Starting in April 2019 carbon pollution will initially cost $20 a tonne, rising by $10 a year until it reaches $50 in 2022.
Trudeau, whose ruling Liberals face an election in October 2019, told a news conference that all the money collected would be returned directly to taxpayers in the four provinces without plans to curb the emission of greenhouse gases.
“The effects of climate change are everywhere, and they are a constant reminder of the need to act now,” he said in a statement, citing recent heat waves, floods and forest fires.
Official data regularly show Canada has little chance of meeting its climate change goals of reducing emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
Canada’s Conservatives, the largest opposition party in the federal Parliament, say they will scrap the levy if they take power next year.
Party leader Andrew Scheer, who has yet to unveil his own climate change plan, told reporters the tax would make it more costly for ordinary Canadians to drive cars and heat homes.
The new tax will have the most impact in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, where the new right-of-center Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford says it will take Ottawa to court over the plan.
Trudeau’s chances of retaining power next year depend largely on Ontario, where the Liberals already hold most of province’s seats in the national Parliament.
Ford moved to end Ontario’s cap-and-trade program in July on the grounds it was a “cash grab” that did nothing for the environment.
In energy-rich Alberta, the current left-leaning government looks set to lose an election next year to a right-wing party that also opposes a carbon tax.
“The question for conservative politicians is if they do not want to act, who do they expect to act in their stead?” Trudeau said at a news conference to announce the tax.
The new tax will also be imposed in Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as New Brunswick.
“The federal government has done what is necessary to get this important tool in play while easing any financial burden it may have on Canadians,” said Catherine Abreu of Climate Action Network Canada.