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Federal and provincial battles continue over climate change regulation

Author(s): Richard J. King, Jennifer Fairfax, Patrick G. Welsh, Evan Barz, Coleman Brinker, John Gormley

Dec 8, 2020

The year 2020 featured significant legal developments in Canadian climate change regulation, characterized by (a) continued changes to the approach to climate change regulation, particularly with respect to the management of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; (b) ongoing legal challenges by various provinces to the federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act (GHG Pricing Act); and (c) a challenge to the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA), another recently enacted federal environmental statute. Each of these areas demonstrates the continued jostling by the provinces to take the lead with respect to the division of legislative powers between the federal Parliament and the Canadian provinces in the sphere of energy and environmental law.

As a result, there remains a lack of alignment – and continued uncertainty – with regard to the scope of federal constitutional authority to regulate climate change and the environment. The anticipated release of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2021 on the constitutionality of the federal GHG Pricing Act could provide much-needed clarity...