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What the Supreme Court ruling on national carbon pricing means for the fight against climate change

What the Supreme Court ruling on national carbon pricing means for the fight against climate change

Less than a week after Conservative Party members defeated a motion to acknowledge the reality of climate change in its official policy, Canada’s Supreme Court reminded Canadians that climate change threatens the future of humanity and cannot be ignored.

The court ruled on March 25 that the Liberal government’s carbon pricing plan is constitutional, giving it the go ahead to make sure that each province sets a minimum price on carbon — a key part of the national effort to address climate change.

The carbon pricing law, Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act, came into force in 2018 and is a central pillar in the federal government’s climate change strategy. But several provinces — including Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan — have been staunch opponents of carbon pricing, arguing that the control of natural resources, including the regulation of greenhouse emissions, belongs solely to the provinces.

In its 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court held that climate change was a matter of national concern that justified Parliament’s authority to enact laws under the Constitution’s “peace, order and good government” clause, known as POGG.

As environmental and constitutional lawyers, three things in the Supreme Court’s decision stood out to us: It recognized the gravity of climate change for Canadians; the validation of the use of federal law aimed at limiting the harms from one province on another; and the careful use of Parliament’s POGG power to justify such a law.

While this ends the three-year fight over national carbon pricing, it doesn’t mean there won’t be ongoing challenges in the evolution of Canadian climate policy.

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