NUPGE welcomes Supreme Court ruling on carbon pricing

“This is an important day for climate action. Carbon pricing is just one tool in the toolbox for meeting the climate crisis, but it remains an important one. We hope that today’s decision drives forward ambitious federal action to respond to the climate emergency and to ensure the transition to a low-carbon economy is a just one.” — Larry Brown, NUPGE President

Ottawa (25 March 2021) — Today's ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada confirms the federal government's carbon pricing regime is constitutional. "This is an important day for climate action," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).

Since 2018, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act has established a federal price on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Known as a federal backstop, the price took effect in any province or territory that did not implement its own. 

Some provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario — have vocally opposed the carbon tax, arguing it impedes on provincial jurisdiction. But today's ruling underscores that climate change is an issue of national concern.

Ruling recognizes scope of climate crisis

The Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner, writing for the majority in the 6-3 decision, said the Canadian government is free to impose minimum pricing standards, because the threat of climate change is so immense that it requires a coordinated national approach, reported CBC News.

Wagner agreed with the federal government's position that climate change is an urgent matter of national concern, and therefore, it does not violate the constitution for the federal government to take leadership on this issue. "The evidence clearly shows that establishing minimum national standards of GHG price stringency to reduce GHG emissions is of concern for Canada as a whole," Wager wrote. "This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life."

He also noted that, because emissions are not bound by provincial and territorial borders, a patchwork approach across the country could negatively impact our collective efforts on climate change.

Civil society reacts to ruling 

Climate Action Network Canada, of which NUPGE is a member, has published a joint press release in response to the ruling. The press release notes that the 130 organizations that are members of Climate Action Network Canada are enthusiastic about the precedent this decision establishes for ambitious climate policy going forward. 

NUPGE joins the coalition of labour, environmental, health, human rights, and other civil society organizations in welcoming the Supreme Court ruling.

"Carbon pricing is just one tool in the toolbox for meeting the climate crisis," said Larry Brown, NUPGE President, "but it remains an important one. We hope that today’s decision drives forward ambitious federal action to respond to the climate emergency and to ensure the transition to a low-carbon economy is a just one.”

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE