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Supreme Court Upholds Constitutionality of Federal Carbon Pricing

March 26, 2021

In a decision dated March 25th, 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the constitutionality of the federal carbon pricing regime enacted by the Liberals in 2018. The Supreme Court acknowledged that climate change is a “threat to the future of humanity” in a 35,000 word judgment that ultimately supports a uniform, national (and international) response to the climate crisis.

On behalf of the intervening Intergenerational Climate Coalition, Ratcliff lawyers Nathan Hume and Emma Hume successfully argued that the Peace, Order and Good Government principle enables the federal government to legislate on matters posing a systemic risk which cannot be adequately stemmed through provincial action. The systemic risk in this case, irreversible climate harm, would violate the rights of children and future generations. Those rights are central guarantees of both Canada’s national constitution and international obligations. As the Supreme Court confirmed, the federal government is therefore well within its constitutional authority to enact law, such as the 2018 carbon pricing act, which protects against such risks.

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