Mr. David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Lib.)
|| That, in the opinion of this House, this government has lacked a commitment to principled environmental policy backed by action which is urgently needed to address the climate change crisis, and it is the further opinion of this House that the government has consistently ignored the legislative and regulatory powers at its disposal that allow the government to take immediate and decisive action to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve meaningful and science-based reduction targets, and therefore the House calls upon the government to: (a) use the legislative, regulatory and fiscal authorities already available to the Government of Canada to put in place immediately a national climate change plan that implements economy-wide regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and invests in renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency in order for Canada to compete in the new green economy; (b) stop putting Canada’s environmental and economic future at risk by insisting that Canada must wait for the United States to act first before showing our own leadership on this most vital issue; (c) set a domestic legally-binding long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050; (d) report to Parliament annually on its policies and proposals to achieve the trajectory toward the 80 percent target and revise as necessary; (e) establish a non-partisan expert group approved by Parliament to set a science-based emissions trajectory to reach that 80 percent reduction target so that Canada does its part to keep global temperature increases to below 2oC; (f) reverse the decision to cut the ecoENERGY program that allowed Canadians to receive a rebate for greening their homes using energy efficient products and services; (g) restore Canada’s tarnished international environmental reputation by implementing Canada’s international commitment made during the Copenhagen negotiations to provide our fair share of new climate change financing for developing countries to support their adaptation and mitigation efforts to deal with the climate change crisis; (h) follow through on Canada’s commitment at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and report on implementation; and (i) convene within 90 days a First Ministers’ Meeting on climate change to build upon the best practices and leadership that have been demonstrated in the provinces, municipalities and the private sector.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my colleague, the member for Etobicoke North, who is a seconder of this motion and, in case the House does not recollect, is also a Nobel laureate, having won the Nobel prize for her contributions to the intergovernmental panel on climate change. It is indeed a privilege to have her in this House of Commons and as a member of our caucus here in the Liberal Party of Canada. I thank her for her good service.
This is a motion which, in honesty, I would prefer never to have brought to the House of Commons. It is a motion that is unfortunate in its necessity because we are facing a situation now where Canada is falling behind.
We are falling behind on so many fronts that we think it is now extremely important for the House to send a message to the government that it should consider supporting this motion and to start taking dramatic action, not dramatic action in the Conservative terms that are associated with dramatic action. The Conservatives like to frame climate change as a cost. In responding to the climate change crisis, they like to frame it as grief and pain.
We on the other hand think that the response to the climate change crisis is all about opportunity. It is all about economic opportunity. It is all about jobs for working people and it is about environmental opportunity as we move forward.
We are asking the government to bring in a principled environmental policy that will immediately address the climate change crisis. Where are we 52 months later, after the arrival of the new reformed Conservative government? Well, 52 months later and 3 environment ministers later, Canada has no climate change plan. In fact, we are the only OECD country, the only G7 country, the only G20 country, not to have a comprehensive plan on climate change.
There is no energy strategy to point to for Canada's energy future. Canadians understand the connection between energy, the burning of fossil fuels, the creation of greenhouse gases, the effects on the atmosphere and temperature increases. They understand these basic scientific truths.
Canadians do not get why it is that after 52 months we have no climate change plan and no energy strategy. In fairness, I think they are also deeply disturbed by an abdication, maybe even an abandonment, of Canada's traditional soft power international leadership role in the world in this important sector.
In short, it appears as if, for this government, climate change is in the sort of wedge tactics, management of crisis terms the government tends to act on. This is simply an issue to be managed, contained and marginalized. Let us keep it at bay and not really deal with it. We will just keep jumping from ice floe to ice floe as the Arctic melts. Let us manage the crisis as opposed to dealing with it in a systemic and fundamental way.
It is all incoherent so far, and that is what is deeply disturbing. Nothing connects. Programmatic spending does not connect to fiscal incentives and disincentives. The fiscal measures that are in place are often not leading us in the right direction.
I argued, for example, vociferously with the Minister of Finance some two years ago about his tax deductible transit pass being an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars. It is very expensive. In fact, it is about $7,000 per tonne of greenhouse gases reduced, $7,000 which we believe should have been invested in public transit infrastructure at a time when our cities are in desperate need of additional resources.
The government has made no coherent progress on our previous government's house in order provisions and measures. It is important for a government that is leading the way to lead the way. As Shakespeare once said, “Physician, heal thyself.” Well, this physician does not even diagnose the fever.
The federal government could be doing so much more on house in order initiatives. Has it actually greened its procurement system, the way it buys goods and services? This is the largest landlord in the country, the largest employer in the country.
Is it in fact leasing buildings and demanding of landlords that they drive up the energy efficiency of those buildings? In any new construction is it building to a LEED gold or a LEED platinum standard to show the way for Canadians?
There has been no progress whatsoever. More recently, despite the pleas, the overtures and negotiations between the official opposition and the government on its infrastructure spending, the stimulus spending, billions of dollars are being spent but without the benefit of looking at that spending through a green lens, through an energy efficiency lens, through a clean economy lens. There is resistance from the government and then rejection from the government to our pleas to use this spending opportunity as a wonderful opportunity to lead and show the way as an institution called the Government of Canada. In short, what have we seen?
I think most Canadians, in fairness, would agree that the government is compromising both our environmental and our economic future, a theme I will come back to.
The leader of the official opposition has set out an ambitious and innovative plan to deal with climate change, elements of which are in this motion, and which I will turn to shortly in greater detail.
The plan and the call put out now by the leader of the official opposition are steeped in the reality of the notion that Canada is now embroiled in a clean economy race the likes of which the world has never seen before. It is driving up energy efficiency going forward. It is about retooling our economy to produce more with less.
Why is it the state of California in most of its laws no longer talks about the concept of waste? California now describes waste as unrecaptured profit. California understands that when we throw things out, that when we use energy less efficiently than we might, we are actually losing profit, losing jobs, losing capital, losing investment capital.
This race in which we are now embroiled, and actually, the federal government is not running it, but many provincial jurisdictions are, is all about becoming more energy efficient. It is about learning to do more with fewer materials, for example. It is also learning to do more with less water in our production processes. We know that when we produce more with less, we position Canada as a supplier of solutions.
I was very heartened by Ontario's throne speech two weeks ago, in which it was announced that Ontario was going to become the supplier of solutions for water and waste water technologies globally. It was a lynchpin moment. A marker was placed. A jurisdiction said that it wants to become the world leader in this field, this at a time when the world is running out of fresh water. Does anyone really think we are not going to need to get serious about conquering that water and waste water technology marketplace? Of course not.
When we actually move nationally with leadership, we position Canada to be able to supply the solutions the world is going to be searching for, and in fact is searching for right now.
The government likes to say that Canada is an energy superpower. We agree. Canada is an energy superpower, whether it is uranium, hydro power, fossil fuels, or other sources, yes, including coal, gas, oil. However, when we are an energy superpower, would it not be normal to conclude that as an energy superpower we have the most to lose and the most to gain from whatever comes both continentally and internationally in response to the climate change crisis? Would we not think that as a jurisdiction we should be out there leading the pack because our interests are so much spoken to, are so potentially affected?
Why is it if the government claims we are an energy superpower we are not out there informing, directing, trying to influence the outcome at the international level, as opposed to taking a back seat?
I would say in an introductory fashion, the Liberal Party of Canada shall take no lessons from the Conservative Party of Canada in this regard. This is the party of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the party of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the party that created the Environment Commissioner for Sustainable Development, and the party that just recently, through a private member's bill, convinced Parliament to bring in a national sustainable development strategy for this country as we move forward.
We have been and remain open to co-operating with the government. That is not the problem here. The official opposition wants to see progress on the climate change crisis. What we need now is a plan.
Let me talk a little bit about the terms of this motion. We are asking the government to stop pretending that it needs any additional powers, that it does not possess all of the regulatory authorities that it needs to be able to act immediately.
I was trying to describe this to my four teenagers just the other day. In short form I said that it was like the slogan of a major sports company: Just do it. The government has those powers.
Why is it that the Chinese and U.S. governments are investing massively in clean technology funds, capital investment funds? The government likes to say that we are harmonizing with the United States. Most Canadians are a little suspicious of this because they really fear abdication of sovereignty. To what extent are we harmonizing with the United States? When we ask the government why is it the United States is spending 18 times more per capita on clean power and clean technology investments, all of a sudden the harmonization rhetoric stops.
It is really important to remember point number one, the government does not need any powers to move immediately to regulate, for example, greenhouse gases. That is something we did as the previous government when we amended the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to include six greenhouse gases, so that a government, our government before we were defeated, now the current government 52 months later, has the power to immediately regulate.
Another aspect of the climate change crisis is this: We have to stop insisting that Canada wait for the United States to take action first, or worse, try to hide behind the complex and difficult international treaty negotiations that were continued just recently in Copenhagen. This is not true and it is, in my view, negligent of the government to act this way.
The United States is way ahead of Canada under a new Democratic administration. After the Republican administration was dispatched with, the Democratic administration within 10 months had 1,400 pages of bills on the table, negotiating through committees for consideration by the American society, industrialists, environmentalists, environmental leaders, labour leaders. All of this was accomplished within a 10 month period.
In 52 months, we have no climate change legislation. There is no bill. The government brought in the Clean Air Act some four or five years ago. It was rewritten by four opposition parties. It had the consensus and support of four opposition parties, but the Prime Minister, because this is what he does when he is backed into a corner, prorogued Parliament in order to kill the bill, delaying Canada even further.
Why is it President Obama was in Copenhagen, not alone but with six of his top ten cabinet ministers? Our Prime Minister was, in fact, embarrassed to attend in Copenhagen, and once there, refused to deliver the speech to the UN delegates who were present and, as I like to say, refused to stand up for Canada to speak at the podium, but did, of course, sit down for dinner with the heads of state.
The United States is designing a system, as it should, as a sovereign nation. It is designing a system and coming to grips with the climate change crisis by working within the confines of the four corners of its own natural order, its own challenges and to the specificity of its own economy.
When the government says that we are harmonizing, is it really saying that the United States, in its design of a domestic response to climate change, will factor in, for example, the elements of the Canadian economy that have to be addressed, Canada's manufacturing base, Canada's natural order, our boreal forest, our Great Lakes, our watersheds? Are the Conservatives serious? I would never expect the United States to design a domestic response to take into account Canada's specificity any more than we would. This is again proof that the government is hiding behind the United States or the international treaty process, is actually not serious and is making us in fact more vulnerable. We are more vulnerable to the United States now, for example, moving to put a price on carbon emissions.
As an aside, the Prime Minister went to London some three and a half years ago. He gave a keynote address. He called it the energy superpower tour. Does anyone remember that speech? He gave his first foundational speech in London and he said that within five years Canada would be pricing carbon at $65 a tonne, that we would have a cap and trade system, that we would be trading domestically. All of this has evaporated. All of this has disappeared. All of this has simply vanished, again as an issue to manage, despite the opposition party's willingness to co-operate.
We want to see a legally binding, long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. That is the internationally accepted baseline year, legally binding here in Canada, a target, by the way, that the government endorsed in Copenhagen. We are two years away, minimum, from an international treaty being binding, but we know the consensus is to hold to 2°C to keep temperature increases down.
We are asking that the government report to Parliament annually. How are we going to get to that 80% reduction in the next 40 years? It is a national project that we can accomplish, I am convinced, but we need annual reports. We need a non-partisan, expert group. We need to take the partisanship out of this issue. Canadians deserve and expect more from this House of Commons. The government is in the driver's seat. The government can work with us to create this non-partisan, expert group to advise us with the science, with the modelling, with the pathways, with the economic modelling. How can we get there in the next 40 years while prospering? It is something I know we can do.
We are asking the government to reverse its decision to cut the very popular home retrofit program for folks who want to do the right thing and invest in energy efficiency. In the dark of night, pulled out of thin air, the government announced it was abandoning a program that had become three times more popular in the last three years, really blocking Canadians who want to do the right thing.
We also want the government to step up and make the contribution it promised it would to help the poorest countries, the most vulnerable nations on earth that will be hardest hit by climate change. These are the nations. Canada's DNA, as someone once said, is all about being multilateral. It is all about reaching out beyond our borders. Environmental refugees have arrived.
If the government does not believe me, then it should listen to the United States' joint chiefs of staff who said just two years ago that climate change was the penultimate international security issue for the next century. It should ask the U.K. government, whose climate change policy is framed under a national security rubric. They know what we know on this side of the House. We must move forward.
We are asking the government to phase out inefficient fossil fuels subsidies so that not only do we level the playing field for investment in non-renewables, but we actually tilt the playing field in favour of renewable power. We know it is coming. What are we waiting for? We are asking, through our leader in a wonderful speech given some time ago, for a fourfold increase in renewable power by 2017 when Canada turns 150 years old.
Finally, we are asking the Prime Minister, within 90 days of this motion, should it pass in a vote later today, to convene a first ministers' meeting on climate change and energy. We need to build on the best practices of our provinces, our cities, the private sector and beyond.
We need to elevate this issue. It is deserving of being elevated. The Prime Minister must show leadership here. The provinces are craving leadership. They are craving affirmation and support for their programs. They are going it alone. It is a quilt-work in Canada. We can do better than this. We are in this race. We can win this race. It is about the future of our species, our biodiversity, our soils, our integrity, the ecological integrity of our land masses, and so much more.
In short, it is about the generations that have built this country and the generations to come.
Mr. Mark Warawa (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake, a man who is also passionate about the environment.
First, I hope the Liberal Party will finally abandon its support of the NDP Bill C-311. We will find out. Bill C-311 would have Canada divert from the North American harmonized target of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. It would also isolate Canada economically and throw us back into a deep recession. The Liberal Party might finally be coming to its senses, somewhat. We will have to wait and see.
We learned throughout our hearings at the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, through hours of testimony from witnesses from all over Canada, that Bill C-311 was irresponsible and would harm Canada. The Liberals, as I said before, even called it the tiddlywink bill and an irresponsible bill.
The Copenhagen accord, the climate change agreement, which was forged during an intense two week period last December, represents a major turning point for Canada and for each of the 117 nations that signed it. It creates a functional international community with one shared goal, namely addressing climate change in a principled comprehensive fashion. Canada is a respected and fully engaged member of that international community facing the challenge.
This agreement acknowledges that climate change is a global issue requiring a global response. It provides for specific mitigation commitments by all major emitters. It provides for international reporting and review of the progress all parties are making toward their commitments. It provides for a predictable ramped up flows of support to help mitigation and adaptation efforts globally. Those are all good.
Going forward, the Copenhagen accord will be the foundation for the international and domestic policies of Canada and for all other signatories. It is the first time that there has been a comprehensive global agreement that deals with climate change and includes commitments from all the major emitters, including the United States, China and India. That is what we have asked for and that is what we have achieved.
Getting that many countries and all those agendas even close to the same page is a remarkable accomplishment. Ultimately the Copenhagen accord will be successful, not only because it moves us all forward but because of how it moves us all forward. It is based on the efforts of national governments on the inclusion of all the major players and on practical solutions.
The Speech from the Throne repeated the government's Copenhagen commitment to contribute our fair share of the $30 billion quick start funding agreed to in the accord to support developing countries in their efforts to address climate change.
That is why this past weekend in Bonn Canada participated in a meeting where the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change gathered to discuss the next steps on how to transform the Copenhagen accord into a binding international treaty.
Next week the Minister of the Environment will be in Washington, D.C., where the Major Economies Forum will meet to discuss climate change and the road forward. This is the 17 member group of the major developed and developing countries, where considerable progress was made before the Copenhagen climate change summit to advance key issues under negotiation.
That is why the opposition's motion is a step backward, not forward. Maybe the Liberals have not come to their senses. Their motion is predicated on an exclusively domestic target for Canada and blatantly disregards the reality that climate change is a problem requiring a co-operatively, coordinated approach and a binding international treaty. Climate change is not something that one country can tackle on its own, especially a country like Canada that accounts for 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.
Let us take, for example, the harmonized approach of Canada and the United States. The Copenhagen accord has the support of Canada and the United States, which means that our stated objective of aligning our policies with their policies, not identical but aligning them, now has an enforceable international framework, a foundation. A man I respect, Mike Holmes, says “do it right the first time”. What the Liberals are proposing is to build something without a framework, without a foundation, and that makes no sense. That is illogical.
The reason for our approach, the international approach, is straightforward and logical. Our economies are so integrated that any effectual continental efforts of reducing emissions must include the close Canada-U.S. co-operation and alignment of our policies, regulations and standards.
Harmonizing our approach to climate change with that of the United States would optimize the progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic competitiveness and prosperity. That means jobs, which is what Canadians want, and that is what we are providing.
Co-operating on our climate change approach also benefits Canada in terms of joint research and development of clean energy technology.
At the North American leaders summit last August, our Prime Minister and Presidents Obama and Calderon agreed to a program of collaborative work, including initiatives in carbon capture and storage, gas flaring and energy efficiency. Agreement was also reached to begin work toward a 21st century continental electricity smart grid, again continental.
We do not want to pursue an illogical path as proposed by the Liberals that would create barriers to trade and put us at a competitive disadvantage. We also do not want to do less than our most important trading partners and risk facing new border barriers into the American market.
At a time when the world is recovering from the worst financial crisis in memory, a Liberal proposal of increasing taxes and isolation is not what Canadians want and not what Canada needs.
On the continental front we have made excellent progress working with the U.S.. We recently made a joint announcement of stringent new vehicle tailpipe emission standards starting with the 2011 model, which is next year. That reality and the fact that the United States has committed to the Copenhagen accord will also see us work even more closely to further enhance the clean energy dialogue.
The clean energy dialogue was established when our Prime Minister met with President Obama more than a year ago to optimize co-operation on emerging technologies, such as carbon capture storage, smart electricity grids, clean energy research and development, all of which we are making significant progress on.
Not all of the work on climate change will be on the international and continental front. There is plenty that we are already doing right here in Canada.
Since 2007, the government has invested in a range of eco-action programs, many of which promote the use of new technologies.
In 2009, Canada's economic action plan included billions of dollars in spending on initiatives like the clean energy fund and the green infrastructure fund. They provide close to $2 billion for the development of promising clean energy technologies and green infrastructure projects, all benefiting Canada and the world. That focus on technology and innovation relating to climate change will be sustained.
The government intends to stay the course on the path it has chosen: to join hands around the world to combat climate change. We will also continue to use the tools at hand to ensure that our approach to climate change is sustainable, meeting the needs of this present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
I would like to share a quote by Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, who made this comment before Copenhagen. He said:
|| Canada has a tough period behind it in terms that Canada did rise and ratify the Kyoto Protocol, but its main trading partner the United States, did not, which left it in a very unbalanced situation.
He went on to say, “What I see Canada doing is encouraging. It is very constructive in these negotiations”. He brought to light that the previous Liberal government did nothing. It created an environmental mess and we are working hard to clean that up. The Liberals need to support our good plans.
Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I hope the Liberal Party will be abandoning Bill C-311 and finally admit that such a bill would be devastating both to our working relationship with the Obama administration and to our economy.
I also want to thank the Liberal Party for its support regarding the Copenhagen accord. I believe within the motion, written by the member for Ottawa South, credit is given to the accomplishment of the Conservative government for achieving in Copenhagen an accord for which Canada can be proud and for which, after 13 years of inaction by the Liberal Party that tarnished our reputation as stewards of the environment, Canada can now return to its natural proud post as a great steward of the environment.
I will take a few minutes to address each of the elements of the motion item by item, the first being item (a). When it comes to addressing the issue of climate change, the government has a number of tools at its disposal, many of which it has already used. It is using its regulatory authorities to set tough new tailpipe emission standards harmonized with the United States. We are regulating renewable fuel content, and that is out for comment right now, and we are broadening and deepening energy efficiency standards.
The government has made investments in the form of eco-energy and ecotransport programs and through investments in energy-related green infrastructure . The government is also using tax incentives to promote green technologies and encourage the use of public transit. We also have transferred funds directly to provinces and territories to assist them in reducing emissions.
The government will continue to use these instruments in a responsible, effective and successful manner that promotes both environmental progress and a competitive Canadian economy.
Direct program spending is another area where the government can and has acted effectively. In 2009, Pew Research noted that Canada ranked sixth in terms of clean energy investment intensity compared to the United States, which is back in eleventh place.
When it comes to aligning Canada's climate change efforts with those in the United States, as discussed in item (b) of the motion, it is purely a practical matter.
Our economies and, in fact, our physical environment are so closely integrated that it makes no sense for us to move forward in isolation. That is all the more true at a time when economies on both sides of the border are starting to recover after the worst financial crisis in recent memory.
The reality is that if Canada does more than the U.S. in addressing climate change, it becomes uncompetitive. If it does less, it runs the risk of punitive trade sanctions. Neither scenario is desirable or necessary.
The Government of Canada is an active and supportive player in international climate change negotiations under the Copenhagen accord, as discussed in item (c). We are at an early stage of discussion under the accord and, in that context, it makes no sense for Canada to legislate a 2050 target. Any decision to legislate a target should follow a broader discussion, both within Canada and reflect our ongoing international discussions that started in Copenhagen.
In item (d) the government has already been completely transparent about the actions it is taking to address climate change. It is already reporting annually to Parliament on all the actions it is taking to address climate change and providing detailed information on their impact. Just today we released a national inventory report for 2008 which shows that greenhouse gas emissions are down 2.1% from 2007, or 16 megatonnes of C02. . That is an incredible achievement in just a few short years in government. Our government has acted on climate change and has got results. We admit that more needs to be done, and we will do that, but compare that to the Liberals who just sat back for 13 years and did nothing and watched emissions increase by almost 30%.
The Government of Canada will continue to take a consultative approach in developing future actions to address climate change, in reference to item (e). That said, it is the government that is ultimately accountable to Parliament and the people of Canada and it cannot abrogate its responsibility to set a course for meeting emissions targets.
Contrary to item (f) of the motion before the House, the eco-energy retrofit homes program has not been cut. It is still functioning and will continue to benefit Canadians with incentives to adopt energy saving retrofits until March 31, 2011.
What has occurred is that like all other energy efficiency and emissions reductions programs, the retrofit homes program is being assessed to ensure it continues to be an effective and efficient use of Canadian tax dollars. In short, under its existing budget, the eco-energy retrofit homes program will continue to operate until March 31, 2011 as originally planned. This has not changed. The program still has $300 million to be paid to homeowners currently in the program to support their home retrofits.
What has changed is that until final decisions are made concerning the continuation of the program, effective March 31 of this year, the program will not accept new bookings for the first stage of the program, which is the pre-retrofit evaluation.
Regarding item (g), I want to talk about the terms of the Copenhagen Accord. Canada has already agreed to do its fair share to help developing nations adapt to the impact of climate change. We will make our contributions to the $3 billion quick-start fund as soon as the amount for Canada has been pegged. The latest federal budget contains a provision for that contribution.
To discuss item (h) about the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, the Prime Minister has already committed to phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. These act to encourage wasteful consumption. The Minister of Finance and Natural Resources Canada have been working as part of international efforts to examine these subsidies. I should point out that this government has already acted. In budget 2007, we started the process to remove the accelerated capital cost allowances for the oil sands.
Finally, in regard to item (i), in addition to the establishment of a cooperative framework on the international stage, the Copenhagen process has also had a beneficial effect on the domestic policy front. Leading up to the Copenhagen summit, the environment minister met with each provincial and territorial leader, reaching a new degree of understanding on climate change policy and programs with most of them.
I trust that this account of the government's actions on climate change addresses the issues raised by the opposition motion. We appreciate and share the interest in finding solutions that are as sustainable as the environment we seek to protect.
Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak today to the Liberal opposition motion on climate change. In the next 20 minutes I will try to show that, as we look ahead to the climate change conference in Cancún eight months from now, we must take real action to deal with the climate change crisis we are going through.
I do not know whether it is a coincidence or not, but it is a bit paradoxical that the Liberal opposition motion comes just a few hours before an important vote on NDP Bill C-311. It is as if the Liberal Party were trying to show that a parliamentary motion was the best response to a legislative initiative. There is nothing stronger legislatively than a bill, whether it comes from the government or from a private member.
The Liberal Party showed leadership on this issue in the past. I remember when the Liberals introduced Bill C-288, which was sponsored by the member for Honoré-Mercier. The purpose of this bill was to implement the Kyoto protocol. At the time, the Liberal Party understood that it took a bill to ensure that international climate change agreements, and the Kyoto protocol in particular, had some regulatory teeth. This is what the NDP has understood in recent years, and a parliamentary motion is no substitute for a private member's bill.
That is why, in a few hours, we will support Bill C-311, just as we supported Bill C-288 introduced by the Liberal member for Honoré-Mercier.
We think the Liberal Party motion, which I would describe as epic in length, is commendable. In the 13 years I have been sitting in Parliament, I have rarely seen such a long motion. I have read it and re-read it. There are no less than 10 points in this motion. The position of this Parliament could very well have been summed up in just three or four points, as the Bloc Québécois did on the eve of the Copenhagen climate change conference.
What did the Bloc Québécois say a few weeks before the Copenhagen climate change conference? The Bloc limited its opposition motion to three points. First, Canada must commit to doing everything in its power to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2oC higher than in the pre-industrial period. Second, it must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 25% lower than 1990 levels by 2020. Third, it must commit to giving developing countries the technological and financial means to adapt to climate change.
The motion could have stopped there, but no, here we have a 10 point motion, which we support, of course. Nevertheless, the motion could have been clearer.
Let us look at the first point. The Liberal Party wants the government to:
||...use the legislative, regulatory and fiscal authorities already available to the Government of Canada to put in place immediately a national climate change plan that implements economy-wide regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, and invests in renewable energy, clean technology and energy efficiency in order for Canada to compete in the new green economy;
How could we be against this first point of the motion? We are somewhat surprised that today, in 2010, the Liberal Party is proposing regulation. I remember what the Liberal Party was proposing in 1997-98. I was here in the House at the time. It was not proposing a regulatory approach to fight climate change. It was proposing a voluntary approach.
It proposed sector-by-sector negotiations of greenhouse gas reduction agreements that would not have the force of law. This was done in the pulp and paper sector and the steel industry. However, it became evident that the voluntary approach put forward by the Chrétien government made it impossible to respect our international commitments on greenhouse gas reductions. Today, the Liberal Party realizes that the voluntary approach proposed by the Liberal government at that time has not achieved its objectives and that a regulatory approach is needed.
We have before us a Conservative government that does have a regulatory framework for fighting climate change. However, after all these years, we are still waiting for greenhouse gas reduction regulations. We have not found an approach that could have resulted in substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. The government has two means at its disposal: the regulatory approach and implementation of a greener tax system, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide tax incentives to environmental industries that contribute to those reductions. I will come back to that later.
However, we only have a regulatory framework before us, one without targets and without greenhouse gas emission regulations. We support the climate change regulations. However, we do not want to adopt the sectoral approach proposed by the federal government, which consists of putting all Canadian industrial sectors on an equal footing, especially the major industrial emitters.
In Quebec, we figure that we have been taking responsibility since the beginning of the 1990s. Manitoba was one of the first provinces to implement a plan to fight climate change. These plans have produced concrete results: in 2007, we saw a 23.6% reduction in greenhouse gases in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, compared to the 1990 levels.
Now, all the federal parties seem to be proposing putting the Quebec manufacturing sector, which has cut its greenhouse gas emissions, on an equal footing with the other major industrial emitters. I am referring, of course, to Canada's oil and gas industry. This is unacceptable, because this approach favours the polluter-paid principle, instead of the polluter-pay principle.
We are saying yes to regulations, but as my colleagues said earlier, we must use the triptych approach that was developed at a university in Austria, which puts responsibility on the provinces. Canada can obviously negotiate greenhouse gas reductions on the international scene, as Europe did with an 8% reduction as part of the Kyoto protocol. But let the provinces achieve their targets in their own way, in their own jurisdictions. We must remember that under the Constitution, natural resources are a provincial jurisdiction.
The government has been proposing this asymmetrical approach for so many years within the Canadian federation. Yes to a Canada-wide target for reducing greenhouse gases, but let us keep our provincial reduction targets.
The Liberal Party's second point is that the government should “stop putting Canada’s environmental and economic future at risk by insisting that Canada must wait for the United States to act first before showing our own leadership on this most vital issue.” Over the past few years we have seen the central federal government's complacency and lack of leadership when it comes to climate change. This is why the provinces decided to negotiate agreements with American states as part of climate groups.
This demonstrates that nations, that the Quebec nation, can negotiate with American states and move the climate issue forward more quickly than the federal government has been able to do over the past few years.
The best example is most likely that of automobile regulations. For years Ottawa refused to implement automobile manufacturing standards similar to those in California. Quebec decided to harmonize its standards with those in California. It was successful in pressuring central governments to adopt more acceptable federal environmental standards.
This shows that Quebec is better than the federal government at influencing the fight against climate change on a continental scale.
The third point of the motion talks about setting “a domestic legally-binding long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050”. This is probably the weakest aspect of the motion, which is unfortunate. We would have expected more from the Liberal Party.
We can set long term targets, but we also need to set short and medium term targets. Where are the greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020? For the past few years scientists have been saying that if we want to limit temperature increases to two degrees Celsius, industrialized countries must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below the 1990 level by 2020, and not by 2050.
With this motion and this government we will be putting off dealing with these problems. They refuse to tackle climate change in the short and medium term and are deferring efforts until 2050. We cannot accept this, especially at a time when industrialized countries are meeting in Canada for the G20. We must send a clear message: in eight months in Cancún, we will be ready to make short and medium term commitments.
Unfortunately, this motion gives no indication of any short and medium term efforts. It talks about long term efforts, which are commendable and which we do not oppose. However, this is an urgent problem that requires short and medium term targets.
The fourth point of the motion has to do with reporting “to Parliament annually on its policies and proposals to achieve the trajectory toward the 80 percent target and revise as necessary”. I think these aspects were taken from Bill C-288, at the time introduced by the Liberal Party. The purpose is probably to allow the environment commissioner to play a greater role. Parliament must focus on achieving these targets. We completely agree with this proposal.
The motion goes on to talk about establishing “a non-partisan expert group approved by Parliament to set a science-based emissions trajectory to reach that 80 percent reduction target”. Clearly, we must ensure that any targets we set are not subject to the vagaries of political change in Ottawa. Science has to resume a leading role in helping elected officials make good decisions.
The budget for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences was cut. The government is trying to muzzle Environment Canada scientists by giving them a communications guide and telling them that their research, reports and documents have to be relevant to the government's goals and policies. That is nonsensical. A healthy government should ensure that scientists have complete independence to do their scientific work.
That is why we need an independent group of scientific experts to make recommendations to parliamentarians and government free from the influence of political vagaries in Ottawa.
The sixth point calls on the government to “reverse the decision to cut the ecoENERGY program”. The first thing this government did when it came to power was initiate a program review. It directed the Treasury Board to assess the ecoenergy programs and divide them into three categories: programs to cut, programs to maintain and programs to improve.
That was terrible for the economy itself, and especially for the desire and the vision to stimulate a greener economy. The ecoauto program was eliminated. The program was not perfect. It provided tax incentives to people who purchased vehicles that consumed around 9 litres of gas per 100 kilometres. The government wanted to change the tax paradigm to give people who bought energy-efficient vehicles a refund. I strongly believe that the measure was in line with what I would call strategic environmental assessment to achieve better governance and greener taxation.
Environmental companies told us that under the wind power production incentive or WPPI, they received tax assistance of 1¢ to 1.5¢ per kilowatt hour produced using wind energy. This program was very successful and promoted wind energy. Subsequent budgets have not provided any money for the WPPI or any tax assistance for the wind industry, and Canadian companies are now telling us that they are going to leave Canada for certain U.S. states, because the American taxation system is more beneficial.
The green shift is failing. Canada does not realize the impact of the decisions it is making, at a time when all the world economies that are going through financial, climate or food crises all agree that what is needed is a green new deal. The basis for our economic recovery must be such that we can build an economy that is not in the stone age, but really turned toward the future.
That is why, in October 2008, the UN sent a clear message to industrialized countries about a green new deal. We must reinvest in renewable energy, promote energy efficiency and make our buildings greener. Sadly, the government has missed this opportunity.
I could go on at length, but I will keep my remarks to just a few minutes. This official opposition motion is clearly commendable and worthwhile. We will support this motion, but we would have liked it to go further and be more in keeping with the principles in Bill C-311 in order to deal with the climate change crisis we are going through now, eight months before the major climate change conference in Cancún.
Ms. Linda Duncan (Edmonton—Strathcona, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I had hoped to share my time today with the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North. As time will be tight, I would like to at least thank him for his tireless work on behalf of Canadians to finally seek action on climate change around the globe.
I wish to voice my support for the motion presented by the member for Ottawa South and hope that all members in the House see fit to support these measures, which are necessary and long overdue. Although I do concur with the hon. member who spoke previously that it would have been useful to include the short and medium term targets, those are fortunately included in my colleague's bill, Bill C-311.
I concur with the member that the government has the full constitutional authority to take expeditious action to fulfill our country's responsibilities and undertakings to address climate change. Action on addressing climate change has been delayed, first by the suggestion that we needed a new law, which was then amended, brought forward, enacted and ignored. Then, the government dragged on endless consultations, which had been going on for the previous 15 years.
The next excuse was the need to await action by all nations of the world at Copenhagen. The latest excuse is the need to wait for the United States to dictate our targets and actions on climate change. Yet, while the government claims to be waiting for U.S. actions, the Obama administration is leaving us in the dust. President Obama's 2009 budget invested 14 times per capita what this country invested in its budget. This year, Obama's budget is 18 times per capita the investment of Canada. So much for synchronicity in North America.
Obama's budget also set aside $85 million for green job training for about 14,000 workers and $75 million in the re-energize education effort. Now that is what I call an education investment for the future. What did the government invest? It invested nothing. The government has set aside nothing for green jobs and training, and it would have been welcomed as a constructive addition to this member's motion.
New Democrats believe that green jobs, training and just transition programs for workers are all vital to a strong, sustainable economic recovery. The U.S. law specifies improved energy efficiency for government buildings as a way to jump start job creation and long-term growth. There is a commitment to retrofit 75% of government buildings in two years, saving billions for taxpayers in the United States.
In Canada, in response to a request for information that I submitted last year, we were told by the federal government that only six out of 26,000 federal buildings were so much as in the process of beginning retrofitting. Where is the synchronicity? I concur that the legislative and fiscal authorities have long been in place to enable action by the government. Many of those laws have been intentionally ignored. This despite international obligations under the Kyoto accord and, most recently, the Copenhagen agreement.
The government continues to ignore the pleas of Canadians from across the country to take action on climate change. Even the government's own studies show the impacts on the Canadian Prairies, the Canadian Arctic, the pine beetle expansion and record flooding. Yet still, it fails to act.
Many are suffering the economic toll already. Canadians are now having to turn to the courts to make the government comply with legal duties to reduce greenhouse gases.
I will be looking to the member for Ottawa South and his colleagues to support Bill C-311, which prescribes science-based reduction targets and requires accountability to Parliament for actions taken to meet the targets. In his 2009 audit, the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development reported serious flaws with the government's initiatives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including the transit tax credit and the climate trust fund.
I concur fully with the assertion that while the government has the necessary fiscal tools at its disposal, it has also failed miserably on their application. The 2010 government budget entitled “Leading the Way on Jobs and Growth” says it all. Gone is any semblance of adherence to the government's mantra of balancing economy and the environment.
The selfsame budget, where the government proclaims Canada to be a clean energy superpower, kills the only main programs to incent development and deployment of our once burgeoning renewable energy sector. It kills the eco-energy home retrofit program. It deals a severe blow to environmental impact assessments of major energy and infrastructure projects. The North American Insulation Manufacturers Association calls it “shortsighted” to cancel the energy retrofit program, which brought benefits to homeowners, the economy and the environment. So much for its affiliation with business in Canada.
The most perverse of all, though, is the budget grants a further tax reduction to the already profitable yet under regulated major energy corporations, while gifting hundreds of millions of dollars to those industries merely to test a technology. Why cut the very initiatives that are bringing reductions and, instead, putting the money into something we do not know will work?
This contradicts Canada's commitment made at the 2009 G20 in Pittsburgh to end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. The U.S. cut subsidies for oil and gas industry by 2020 to restore almost $37 billion U.S. to its government coffers.
Where is the action on the promised aid to address climate adaptation faced by many developing nations? Canada is disgraced by being the only G8 nation that has not committed a dollar figure, despite commitments at Copenhagen. Canadians are expressing grave concern that with the coming cutbacks to foreign aid next year, the new commitment will fall by the wayside.
Finance for action to address climate change must be new and additional to existing ODA commitments and it must be predictable. Funding must be substantial and adequate and meet the scale of needs identified for developing nations.
Financing and technology support for developing country mitigation and adaptations is the lynchpin to achieving a global agreement on climate change.
Overcoming past failures on both fronts will be essential to a strong climate agreement and must be at the table at the G8 meeting in June. If we are to put the world on a path to avoiding dangerous climate change, we need the assurance Canada will meet those commitments.
Finally, it has been the custom at all previous G8 meetings to host a meeting of environment ministers. Why is this expected—