VANCOUVER — Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada to uphold the federal government’s legal authority to implement national measures to combat climate change provides Canada with the tools needed to respond to the climate emergency and comply with the Paris Agreement. It’s one of the most significant environmental cases ever to be considered by the court.
“We’re thrilled that Canada’s highest court has affirmed with strong language the federal government’s power to ensure all levels of government do their part to tackle the climate crisis,” said David Suzuki Foundation acting executive director Ian Bruce. “Now, Canada has a green light to ramp up its ambition with a real climate emergency response plan that meets climate targets in line with what science says is needed.”
In its decision, the Court affirmed that climate change is “a threat of the highest order to the country, and indeed the world… The undisputed existence of a threat to the future of humanity cannot be ignored.” It added, “A provincial failure to act directly threatens Canada as a whole.”
“This is a historic legal precedent for climate action in Canada,” Bruce said. “We knew the legal battle for national climate action wouldn’t be easy given resistance from some provincial governments. This decision confirms that all levels of government have a shared responsibility to respond. It’s time to stop arguing and start working together to solve this crisis.”
The Court’s decision allows the federal government to continue to implement its national climate plan, a central piece of which is putting a price on carbon pollution. The climate plan relies on more than tripling the national carbon price between 2022 and 2030 to meet current 2030 climate targets. The Court also put to rest debates around the effectiveness of carbon pricing, noting that there is consensus, in Canada and internationally, that carbon pricing is critical to reducing greenhouse gases. The Foundation has been fighting in support of carbon pricing as a policy since 2006.
Having the power to act on an effective and fair national climate plan is essential for Canada to ramp up climate ambition, bring forward its emissions reduction contributions for 2030 this year to align with the Paris Agreement and cooperate with the U.S. in policies to best address the climate emergency.
“We must act on the climate crisis now,” Bruce said. “This legal precedent is a big win for everyone in Canada working hard to tackle the climate emergency. There’s renewed hope now that with this legal victory, Canada has the power to make a difference.”
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Today’s decision is the culmination of almost three years of legal proceedings in which the provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan appealed lower court rulings that upheld the constitutionality of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act and affirmed the federal government’s ability to ensure all levels of government do their part to tackle the climate crisis. British Columbia appealed the Alberta court’s ruling that the federal carbon-pricing law is unconstitutional.
The Court found that Parliament has the authority to set minimum national standards of price stringency to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, under the “peace, order and good government” clause of the Constitution.
The David Suzuki Foundation, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, was an intervener in the Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta lower court proceedings and was the first organization in Canada to argue that the climate crisis represents a national emergency, and therefore the federal government must have the power to act under the Canadian Constitution.
For more information or to arrange an interview (in English or French):
Theresa Beer: 778-874-3396, firstname.lastname@example.org