Justin Trudeau defended Canada’s climate record against criticism its emissions targets aren’t ambitious enough, arguing his government’s carbon tax represents a more concrete plan.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, the prime minister vowed the country will be able to reach its new goal of reducing emissions by between 40 per cent and 45 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 -- despite missing previous targets.

Trudeau has been facing increased scrutiny since the release of data two weeks ago showing Canada is the only country in the Group of Seven to see its harmful emissions actually rise between 2015 and 2019.

Canada’s new target, announced at Joe Biden’s climate summit last week, falls short of both the 50 per cent target set by the U.S. president and Boris Johnson’s goal of cutting U.K. emissions 78 per cent from 1990 levels by 2035.

“We don’t just want to talk about a great target,” Trudeau said in an interview that aired Tuesday during the Bloomberg Green Summit. “We need to have a concrete plan to that’s going to bring us to that target.”

Central to that plan is the carbon tax, which got a major boost last month when it was upheld by 6-3 majority at the Supreme Court of Canada, effectively settling years of political debate about its legality.

Top-Court Victory

The policy, Trudeau’s most ambitious environmental move since his Liberals took power in 2015, would see the baseline price on carbon rise to $170 (US$137) per metric ton by 2030. In its budget last week, his government proposed billions in new funding to help green the economy, develop clean technology and slash industrial emissions.

However, Canada is home to the world’s third-largest oil reserves and the energy sector accounts for about 10 per cent of its total economic output.

“The fact that we have one of the realest prices on pollution of all our peer countries and that we are at the same time an exporter of energy and a producer of energy -- that is a challenge that not all other countries have,” the prime minister said.

Trudeau blamed his country’s record on emissions to date on the previous Conservative government, which in 2011 withdrew from the Kyoto protocol, a precursor to the 2015 Paris agreement. The prime minister added that four years of climate skepticism in the U.S. under Donald Trump also effectively held Canada back.

Trudeau said Biden’s arrival at the White House means the U.S. and Canada are now more aligned on climate policy, even if friction remains over specific projects like TC Energy Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge Inc.’s existing Line 5 conduit under the Great Lakes.

A cross-border plan that cuts across all sectors of the economy is critical for both countries to achieve their emissions-reduction targets, the prime minister said.

Trudeau also argued that Canada can’t be blamed for helping meet global demand for fossil fuels, even as it attempts to curb domestic consumption habits through its carbon tax.

“It’s not just about the oil sands themselves. It’s also about consumption,” Trudeau said. “As long as the world is still dependent on oil, there will be a business case for continuing to look for more reliable sources.”

--With assistance from Francine Lacqua.