Canada's main opposition party switches climate change policy, backs carbon pricing

CALGARY, Alberta, April 15 (Reuters) - Canada's opposition Conservative Party on Thursday dropped its resistance to carbon pricing and adopted the fee on emissions and fuels as part of its own climate plan, a move that could put it at odds with some of its staunchest supporters.

Climate change has proved a thorny issue for the Conservative Party under leader Erin O'Toole. Most Conservative delegates voted against recognizing climate change as a real threat at a policy convention last month.

"We will scrap (Liberal Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau's carbon tax on working Canadians," O'Toole said at that convention, noting however that the party "fought and lost two elections against a carbon tax."

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O'Toole said his own plan was better than the Liberal one. Carbon pricing imposes fees on the use of carbon-based fuels such as oil either through charges for emissions or by adding to the price of gasoline and other fuels.

Trudeau's national carbon price is due to ramp up to C$170 a ton by 2030, though 90% is returned to Canadian taxpayers through rebates. The Conservatives would cap prices at C$50 a ton for taxpayers, who would pay the levy into a government savings account and be able to use the money to make "green" purchases like bicycles.

A number of provinces - including the energy heartland and Conservative Party bastion of Alberta - oppose carbon pricing, and challenged the government's scheme in the Supreme Court. Last month, the court upheld Trudeau's plan. read more

"Any new climate plan...must minimize the costs on Albertans and on our trade-exposed industries while at the same time, continuing to responsibly reduce emissions from Alberta," Alberta Environment Minister Jason Nixon said.

O'Toole said a Conservative government would meet Canada's international pledge to cut emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, and match greenhouse gas reductions promised in the Liberal climate plan.

"It's outrageous that O'Toole is now planning to hammer Canadians with higher fuel bills through his very own carbon tax," said Franco Terrazzano, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Alberta director.

Many Liberal insiders expect Trudeau to seek an election later this year. Trudeau's Liberals lead O'Toole's Conservatives 37% to 29%, according an Abacus Data poll published on Thursday.

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Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa, editing by Steve Scherer and Marguerita Choy

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