Mr. Chairman, honourable colleagues, thank you for inviting me. I am very glad to be here. I am very interested in your work. I have already attended some of your hearings.
I'm here to present Bill C-377, the Climate Change Accountability Act, which I introduced into the House, as you know, in October 2006. This bill proposes science-based medium and long-term targets for Canada for avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.
It is in the nature of private members' business that these things take a long time to move their way through the process. So here we are at this point able to discuss the bill. If anything, in this case, I would say the passage of time and the events of the past year have really made it an even more ideal time to be discussing this bill. Since October last year we've had more science reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We've had two plans presented by the government. Legislation has been written by a special committee. A G-8 summit has been held on the issue, and of course we had the UN conference in Nairobi as well. As we're discussing this matter here, the world is gathered in Bali, kicking off negotiations for the second phase, the post-2012 phase, of the Kyoto Protocol, which is precisely what this bill is designed to address.
Of course, today, December 11, is the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol itself. It's a chance really for us to look forward at what needs to be done. There's been a lot of finger-pointing. We all know how that goes in politics. A lot of partisan games and so on have been played. It would be good if we could turn the page on that and look to the future. Canada's record is clear. The world knows about our record. Based on the last national inventory report numbers, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are 33% above where they were set by the target for Canada through Kyoto.
I think everybody on this committee is in agreement that we have to deal with climate change. It's a fundamental issue. How fundamental? Well, the UN Secretary General has called climate change the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century. I think he's right. The global environmental outlook by the United Nations environmental program has stated:
||Biophysical and social systems can reach tipping points, beyond which there are abrupt, accelerating, or potentially irreversible changes.
We must do our share to prevent the planet from reaching the point of no return. This should be our starting point, and it is the starting point for Bill C-377.
There is broad agreement among scientific experts that an increase of two degrees in the surface temperature of the earth, as compared to the pre-industrial era temperature, would be a dangerous climate change that would impact the entire planet. Even the government's Minister of Foreign Affairs accepts this two-degree threshold.
To obtain results efficiently, we must first have a clear orientation. Everything must be planned in advance. We must set benchmarks to ensure that we are on the right path and, to be absolutely sure, we need expert and objective monitoring of our progress. This is what we are doing with this bill.
We've marked out the destination, which is to avoid a two-degree Celsius increase. We've set out well in advance what the objective should be: an 80% reduction by 2050. We've identified some benchmarks along the way: a 25% reduction by 2020 and interim targets at five-year intervals, which are spelled out. And we're providing for accountability through reporting and monitoring requirements in the bill.
It's a pretty straightforward bill. Its purpose, as stated in clause 3, is
||to ensure that Canada contributes fully to the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
In terms of Canada's contribution to stalling a two-degree temperature increase, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced by 80% by 2050. That target is set out in clause 5.
This is based on The Case For Deep Reductions, the report by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation, which I believe you're familiar with. Also, I know that Matthew Bramley will be your next witness, coming in over the phone, and he will be describing his research and this report.
Clause 5 also sets a medium target of a 25% reduction by 2020, also based on that report.
Clause 6 provides that these targets and all the other five-year interim targets will be published in a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions target plan. The first plan would have to be tabled within six months of this act receiving royal assent.
Regarding accountability, this bill proposes, under section 10, that the minister should regularly make statements to explain the measures taken by the government in order to meet the targets and the precise reductions that they entail.
Section 13 provides for a review of the statements and for hearing the objective opinion of experts. The current draft assigns this role to the Commissioner of the Environment. However, according to another bill, this role would be inappropriate. Therefore, we are ready to accept that the bill be amended. For instance, it could give this role to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.
The targets set out in Bill match the targets set by the world's most progressive jurisdictions. The European Union is committed to a 60% to 80% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2050. France is targeting a 75% to 80% reduction, and the United Kingdom is committed to a reduction of a least 60% below the 1990 levels. Norway is committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
In North America, these kinds of targets are also becoming quite a bit more common. California, as you know, has a 2050 reduction target of 80%. The New England states have signed on to a target reduction of 75% to 85%. The Government of Ontario has set a reduction target of 80%. U.S. Democrats are getting on board. Candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards have all pledged a commitment to a cut of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 in their programs.
Backing the kinds of targets that Bill would bring into Canada would put Canada in good company with the leaders, not the laggards. Being with the leaders means that we'll be better positioned to transform our economy into the new energy economy of the future. This is where the real opportunities are.
These are the targets required by science. They are the targets set by responsible nations that understand their role in the world and their responsibility to future generations.
I might add that they are a major improvement over the targets we've seen in the government's “Turning the Corner” plan. The government says it will cut greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, but that's 20% below 2006 levels, meaning it's approximately 2% above 1990 levels. Its 2050 target works out to between 49% and 62% below the 1990 levels.
We don't know where these targets came from. They seem to have an element of arbitrariness to them. They don't seem to be linked to any particular calculus of the temperature impact on the planet. In fact, the government, unlike the EU, has refused so far to even take a position on the two-degree Celsius limit on global warming.
Thanks to access to information, we now know that Foreign Affairs is aware of the need to heed this limit, but the government has so far chosen to ignore that awareness or that advice.
In conclusion, I want to thank you once again for inviting me to table this bill. I am glad to know that you will be hearing witnesses. We are open to improving the legislation, to making it better. Above all, it is important that we strive to improve matters. The stakes are high, and we are pressed for time. We can already see the impact of climate change.
In the summer of 2006, just before introducing this bill, I was in the forests of British Columbia. I was shocked to see the devastation. I flew with some of the local people, including the owner of the mill, and I saw all the red and brown leaves of the forest. Then I flew at 30,000 feet, between the two great mountain ranges of the Rockies, and it was red as far as I could see. That was an absolutely shocking thing, to realize the devastation, the catastrophic change that has already happened.
Then this past summer I was at the Arctic Circle, up in Pangnirtung, in an Inuit community. I asked the elder what changes he was noticing. As we looked down the valley, he said, “Well, the change is in the colour. We've never seen green here before.” As far as we could see, there was a green kind of moss going up the 500-foot embankments, with the glaciers just visible beyond that. I said, “You mean the elders told you there was never any green here before?” He said, “No, I mean within the last 10 years. The glaciers used to come right down, and it was all rock and ice. But now there's a huge transformation. Now we can't get access to our protein sources, the migrating animals, because their patterns have changed.”
We're seeing the results. They're very dramatic. They're impacting on our planet. But we've only begun to see the changes.
On the other hand, we have so many opportunities to exploit if we could set a new direction for ourselves. I'm very, very confident that Canada could be in the forefront of some of the changes that are needed to get us to that new energy economy. I'm hoping this bill will help.
Thank you all very much.
I believe it will be a very difficult world.
It's perhaps evident from what has been happening in some of our cities. I live in Toronto. The heat waves we've been experiencing over the last number of years are becoming killer heat waves. We've had to institute heat alerts—something we never would have thought of years ago—not just for people who are homeless, but for seniors in their little rooms who can't afford an air conditioner. We're facing the consequences of the temperature change that also produces accelerated smog, so there are more diseases that people are going to experience.
Mostly, though, I worry about when the big changes start to happen: when the sea level really does start to rise. I know some of you may have looked at the computer projections. There are some Canadian scientists who have the best acknowledged projections in the world.
In a way, of course, the sea is the last part of the earth to warm. The sea is three kilometres deep, on average, and covers 77% of the planet's surface. Once it starts to heat up there are going to be very big changes, not the least of which is the increasing level of the sea. It won't be a few inches or a few centimetres; it's going to be quite a bit more significant. That's going to mean that a lot of people around the world--including many Canadians who are on the shoreline--in those low-lying deltas of the great rivers of the world, where the civilizations have assembled, are going to experience a dramatically reduced capacity to produce food as those sea levels rise. Those people are going to look at the way others are living around the world and they're going to start asking some pretty serious questions.
I represent a community that has a lot of the Bengalis who have come to Canada. About 40,000 Bengalis live right near my riding. They've just had one of the most devastating cyclones ever, and most of their country is in one of those low-lying areas.
If we get beyond the tipping point with some of the predictions that are out there, these are the kinds of countries that will simply not be livable anymore. And where are those people going to go? They're going to ask questions, and we could be in line for some very serious social and political instability, the likes of which we really haven't seen before.
On the other hand, I believe that if we take dramatic and strong action—it has to be dramatic and it has to be strong—we can avoid much or maybe all of this. This is what we have an obligation to do, especially those of us who are in the richest, most successful country in the world.
I guess it was Robert Kennedy who said the economy is a subset of the environment. You can't have a functioning economy if there's big trouble in the environment.
My dad, who was a Conservative member of this Parliament many years ago, put up solar systems in the late sixties. He was involved in putting up some of the first wind turbines in P.E.I. and the Gaspé. He and my brother invented a hybrid car, imagine that, something he tried to convince Ford to pick up on in the seventies after the big oil crisis. Unfortunately, the price of gas had fallen back, and nobody was interested any more. Instead, the Japanese got the idea, and now everybody is buying their cars.
If we'd been out ahead of it.... We've got the Canadian minds that can be in front. There's a company now in Ontario that has one of the best solar photovoltaic-cell-producing technologies in the world. Guess where they're going to build their first big plant? They're going to build it in East Germany. Why? Because the Germans have a policy to purchase solar electricity and to have it installed on buildings and to have utilities be required, in renewable portfolio standard regulations, to purchase it, and that creates a sufficient market. They decided to put it in a high unemployment area in East Germany because they thought they could help a struggling economy.
To me, that's an example of how, if we took a different view of the economy and the new energy futures that are in front of us that we could build together, we could build a much stronger economy.
I'll close with one example. For six years I had the privilege of being the vice-chair of the fourth or fifth largest utility business in Canada. Our most profitable sector per dollar of capital invested was helping people buy less of our electricity. We made far more money helping them renovate their homes and their buildings through the Better Buildings Partnership my firm helped design. We made far more money doing that and created a lot more work in Toronto than we did by selling electrons.
I think the possibilities are enormous. Why is it that all our kids and our technical workers are having to get on planes and fly out to Fort McMurray to work in the energy sector? So much so that there aren't enough of them and we're having to fly them in from all around the world. Why not work on energy down at Mrs. Smith's house by helping her renovate her home so she doesn't have to pay the heating bills and create some construction work and create a revolving fund like we had the opportunity to be involved in at the FCM and other places? There are solutions. This is something that can help the economy.
The last fundamental principle: inefficiency is bad for business. What we're doing right now with energy is unbelievably inefficient.
First, I would say it's not leadership. The old principle was to lead by example, and if what we're saying is that we're not going to follow, or respect, or adopt any real targets to reduce our emissions that are serious unless other people do, that doesn't give you the credibility on the world stage to call on others to bring these rules into place. That's number one.
Number two, I think, frankly, the position of the Chinese and these other countries is not being represented accurately. From what I know about what's happening in...just take China for example; they're already investing $10 billion in renewable energies. Are we doing anything close to that, even though we have a very large and successful economy? I'm given to understand that the eighth richest man in China has one basic business: manufacturing photovoltaic cells.
It looks to me as though we're in the process of missing a boat here. We may all need photovoltaics on the roofs of our houses, and I think we should do that as quickly as we possibly can, but I'd prefer they were manufactured here. But if we don't get started on the innovations that are required, we're going to miss out on that opportunity and we'll simply be importing them from China, and we'll be getting the heat for our houses and the electricity for our appliances from there, through the photovoltaic cells we buy.
I also think the principle of “differentiated” responsibilities has been adopted from day one. If I'm not mistaken, I heard our own Minister of the Environment using that exact word in an interview within the last 24 hours. So it looks to me like this was a straw man from the beginning and the finger was being pointed at the so-called big polluters.
Is there a lot of pollution emanating from China? Yes. There are 1.3 billion people there. Some of them would prefer to live with maybe an electric light bulb. I've visited many of the communities in the poor parts of China that don't have an electric light bulb; they're simply burning the wood they can gather on the floor of the little hut. Yes, they'd like to have a light bulb.
Here we are, wagging our finger at them, while we are polluting at a rate unsurpassed, pretty well, on the globe. On a per capita basis, we're in the top four. I've always believed the best way to convince people to do something you believe is right is to start doing it yourself.
I just want to make a few remarks, and I hope they are constructive.
When I'm asked the question of what would Bill C-377 mean, I do come at my response from a rather narrow perspective. The question I'm asking is, is there anything happening in this bill that I think might motivate the private sector to invest more in a carbon-free future than they are investing at this time? Unfortunately, when I look at the bill, my response to that question, the question that obsesses me, is no. So I want to go back and ask why it is no.
The reason it's no is because industry saw the Government of Canada commit to stabilize emissions at 1990 levels by 2000, and we did that in 1992. Interestingly enough, very shortly after the Government of Canada made that commitment, the Government of Canada actually slashed funding for the EnerGuide program, a program initiated previously under Brian Mulroney's Green Plan. Then in 1997 we committed to cut emissions to 6% below 1990 levels over the 2008 through 2012 period, and industry waited for a long time to learn how government was going to convert that commitment to industry obligations. In 2005 the government gazetted an industrial regulation that required us to cap our emission intensity facilities at 13.5% below 2004 levels by the end of 2012, and that gazetted regulatory proposal created an unlimited supply of emission rights to new facilities, as long as the facilities met a new source standard called a BARCT standard. Then three years later, in 2007, we're looking at the prospect of a regulation that would require facilities to reduce emission intensity by 16% below 2006 levels by 2010, with restrictions and a reduction level applying to new facilities.
When you're in a private sector and you're looking at that history, and now you add the prospect of yet another emission target to the list, it doesn't get money to flow. I'm wondering if I could maybe ask the committee to look back and ask, are there two or three bits of infrastructure of information that you, the committee, can put in place, which information, once in place, helps us move forward faster at least this time? On the first page of my submission I'm asking myself this question, whether it's for this bill or any other bill if and when government produces a plan for compliance with the law. Have we agreed on some standard measures against which we're evaluating the plan? So every year when there's a budget, when we're trying to form our opinions about what the budget means to us, we can read clearly what the current and future gross domestic product forecasts are that the Minister of Finance is using. We may or may not agree with those forecasts, but we know the context in which the plans are being built, and we can evaluate them and what they mean for our business planning purposes.
On my front page I'm showing you that over the last year, at least, the four--actually more than four--leading assessments of plans that the government has been producing have been published, and they use a very wide range among them of business-as-usual emission forecasts. If we're in business, we can't compare the evaluations that are before us because the business-as-usual forecast is an eternally moving target.
For us to move forward, I wonder if this committee might sit down and say that maybe one of the bits of infrastructure we need, however imperfect--and maybe you want three sets of them--is an official Canadian business-as-usual forecast, so that all of us know what the ground is that we're trying to shift.
The second thing I put in front of you, on the second page, is an estimate of what Bill means in terms of burden by province. This is a simple analysis. It basically starts with the National Energy Board reference case forecasts for all of the provinces and the National Energy Board population forecasts. Then it takes the goal of Bill C-377, and given those emission forecasts and those population forecasts, it explains what it means if we apply the obligation to reduce by 25% from 1990 levels to each province across the board, without differentiation.
Every time anybody puts anything forward, I think it's important to start with a page that looks like this.
As a final decision, this is not my recommendation for a business-as-usual forecast to use as our baseline--I understand that no one is proposing undifferentiated targets within Canada--but my view is that if you stare at that table on page 2, I think you see some enormous challenges that can divide the country very.... It frightens me, and it frightens me that we're not looking at these realities. What it says is that with undifferentiated targets, we're asking Canadians to cut emissions somewhere between 27% and 54% per capita by 2020.
To me, it's not the scope of those reduction objectives that's so scary, but the range of 27% to 54%. If you look at where the biggest burden is placed, it's Saskatchewan. If we move forward on further discussions without having this kind of material in front of us and without recognizing that we haven't had a plan in the last 15 years of trying because we're not openly looking at regional implications, when we try to get civil servants to do it without guidance from Parliament, it can't be done.
This is big; this is far bigger than equalization or anything else.
I'm running out of time, but there are two other bits of infrastructure that need to be worked on, regardless of what target you're thinking about; you don't have to have agreement on the target to work on these two bits of infrastructure.
One is answering in your own minds the question of what price is too high. Yes, there's a lot of solar being developed in Germany, and that's great, but Germany guarantees solar power providers a minimum of 10 years at $550 a megawatt as the price paid for that solar. That's $550 a megawatt compared to, say, $5 a megawatt, which is the normal market price in Ontario right now.
It's not my intention to express the opinion that $550 is too much. My question is, what's too much, as far as Canadian politicians are concerned, or is there no limit to the price that should be paid? That's a reasonable answer, but we need to know; we need to hear people tell us what's too much or whether it can be too much.
Good afternoon, and thank you for having me again.
I'd like to start by congratulating Mr. Layton for his leadership and his vision in introducing this bill. To my knowledge, it's the first attempt to ensure that Canada is legally required to do its fair share toward the prevention of dangerous climate change, which is the ultimate objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which has been ratified by almost every country in the world.
A little over two years ago, the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation decided we needed to understand the greenhouse gas emission reductions Canada would have to achieve to play a full part in meeting the UN framework convention's objective. The result was our report entitled The Case for Deep Reductions: Canada’s Role in Preventing Dangerous Climate Change, of which you should have copies.
Our analysis in that report followed a logical sequence of questions: Number one, based on scientists' projections of global impact, how much warming would be dangerous? Number two, to avert that amount of warming, at what level would atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases need to be stabilized? Number three, to stabilize concentrations of gases at that level, by how much would global emissions need to be reduced? And number four, to reduce global emissions by that amount, by how much would industrialized countries' emissions need to be cut?
To address the first of these questions, it was already widely accepted two years ago that to have sufficient confidence in avoiding catastrophic impacts, the world must strive to keep average global warming within two degrees Celsius relative to the pre-industrial level, and today, support for a two-degree Celsius global warming limit is significantly broader. According to the recent Bali Climate Declaration by Scientists, the two-degree limit must be the prime goal of the next global climate treaty. This declaration is signed by distinguished Canadian climate scientists, including Corinne Le Quéré, Richard Peltier, and Andrew Weaver.
I don't have time to take you through each of the stages of the analysis in the case for deep reductions, but our final conclusion was that Canada needs to cut its greenhouse gas pollution by 25% below the 1990 level by 2020 and by 80% below the 1990 level by 2050. These are the same targets Mr. Layton has included in Bill .
This year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, confirmed these targets are in line with science. The IPCC's fourth assessment report showed us that to have a reasonable chance of avoiding two degrees of global warming, industrialized countries need to reduce their emissions by 25% to 40% below the 1990 level by 2020 and by 80% to 95% below the same level by 2050. These numbers are shown in table 1 of the United Nations technical paper, of which you should also have copies. Please note the targets in Bill are at the low end of the IPCC's ranges; in other words, they're conservative targets.
Can Canada reduce its emissions by 80% below the 1990 level by 2050? Achieving that target while maintaining normal levels of economic activity implies moving to a nearly emissions-free energy system. There is every reason to believe this is achievable if Canada implements strong policies that encourage maximum use of low-impact renewable energy, complemented where necessary and appropriate by higher-risk technology such as carbon capture and storage. The case for deep reductions outlines a range of evidence why deep emission cuts by 2050 are feasible from the perspectives of technology, cost, and competitiveness. Table 1 of the UN technical paper citing the IPCC shows that in the scenarios compatible with limiting global warming to two degrees, global GDP could be up to 5.5% smaller in 2050 than in a scenario in which emissions are not controlled. In other words, about two years of GDP growth might be lost in half a century. That's a small effect, and it's one that could disappear altogether as a result of technological innovation.
In this case, I do not believe that the targets in this bill can be justifiably weakened on the basis of anticipated financial costs of making emission reductions. The expected global costs of climate impacts, beyond two degrees of warming—and these are costs to people, for economies and for ecosystems—are simply too great. I would suggest that a country with natural, financial, and intellectual resources as abundant as Canada's must simply decide that this is a task that must be achieved and get to work.
Do we need to set these targets in law and require that measures be taken to achieve them? Yes, we do, because there have been and continue to be too many examples of federal governments adopting greenhouse gas targets and then not doing what is necessary to meet them.
Canada would not be alone with the approach proposed by . It is quite similar to that of the U.K. government's recently published climate change bill.
Some might say that Canada should not take on the science-based targets in until all other major emitting countries do so. I would answer that this is not a responsible attitude, for two reasons. First, Canadians want to show leadership and ambition in solving this problem. The government has also expressed its desire to be a leader on this issue. Second, we have the resources to do this.
Countries such as France, Germany, Norway, and the U.K. have already adopted targets similar to those in this bill because it's the right thing to do and because they believe they can achieve them.
Others might argue that Canada has special circumstances that should result in our taking on less stringent targets. I suggest that they should specify which countries should have to do more to compensate for Canada's doing less. I would also remind you that the targets in this bill are already at the lower limits of what the IPCC says industrialized countries must achieve for the world to have a chance of avoiding two degrees of global warming.
To wrap up, this is not a political bill, in my view. It's a bill that's about basing policy on science and ensuring that Canada does not transfer our responsibilities to other countries. I see no reason why it should not be supported by all parties.
I was going to say that I recognize a lot of these overheads from Bill and was wondering how they in fact apply to the specificity of Bill . Thank you for clarifying that.
Can I ask both of you to comment where Mr. Bramley left off?
Mr. Bramley, earlier the parliamentary secretary raised questions about you and about whether your fingerprints were all over this bill, as he implied they were all over Bill . I think he's trying to draw a connection; I'm not sure whether he's trying to make a more pointed statement about it. But it's curious that it falls hard on the heels of the tongue-lashing that environmental NGOs received yesterday from the minister in a very public way about their being responsible for Canada's situation today.
I'd like to ask you both, though, about the comments Mr. Bramley made about science.
Mr. Bramley, you said your Case for Deep Reductions report and Bill were aligned with science, that this was a science-based approach.
Can you help us both, please, understand, in the wake of the comments made by Professor Weaver two weeks ago about the government not relying on the science—in fact, to quote him, he said he thought the government was drawing its scientific inspiration from an Ouija board.... The IPCC president said yesterday in Bali that the government is not following science, certainly not informing its negotiating position with science.
Can both of you help us understand, in the case of Bill , and in the case of your overheads, Ms. Donnelly, and of your report, Mr. Bramley, is the government's climate change plan, which is the foundation we're standing upon in Bali today—the “Turning the Corner” plan—in fact informed with science, and is it based on the consensual science that now exists around the world?
Well, I won't comment further on the different criticisms there have been of Canada. I think you've all seen that in the media.
One way the government could approach this is to say that the targets and policies we've advanced to now are a starting point. They're what we're willing to do unilaterally, whatever happens. The government, , could announce right here in Bali that he's willing to substantially strengthen Canada's targets, to bring them closer to the science, and to strengthen, particularly, the policies to support those targets, in the context of a Canadian contribution to the global cooperation, going forward over the next two years, over the course of the negotiations in Bali.
Again, Minister Baird has made some statements coming into Bali and while he's been here that have sounded very hardline. There have been statements about absolute binding reductions by countries with per capita emissions and wealth five to ten times lower than that of Canada.
Also, he issued a news release a couple of days ago saying he accepted the principle of common but differentiated targets. Again, I think there's an opening there for to clarify that in fact he does not envisage China or India, for example, taking on the same type of target as Canada will in the immediate post-2012 period. Instead, we do need to see quantified actions, new commitments that significantly reduce the emissions of those countries, relative to business as usual, in the immediate period following 2012. Perhaps one day those countries will be in a position where it's fair to take on a hard cap.
I think the minister has an opportunity to go some considerable way to repairing the damage that's been done to Canada's reputation here.