people died from a heat wave just a few months ago; spring in Manitoba brought with it the worst drought on record, sending feed prices through the roof for farmers, and it seems like once a season we hear reference to the storm of the century. Two years ago, we had a wildfire in Northern Ontario that almost wiped -- sorry, Northern Alberta -- that almost wiped Fort McMurray off the map, and at our cabinet meeting in Nanaimo this summer, we could barely see the sun at noon through the smoke from the forest fires.

But you all know this. You see it in the news, and the stories are all too familiar. It’s the world you were born into and you know no other. It’s the air you breathe. But let me tell you, it wasn’t always this way and it doesn’t have to be this way. This problem exists because your political leaders have done far too little about it. You know that too. And lately, both here and abroad, there seems to be more and more of them who want to do less and less. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, science and scientists have been clear. They have been clear about what’s happening and what needs to be done about it.

Economists have shown us the path to growing our economies and preparing ourselves for the future. Companies are already building the economy of the future. Many of you will no doubt work for them. Or, better yet, you’ll start your own company.

Both the problem and its solution have been clear for decades. It is free to pollute so we have too much pollution. We have so much of it, in fact, that the world’s leading scientists told us a few weeks ago that we have just 12 years left to make a real change. Today’s leaders have a fundamental responsibility to you, to young people here at Humber and across the country and to every generation that will follow you. And here’s the thing. We are the first generation that has known how to fix this problem, but we are the last generation that will actually be able to do something about it.

Tomorrow, or even later today I suppose we will hear from those who oppose our plan and are willing to ignore what’s right in front of us. People who are willing to pass on to you and to your kids and grandkids a more severe and expensive problem. Well I for one refuse to leave this problem to be dealt with by some other person at some other time. We have to deliver a safer, healthier, more prosperous future for Canadians and their families. We can and we will, and we’re already on our way.

Our Ministers have taken some large and important steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen our communities, and protect our families. Eliminating coal-fired electricity, building climate-smart infrastructure, safeguarding our oceans, and working with industry to tap into the enormous potential across the clean tech sector – these are just a few of the ways we’re preparing for the future, and creating good jobs in the process.

Today we’re taking another big important step in the fight for a cleaner environment and a better future, so here’s what we’re going to do. Starting next year, it will no longer be free to pollute anywhere in Canada. We are going to place a price on the pollution that causes climate change from coast to coast to coast. And we’re also going to help Canadians adjust to this new reality. After all, people are anxious about the cost of living. It can be hard to make ends meet. That’s why we’ve cut taxes for the middle class, strengthened the Canada Pension Plan, and introduced programs like the Canada Child Benefit for families. And that’s also why we’re going to help Canadians thrive in a country where pollution is no longer free.

Because it’s not enough to create a cleaner economy, we have to make sure that regular Canadians can afford it. Two years ago, I spoke in the House of Commons about the urgent need to put a price on pollution, and since then many provinces and territories have risen to the challenge either by building up their own plans or choosing ours. Others have chosen not to, and so we will act. We will implement the National Climate Plan in the provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick, and in those four provinces we will send a climate action incentive directly to Canadians to help them adjust to an economy in which pollution is no longer free. Here in Ontario, a family of four will get $307 with their tax return this spring. That amount will more than double to $718 by 2022. Eight in ten Ontario families will get back more than they pay directly, and there will be a 10% top up for people living in small rural and remote communities.

Through this plan, we will also increase our support for small and medium-sized businesses, municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals, non-profit organizations, and indigenous communities. These investments will be good for the environment, create jobs, and strengthen local economies. And let me be very clear. The Government of Canada will return all of the money collected through pricing pollution, back to Canadians. Every nickel will be invested in Canadians in the province or territory where it was raised.

My friends, putting a price on pollution is the best way to tackle climate change because it works. William Nordhaus who just won the Nobel Prize for his work on the economic impact of climate change called British Columbia “a model example of pollution pricing done well.” And with good reason. In B.C. pollution is down; jobs and growth are up. And people around the world have caught on. More than half the global economy has a price on pollution, from China to Europe to California. A pollution price is no longer a radical idea. It’s ambitious – as it should be – but the science and the economics behind it are settled.

The only way to tackle a problem as massive as climate change is for governments and the private sector to work together. Neither of us can battle climate change alone, but together, we can build resilient communities and thriving economies. Economic incentives will drive companies to innovate, develop new and better technology, create jobs, and deliver a cleaner, healthier planet for everyone. And let’s not forget that the global clean-growth market represents a multi-trillion dollar opportunity for the companies and countries that choose to lead it.

When it comes to climate change, some people will tell you that the problem is too complex; that it’s hard to explain; that the solutions are even more complex and even harder to explain. Well I think that’s an excuse offered by those who, for whatever reason, don’t want to act. Maybe it’s a politician who smells an opportunity to win a few votes. Maybe it’s an investor who sees the chance to make a few short-term bucks. Whatever their reason, their long list of excuses won’t cut it anymore. Here’s what one leading scientist said last month when talking about the solution to climate change.

“We show it can be done within the laws of physics and chemistry, then the final tick box is political will.”

Well I know that Canadians have that will, and I also know that you are counting on us and we will not let you down. Twelve years. Twelve years ago, my wife Sophie and I were just starting a family. We have three kids now and our eldest, Xavier, just turned 11 last week. And when I think about what Canada should do to play our role in fighting climate change, I think about your generation and I think about theirs. This is not about politics or about the next election, this is about leadership. It is about seeing this problem and its solution for what it is: a moral and economic imperative to act. Those who think otherwise should be honest with you and explain themselves. If not now, when? If not us, who? Twelve years from now, you will all have some serious questions about the decisions made by political leaders today. I for one intend on giving you a good answer.

We can do this my friends. I promise you. We have to cut pollution and we have to position our economy for the future and by working together, we can and we will do just that.

Thank you.