I call the meeting to order.
We were supposed to meet for four hours. We will continue until 8 p.m, if we have permission to do so, but we cannot go past 8 p.m. So we will not be having a four-hour meeting, but it will be close.
In case you are not aware, Mr. Longfield had some shortness of breath and was not very well at the end of last week. He went to the hospital and stayed there all weekend. He had a coronary stent put in and everything is going well. He was even able to vote earlier. It seems that he will be back at work on Friday. He will not be joining us today. Han Dong will be replacing him.
Welcome, Mr. Dong.
We also have with us, from the Department of the Environment, John Moffet, Assistant Deputy Minister, Environmental Protection Branch, whom we know very well, and Douglas Nevison, Assistant Deputy Minister, Climate Change Branch.
I would like to provide members of the committee with some instructions and a few comments on how the committee will proceed with the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill. As the name indicates, this is an examination of all the clauses in the order in which they appear in the bill. I will call each clause successively, and each clause is subject to debate and a vote.
If there are amendments to the clause in question, I will recognize the member proposing that amendment, who may then explain the amendment. The amendment will then be open for debate. When no further members wish to intervene, the amendment will be voted on. Amendments will be considered in the order in which they appear in the bill or in the package each member received from the clerk. Members should note that amendments must be submitted in writing, as was done, to the clerk of the committee. I'm told that you can actually submit an amendment from the floor.
I'll go slowly to allow members to follow the proceedings properly. Amendments have been given an alphanumeric number. There's no need for a seconder to move an amendment. Once an amendment is moved, unanimous consent is required to withdraw it.
Members are permitted to move subamendments, but they must be submitted in writing to the clerk, who will then distribute them. These subamendments do not require the approval of the mover of the amendment. Only one subamendment may be considered at a time, and that subamendment cannot be amended.
Once every clause has been voted on, the committee will vote on the title and the bill itself, and then the committee will have to order the chair to report the bill to the House.
That's essentially how we proceed. Since there are a few amendments to clause 2, which is an interpretation clause, I suggest we postpone the study of clause 2 until the end. This allows us to see which amendments are adopted that could have an impact on the definitions that are in clause 2.
As a reminder, the interpretation clause of a bill is not the place to propose a substantive amendment to a bill, unless other amendments have been adopted that would warrant amendments to the interpretation clause.
Mr. Chair, I have received some feedback, and I think it's important for the committee, as a group, to listen to that feedback. It is my understanding that a large majority of the briefs that were submitted, 62 of 70 briefs, were filed with us yesterday. That was obviously after the cut-off of last Friday for amendments. At least that's the feedback that I've heard.
I just wanted to say that the feedback further said that it almost felt like the committee was not serious in saying, “Please send us your thoughts. If you can't appear as a witness, please, we want to hear from you.” The person who contacted me said that they felt that the committee was rushing things and was not legitimately sincere in the process.
I know some might point out that my party is opposed to Bill. That may be true. You can hold me to account for that. My voters will—certainly some of those who feel strongly about it.
Mr. Chair, what I'm talking about here is the process itself. When people talk about cynicism and whatnot, I would simply point out that we raised these concerns very early in the process, when the committee chose to accelerate its study. In that compression, it seems that we've squeezed some people, in their minds, out of the process completely.
I would point this out, not to point the finger and wag it at people, but simply to say that we need to do better next time, Mr. Chair. I would ask all committee members to think about that feedback. Maybe you've heard directly from them, but having the majority of those briefs submitted so late in the process really irked many people, because it felt like we were never serious about listening to them in the first place.
I've raised that in terms of process. We can have debate over the product of this bill, but I think it's important that there's a trust that's given to us and that we honour that public process. Unfortunately, we did not pass that bar.
Yes, and first I need to put on the record a small reminder to the committee. I'm here because you passed a motion, a motion to which I objected. An identical motion was passed in every committee, so I am coerced to be here. You have probably no personal knowledge of this, because it's not personal to any one of you individually, but this process is one that reduces the rights that I would otherwise have to present amendments at report stage—substantive amendments to which I could speak at length.
The process we are now in is novel. It was created when Stephen Harper was prime minister. It was to punish me for the 432 amendments I brought forward to try to get changes to the omnibus budget, Bill . We won't get into details, because there isn't time, but surprisingly, the same process continues under the Liberals, to deprive members of smaller parties of rights we would otherwise have.
I need to put that on the record, because no doubt at some point, as I speak to my 37 amendments, you may wish I wasn't here, but I am here because you have created a situation that coerces me to be here, and my amendments are deemed to be put forward because I don't have the right to put them forward myself and I don't have the right to vote on them.
I must speak to them briefly, but I will say that I sent to the clerk of the committee and to committee members a list of witnesses who could have aided this committee, including the Minister for Climate Change from New Zealand, the Hon. James Shaw, who just brought forward a climate accountability act in New Zealand; and the head of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University's law school.
There was some decision made behind closed doors by other members of this committee to move so quickly that those witnesses could not be heard. There were no indigenous witnesses live before committee, no young people live before committee, and no presentations by climate scientists on the reasons for urgency.
I turn quickly to my amendment here. By the way, Mr. Chair, I think that when the Government of Canada under Stephen Harper looked at the first initial of my party name in English, it decided, “Oh, we can't have a Green G when we have a Government G,” so that's why it is “PV” for Parti vert.
This amendment is to correct a scientific inaccuracy that is embedded in this legislation. It is embedded in the title of the legislation. It is embedded in the preamble. In other words, it cherry-picks the science from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in order to focus on net zero by 2050, without focusing on the reality that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that to hold to global average temperature increases to 1.5°C—which is the goal of the Paris Agreement—and as far below 2°C as possible, the window on that will close well before 2030.
Again, I'll probably have another opportunity to explain this, but when we say that if we have 1.5°C that will mean we're at net zero by 2050, that's true. It is not scientifically accurate to say that if we can get to net zero by 2050 we will have 1.5°C secured. The IPCC has been very clear that without dramatic reductions immediately, in this decade, the window on 1.5°C will close, and close forever, before we get past 2030.
That's why the purpose of the act, to be consistent with the Paris Agreement, must include the notions of urgency and immediate and ambitious action. That's the purpose of the amendment I suggest for line 13. It would ensure that when we talk about the targets, we talk about near-term targets, not only the one for 2050. I hope this amendment will meet with the approval of the majority of members of this committee.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Yes. Thank you. Again, under the terms of the committee's motion, I'm invited to speak to my amendment.
This one is to deal with and basically to remind members of the expert evidence we had from West Coast Environmental Law and their staff counsel, Andrew Gage. Unlike some of my other amendments, I scrambled to get this one ready after hearing his evidence.
Of course, when we talk about “net zero”, this is a different concept from the one Madame Michaud brought forward—oh, I'm not even on any channel for interpretation. I'm sorry. Madame Michaud mentioned that “as quickly as possible” was the goal of her amendment that was just defeated.
This one speaks to a different issue: not the timeliness, but the concept of absolute versus net. I note that she too will use the word “absolute” at different points, but the absolute greenhouse gas emissions are different from net, with net meaning where you end up once you've had all the sequestration activity of green leafy things, or maybe there's some new technology that sucks carbon out of the air. Net zero doesn't imply absolute zero.
The amendment I've brought forward here comes from West Coast Environmental Law and their suggestion that net zero be coupled with absolute greenhouse gas emission reductions of at least 90% below 2005 levels over the same period, such that we, for instance, don't buy large amounts of credits from other countries as opposed to doing the work at home to reduce our emissions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think this discussion shows the benefit, in hindsight, of having a longer time for the committee members to hear different witnesses.
At this point, I want to quote Andrew Gage, who is an expert in climate law. He is a lawyer, and he understands legislation. Here's what he points out. This is, again, one of his amendments, which I've put forward from West Coast Environmental Law, and it says that the minister may set additional targets. As opposed to the one that was mandatory last time, I hope this one will meet with the approval of the legislative clerk and advisers and that this proposed added wording is within the scope:
The Minister may set additional targets with respect to absolute greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
I just want to quote Andrew Gage on this point in terms of accountability. He says:
Accountability, in both the climate and financial realms, can...be undermined through weak rules that allow for accounting tricks that create the appearance of responsibility. Legislation should require efforts to meet these targets to maximize absolute reductions as opposed to relying on less certain measures like offsets and unproven technologies.
There's the difference between what's absolute and what's net. Certainly, net zero by 2050 is a fine target, as long as there are absolute reductions all along the way that meet the only pathway the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified that actually allows us to hold to a hospitable climate and a survivable planet, which is to say that we need steep reductions sooner rather than later in order to hold to 1.5°C.
That threshold for it being the point of no return, when we lose 1.5°C forever, is actually 2030. Absolute emission reduction targets may be required, and the minister would be in a position, with this amendment, to make such decisions and to make such determinations. It's not inconsistent at all, but completely consistent with the goals of this act.
The Conservatives have reviewed this. We won't be supporting it. We think it's important for all parties, particularly given that COP26 will include what I'm sure will be a robust discussion around the use of non-anthropogenic storage, sequestration, nature-based climate solutions and so on. Even the government, I'm sure, would probably take some issue...as it's put out some regulatory guidance as to what entails an offset—for example, the planting of trees that won't be cut down for a hundred years.
I note that there are some industry stakeholders who believe their sequestration activities are also valid. I grant that there are some people who would like to see a greater amount of those natural offsets included, and I can see where some would be opposed to it. Again, though, if we are going to expect significant capital investments, I think government and Parliament should be giving some specific guidance as well as some regulatory certainty as to what the rules of the game are. I think it's perfectly legitimate, though, to question those rules or ask for them to be tighter.
Mr. Chair, we will not be supporting this amendment. Every Liberal target that has been put forward has never been met. I think this would just create more regulatory uncertainty, as well as more cynicism if the target wasn't attained.
I appreciate the members of the committee for their consideration of CPC-1. Obviously the goal of tackling climate change requires a whole-of-government response, which means buy-in from the Governor in Council, or to those who may be unaware of the term “Governor in Council”, the cabinet, as it makes decisions. The minister would set a national greenhouse gas target and submit that to the Governor in Council. The Governor in Council would debate it.
Now, we've heard today that there are some who would like to see more action, some who may want to see the same, and some who may even just want a change in direction because technology is constantly changing. Obviously this is a great country, and provinces and their governments change. Perhaps new information comes up. We think that by approaching it from a Governor in Council point of view, with the cabinet itself endorsing any change, this will be a stronger piece of legislation. There will be further buy-in from different departments, given that the respective cabinet ministers would have been involved in ratifying that decision.
I would ask all members if they believe that if there is an informed target that is set and given to cabinet—so that cabinet then deliberates, comes to a conclusion and rallies behind that—then we would have a much better bill.
Perhaps there might be some further debate where I might need to jump in to clarify it, but the idea, Mr. Chair, on this one, is again that you have a whole-of-government response to deal with these issues.
There have been a number of consistent points raised by most of the witnesses from whom we've heard, from those who have submitted written briefs, and in public discussion of the weakness of the bill. The first thing, of course, is that the first milestone year should be 2025, not 2030.
I'm just going to explain the thinking process behind putting forward three amendments with declining ambition. As the act is constructed, if we were to simply put in a milestone year at 2025 without embedding what that target would be, we would be creating a very, very steep hill to climb for the process of consultation that's embedded in the act. I think that's what created the impression for many within the government that somehow or other we couldn't actually have a milestone year before 2030, although the U.K. did immediately on passing their bill in 2008; their first milestone year was 2013. It was the same with New Zealand, who just passed their act, as I mentioned, in 2020. Their first milestone year is 2025. They've chosen a different route, with an expert scientific group to tell them what the target would be in five years' time; the milestone years.
Actually, the Liberal platform led me to believe that this was what we would see—a first milestone year in 2025, and subsequent ones every five years thereafter. That's what is embedded in the COP21 decision document, that we would upgrade. Countries were certainly encouraged to improve their targets, their nationally determined contributions, in 2020 and, in the language of the COP21 decision document, every five years thereafter.
In light of the structure of the whole act to make it somewhat process-heavy to deliver a new target for a first milestone year in 2025, I want to suggest in these amendments, starting with PV-6, Green Party amendment 6, that the target be embedded in the legislation. There's even more support for this now than there was at first reading, because now we have the government accepting, as I understand it, that the target for 2030 is to be embedded in the legislation. The target for 2025 being embedded in the legislation is certainly a help.
I want to stress this point to members of the committee. We've already accepted, in article 14 of the Paris Agreement, an obligation for a global progress report, called a global stock-take, in 2023. If we had a 2025 milestone year, as this amendment proposes, we would then be triggering the two years in advance. We'd have a progress report ready. That would fall in 2023, and then every five years thereafter we would be right in sync with what we've agreed to do under the Paris Agreement, with global stock-taking at five-year increments, starting in 2023.
Again, the first one of these starts with the notion that we would embed in legislation right now that by 2025 we would accept a target of 25% reductions below 2005 levels to be achieved by 2025. That's steep, because we now know that the government is committing to somewhere between 40% and 45% below 2005 levels in 2030, but as a first attempt....
I'll speak to all three at once, Mr. Chair, just to avoid repetition.
In my first amendment, I propose that we do the right thing. The United States is aiming for 50% reductions below 2005 by 2030. Let's do a mid-decade checkpoint with teeth. It's more than what the NDP is proposing. It's not just a progress report, but an actual milestone year for 2025, at 25% reductions.
Feeling that there should be some room for flexibility here on what that target should be, my second amendment in this series, GP-7, says, okay, let's make it half of what you aim to do by 2030. The 's improvement in our target is certainly welcome. It's not enough to meet the IPCC science, but it's far better to say that by 2030 we'll be 40% to 45% below 2005 levels.
Well, if we have any hope of getting there—40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030—surely we should be prepared to say that our first milestone is 2025, and let's see if we've gotten to 20% below 2005 levels by 2025.
That's the kind of heavy lifting we're going to need to do to meet the demands of this crisis. It's an emergency. In COVID, we didn't say to Theresa Tam, “I know you're telling us that the science says to stand six feet apart, but we'll give you three feet and that should be good for you—that's our political interpretation of the science.”
No. We actually have to adhere to the science, and we should be going much steeper than 40% to 45% below 2005 levels if we're serious about holding to 1.5°C. A 20% milestone, a 20% reduction against 2005 by 2025, is the second amendment.
If you want to go easy and think, “Let's start slow and let's just make sure we can hold our feet to the fire; let's see if this act is working and see if we're reducing emissions,” there is a third amendment. So far, it's not just that we haven't ever met a target in Canada. It's that we have gone directionally in the wrong direction against every target we've set. That's the more serious problem, so the third amendment calls for 15% below 2005 levels by 2025.
These three amendments, any one of them, will strengthen this act enormously. The best one, of course, is to go to 25% below 2005 levels, with a milestone year in 2025. Again, this will be consistent with commitments we've already made for a global stock-take in 2023 that will alert us as to whether we're on the right track in 2023 to hold to our targets or not. The milestone year brings with it accountability. It brings with it a review two years in advance. It brings with it the possibility of the minister's saying, “Okay, what we're doing isn't working, so let's get on it.”
I urge this committee to consider any one of these three amendments—PV-6, PV-7 or PV-8—but clearly, PV-6 is the one that your children would vote for if they were around this table.
I certainly want to reply to MP May's suggestion here.
I believe that there is a huge value in accountability, but the fact remains that this number has been picked, and again, we can agree...is the number too high or too low? We can have discussions over that. Ultimately, for the government, if we simply give it a target that is not within reason and cannot be attained, then I think we are setting ourselves up for more failure and more cynicism.
I'd much rather have it so the government can, through, as I said earlier, a whole-of-government approach—which may not be possible given that one of our amendments was rejected—discuss with the expert panel and with Canadians and post the target, and then be held accountable because it's something they did in discussion with so many.
I think that for us to be picking a number and then saying “here's the number” outside of what has been committed to.... For example, Mr. Chair, you were there when Mr. Harper worked with his provincial counterparts and asked for their input as to what targets should be taken to the Paris accord. What was taken to Paris, sir, was the result of government discussions between 10 provinces, three territories and the federal government to come up with a national target. That is what was taken there. For us to simply put in our own best guess as to how things will merit that, I don't believe would be helpful.
That being said, once the government announces it, it should work a hundred per cent towards those targets—something we just have not seen from this government yet.
While I'm not going to be supporting this, I hope my colleague Ms. May understands that I think it's just a disagreement about the number itself, and not that the government should not be taking action to work with industry, to work with other governments, to work with different stakeholders and to work with first nations on an achievable number that Canadians can count on. Then, as parliamentarians, we can hold them accountable for it.
I appreciate the opportunity to put this forward, to have it debated and to see where other individuals on this committee are coming from. Similar to what I said earlier, climate change is a very real phenomenon, one that requires everyone to do their part, from the individual to their community to their province, all the way up to the federal government, and everything in between. This is one of the reasons we believe the Governor in Council or cabinet should ratify before these targets go out, so that they are subject to....
As we know, Mr. Chair, cabinets are not all equal, but one thing I think every Canadian government, from the founding of this country on, has strived to do is make sure there is a wide variety of voices, whether that be regional or other criteria. That's why we think there is more buy-in when there is a whole-of-government approach. When the Governor in Council or cabinet ratifies something, it is meaningful. Everyone around that table has their hand in it and will do their part to work towards it.
Mr. Chair, beyond that, again, this is something that my leader has talked about—the need for action and the need to have individuals around the table who are informed and working together. That's something we don't always see, and it's something I think Canadians would like to see more of.
I would ask all members on the committee to consider this and to vote in favour.
With pleasure. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With this amendment, we are proposing the Bloc Québécois' new target. This is the proposal we want to make to the government. As I said a little earlier, we want 1990, not 2005, to be used as the reference year. That is what the 27 countries of the European Union are doing, and so is Quebec.
We feel that the government's recent announcement of a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030 is not ambitious enough. It is actually misleading, given that 2005 is being used as the reference year, rather than 1990.
Let me be specific: the European Union is targeting a GHG emissions reduction of 55% below 1990 levels. In our view, 1990 must be used as the reference year in this legislation. Canada's target must be at least as ambitious as Quebec's, which aims for a reduction of 37.5% of GHG emissions below 1990 levels.
I have just a question and then a comment for the member. Perhaps she might want to answer the question first, just because I want to understand this.
First of all, I raised earlier the challenge that many are having in terms of regulatory certainty, the ongoing dance, it seems, in which governments keep changing and keep moving the goalposts, and how difficult that can be, particularly for industry. Obviously there's more to Canadian society than industry, but it is an important part, because it employs so many. As I mentioned earlier, the process to Paris was long and arduous, and the Province of Quebec, like every other province, presented its goals and what it felt was doable.
Has the member sought the advice of the Government of Quebec in regard to setting this goal that she's wanting us to embed in legislation?
Yes, I want to answer the question.
In my opinion, the target is clearly attainable if Canada stops contributing to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. It does so by continuing to subsidize the most polluting industries, like the oil and gas industries.
To respond to Mr. Bachrach's comment, I mean that the very essence of this legislation is to include a greenhouse gas reduction target for 2030, which is our principle target. The government has committed to include its target in the legislation. As I glance over the amendments that are coming, I gather that they are not going to do so. They are not keeping their word, unfortunately.
I feel that, for a country like Canada to have decent climate legislation, we need to include a decent, attainable target in this bill. That is why I feel that it's perfectly feasible to include the target in the act.
I just want to mention that, in response to a question I asked the in the House of Commons, he replied that the government was going to include its new target in the legislation. When this committee met last week, in response to a question I asked the , he replied that the government would include its new target in the legislation. I see that the government is not doing that.
Today the government refused when the Bloc Québécois extended a hand to include a target in the legislation using a 1990 base year. We have taken note of that. We have also noted that the NDP has said that there's no point including a target in this legislation. Given that Canada has to provide its nationally determined contribution, NDC, the amendment carries no added value. I believe this is a way the government has found to not include its own target in its own legislation, and that is distressing.
I wanted to get that on the record for this committee. All it does is replace a clause in which the government was going to set an unknown target within six months of the law going into effect with a clause stating that the government will set a target by November 2021, regardless of what the target is.
I find it extremely distressing that the government is not keeping its word. They committed to it twice in public. This is the way they have found to get out of it.
Again, Mr. Chair, I would simply say that I think most people would consider that if we're looking at net zero as being a fruitful goal, there would be step-by-step processes, whether they be through technology or through some sort of regulatory tool, that would encourage those emissions to move on a downward slope. Quite honestly, going back to my earlier discussion, Madam Michaud mentioned the desire to have specific targets put into place here. That is one method of certainty, but I would simply suggest that instead of picking one particular target, there does seem to be, in this particular motion, more room given for the government to keep moving the goalposts.
For example, we've seen this minister under [Technical difficulty—Editor] three different versions of the carbon tax. Originally, under the previous Minister of the Environment, , it was, no, no, we're not going to be raising our carbon tax past 2019. It was going to stay at the $50 level that was agreed to by all provinces. Well, it was not all provinces, as one province opposed it from the beginning and then others dropped out of the program. Then there was a switch in the announcement of last year, a switch again in the budget, and then a switch again. Our targets and our approach on carbon pricing are sure sending shock waves of uncertainty.
We won't be supporting this amendment, but we agree that there should be some solid deliberation. Everyone should know what those targets are, instead of there being a constantly moving target. That seems to be what this government continually does, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's to please some sort of electoral vote that the Liberals are seeking, rather than trying to get everyone to work together toward some common goals.
Mr. Chair, I hope you're not shocked, but Conservatives will not be supporting this one. Quite honestly, we think a lot of this is just prescriptive and gives the government more room to move around.
Yes, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Just parenthetically, because I didn't speak to the others, Mr. Saini's amendment, by the way, is consistent with the Paris Agreement, which already requires that any time we put forward a new target, it ratchets up from the previous one. I'm certainly happy to see it in the act, but I wanted to note that the Paris Agreement already does that.
On changing targets and certainty and uncertainty, I just reflect on our history. When Stephen Harper was prime minister, he changed our target in 2006, in 2009 and in 2015. None of those occasions involved any parliamentary input or public consultation. Also, it was Canada's unique contribution to undermining the comparability of different targets that Canada, in 2006, stopped using 1990 and interjected 2006 and then 2005, undermining the entire scheme of what was under development since I had started working on the negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1990. It was the intention that we would always use a 1990 base year. I've heard that come up a few times, so I just throw that out there.
I'm speaking briefly to this one because I'm so pleased to see that there is G-4, a government amendment. It will achieve the same thing that was recommended by West Coast Environmental Law and many other environmental law groups that appeared before the committee, which was to say that if we're looking at immediate ambitions, net-zero legislation should provide enough certainty and clarity regarding our mid- and long-term targets that we plan ahead, and planning ahead would be to set greenhouse gas emissions targets at least 10 years beforehand. That's what PV-9 achieves.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I think legitimately there's some confusion around the table.
My assumption in watching all of my colleagues vote against a motion that is identical to the one that the NDP and Liberals intended to vote for.... Obviously a certain amount of conversation happened to which I have not been privy since I'm not a member of the committee, but it seems clear to me that the government's intention, with enough support from people around the table, is to change clause 7 to make it at least 10 years before, and I think there was confusion as they voted down my amendment which was identical. I was getting very concerned because I think the intention here is to pass amendment G-4.
G-4 hasn't come to a vote yet, and I think we should ask the clerks to reconsider whether the confusion around my amendment.... It's certainly not my intention, at all, ever, to get the Green Party logo on an amendment. I don't care, but the point of this motion and the point of the effort of the committee is to improve the bill. G-4, like PV-9, will improve the bill.
I have a few things.
Regardless of whether or not you had said it, as parliamentarians, we all understand the need to follow parliamentary procedure. It's very easy at committee for anyone to assert their rights, but when they do not, when they choose not—in this case, the committee chose clearly, in majority, to vote against the previous one.
We have had occasions—I know I have—whether they be at this committee or in other committees, where exactly the same thing has happened. The idea is to stop vexatious, dog-chasing-its-own-tail arguments, in which someone says, “Well, you don't like nine years? Great, we'll put forward eight years and 364 days. Oh, you don't like that? Well, we'll do nine years and one day.” That eats up committee time.
The committee clearly made a decision. All of us have our rights. We have a right to raise our concerns if we didn't use it, but it's on us; it's not on you as the chair.
My suggestion would be, Mr. Chair, that we move along. Again, members can assert their rights in the House of Commons. If a majority of the House of Commons chooses to do that, then that's a conversation members can make known. There can be debate around that, but, Mr. Chair, let's work well.
I have to say that I've served on some committees in which we did not strike off well. This committee, even though the issues can be very tough and divisive, has been very productive, and we've directed ideas and policies. We've gotten political around ideas but not around personalities.
Please, Mr. Chair, I would implore members to take this as a learning experience and to move forward, assert their rights in the House of Commons and to work with other members to correct what they think is wrong but not to subject the committee, because it cuts both ways. If this happens again in the future, the shoe might be on the other foot, and I might want to move a motion to get around the spirit of a previous vote. I hope that each one of you would remind me and say that there's a reason we have these rules. Partly it's to protect the process from, again, becoming a dog-chasing-its-own-tail scenario, Mr. Chair, in which it is more vexatious and spinning around and around.
Thank you, Mr. Bachrach.
I also wanted to point out that, before the break, Mr. Bachrach was able to speak while I was waiting for my turn.
First, I have to say that I'm surprised at the vote on PV-9, given that it says the same thing. They didn't want to vote on the Green Party one, but they were willing to vote on the government one. Is it for ideological reasons? I wonder.
If you read the amendment carefully, you see that it proposes that the Minister set the national target at least 10 years before the beginning of the milestone year. However, in the definitions on page 2, we see that the milestone year is 2030. In other words, since it says that this must be done 10 years before the beginning of the milestone year, it should have been voted on in 2020. However, it is now 2021. It doesn't make sense.
Earlier, you voted against BQ-9, when the solution was there. They are proposing 2025, but BQ-9 says “subsequent to that of 2025”, because if it says it has to be done at least five years before the beginning of the milestone year, it has to be after 2025.
As things currently stand, it doesn't make sense. PV-9 and G-4 did not make sense. Targets would have had to be set in 2020. We want to see a reference in the definitions to a milestone year in 2025. Otherwise, the way things are going, nothing will happen until 2025.
We're going to have the same amount of work, but I would just say, Mr. Chair, that this cuts both ways and confuses things. I'm not in opposition of democratic principles, but I believe that if you have some, you have to maintain them and show respect for all sides. The rules must be maintained.
Mr. Bachrach might find that it's just inconvenient, but if the dog eats your homework and you can simply ask to have that revised and do a do-over.... I guess that's something that can be done, but I don't believe this is the proper process, Mr. Chair.
I believe that if Liberal members and the NDP had wanted to see 10 years, they would have supported Elizabeth May's motion on this. They would simply have said, “Hey, let's get it in the bill. Who cares who gets the credit?” I don't think Ms. May would have substantially run around saying, “Look at me. Look at me. Look at what I did.” I think she would understand quite clearly that the committee decided to make an amendment to the bill regardless of how my party or others voted.
Mr. Chair, I have to say that I'm deeply disappointed in today's process. I will try to get over it. Believe me, I will not be going home and brooding over this, but I think that members, by being cute.... Look, three lefts may make a right, but it doesn't mean that it is the right thing to do. I would say instead, next time, vote for the first amendment that supports what you think is important for the bill, rather than going along partisan lines.
Thank you very much, Chair.
I'm introducing this motion to add new subclause 7(5). It's complementary to the one that requires targets to be set, the one we just passed that requires targets to be set 10 years in advance or, now, 10 years and a day in advance.
It requires the minister of the environment to publish, within a year of setting the target for the 2035, 2040 or 2045 years, a high-level description of the key emissions reduction measures to achieve that target, as well as the latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions. This will, for example, ensure that the target set for 2035 in 2025 is accompanied by a high-level description of the measures and projections to reach the 2035 target.
Basically, this would ensure that future governments not only set targets in advance but publish plans so that they can be held accountable for achieving those targets.
We will call the vote on amendment G-5.
(Amendment agreed to: yeas 7; nays 4)
The Chair: Now we will go to clause 7 as amended.
(Clause 7 as amended agreed to: yeas 6; nays 5 [See Minutes of Proceedings])
(On clause 8)
I just noticed that Mr. Drouin has joined us.
Mr. Drouin, Welcome to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.
We will proceed with clause 8 and amendment CPC-4, introduced by the Conservatives. I would like to point out that if CPC-4 passes, we won't be able to consider PV-10 and G-6 because they seek to amend the same line as CPC-4 does.
I believe Mr. Albas will be introducing CPC-4.
Mr. Albas, you have the floor.
With all due respect to all members, I'm going to repeat again that this is an issue unlike others. If it's like anything, it's more like COVID: the science has to dictate our actions. The political targets aren't political. Failure is not an option. If we fail to achieve what we committed to do, which is to hold on to a livable world, humans.... This is not rhetorical language. It is a scientific reality that this is an existential threat to our civilization. If we get it wrong, there are no do-overs. If we get it wrong, there'll be nobody around to write the history books to tell us how badly we've done here. We actually have to adhere to the science. The notion that in setting a target, the minister must only “take into account” the best scientific information available is an abomination. The minister must base the target on the best scientific information available.
As I said, we didn't say to Theresa Tam, “Sorry, Doc, you want us to stand six feet apart; we'll give you three, and that's more than the Conservatives would give you.” That's not an answer—and sorry for the little jab to my friend Dan and others—but that seems to be the prevailing approach: that that is the bar and we have to do this for the purpose of an election.
No. We have to get this right under the terms of the science, and I can promise you that the atmosphere is not interested in negotiating with humanity. We are not in the driver's seat here, except to control our own actions. We know very clearly that holding to 1.5°C is not easy. It will require much more of us than we currently are contemplating, but to have a target that is taking into account the best scientific information available was found by many of our witnesses.... We didn't have that many, but certainly the climate action groups and specifically West Coast Environmental Law said that to best ensure that targets and plans are based on science and independent expert advice, climate accountability legislation should ensure that “targets and plans are based on the best available scientific information”.
I recognize that there is a line conflict, and this has been noticed by other members of the committee. It is possible at this point, but not later, to amend PV-10 such that it can be very easily folded into G-6, but that would require someone other than me. I'm not allowed to amend my own amendments, but someone else could. It would certainly make sense to say the minister must “base the target on” the best scientific information available” in G-6 and then, for paragraphs 8(b), 8(c) and 8(d), that the minister must “take into account” the other factors. Clearly, our targets must be based on what science demands we do, not just on factors out there that must be taken into account.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I suspect that this will pass and I won't get an opportunity to speak to how we could have made this section more comprehensive. A lot of the witnesses supported that particular position.
I find it interesting that the government has put indigenous knowledge into this section, as it had no conversations prior to tabling this legislation. No indigenous witnesses came here to represent the different groups. Again, the continued symbolism, as opposed to having a real process, is a concern.
Certainly we believe that better decisions would be made in this section if we included understanding the impacts. This doesn't mean you don't move forward with the best scientific advice, but this section will lack an understanding that even your minister said was important. We learned with the plastics ban that there was no assessment of what the impact was going to be.
Part of this addition is okay, but part of it was done without appropriate consultation. It's missing a lot of things that might be important, so we will not be supporting it—or at least I won't be.
I simply want to say we're going to be opposing it as amended. It's unfortunate that the government did not seem to deem it important to include different factors, for example economic factors and some of the social factors. If you can watch any talk show or podcast that talks about these issues, there will be impacts and I think the onus is on the government, when it proposes a new rule or new regime, that there should be some factors in it.
Look, I have nothing against indigenous knowledge, although I will say that when we get to the definition of indigenous knowledge I might ask a few questions around that, but I go back to what MP McLeod said, that there wasn't a lot of work done to consult with first nations. There's not a lot in this particular clause that talks about social impacts, economic impacts or even national unity, and we think it's important that the government, when it's making these decisions, say to the people exactly what it means to them, because there will be some areas of this country that will be more affected than others. That's why Conservatives don't believe that the government or this committee has gotten this right.
I wish we had the ability to have a full debate on this, because our amendment, I think, would have at least allowed for those things to come forward. However, I respect the committee and we'll just leave it there.
It seems like we were both wrong.
This amendment is to ensure that there actually is accountability in the legislation and it speaks to ensuring that the minister is ultimately accountable for coordinating the actions relating to the climate goals. You'll note the important use of the minister “must”. The amendment is:
The Minister must ensure that all measures and strategies within federal authority are implemented to ensure that the national greenhouse gas emissions target for each milestone year is met and that the national greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050 is met.
There are two important elements to this: ensuring that the minister has a responsibility for coordinating the various pieces that are required to achieve the goals of climate accountability and, by using obligatory language, the minister “must”.
Again, the amendment itself came forward in evidence from West Coast Environmental Law, but I also put it to one of our other witnesses, Professor Wright, from the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary. You may recall that I asked him if it wouldn't improve the legislation if we had more language such as “the minister must”. You will recall the conversation about justiciability and the best way to ensure that we had some accountability and some potential for citizen enforcement in the act.
It's not likely this would ever get to a court—courts hate this kind of thing. However, that's why the language is as forceful as it is and includes things that I'm sure any minister will want to be sure they are coordinating: all measures and strategies within federal authority implemented to ensure that the national targets are met.
That's as briefly as I can put it, Mr. Chair, and I think it does a lot to strengthen the act.
I'd like to thank my colleague from British Columbia for putting this forward.
Again, we have consistently tried to strengthen this bill by not putting the onus on one minister but to have the onus on cabinet. We believe that it takes an “all hands on deck” approach and a whole-of-government approach. Unfortunately, putting a minister such as or future ministers of the environment and climate change on the hook for the actions of Crown corporations that report to other ministers, as well as the general departments that he or she is not responsible for, I don't think is a good approach.
I sincerely appreciate that the member is trying to raise accountability, but again, to be fair to that individual, they are not necessarily accountable. The Prime Minister and his or her cabinet are the ones who should be bearing the most responsibility. That is why Conservatives have continually said that if there is an action that's brought forward, it could be brought forward by an individual minister on the recommendation to cabinet, but it should be the cabinet itself that endorses, debates, deliberates and puts in place those mechanisms.
We will not be supporting this, but I applaud her thoughtfulness in trying to make sure there is accountability. Oftentimes, I do not see this government being accountable. It seems that it is more about putting out the announcements than necessarily seeing that what is implemented is done well and competently.
Yes, I do. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Again, in keeping with a whole-of-government, all-hands-on-deck approach, this would say, “The Governor in Council must establish an emissions reduction”.
Again, this strengthens the bill and increases the accountability of the government for its efforts, and every cabinet minister, when they ratify this, would then become part of the solution rather than hanging back. I don't know if you've ever heard of this before, Mr. Chair, but sometimes people tell me that the government works in silos. The idea of these amendments is to break those silos down, to have ministers talking about ideas and coming around to a consensus at cabinet, and then standing behind those ideas in their different departments.
Right now, leaving it to just one minister to administer all plans.... Look, I know from my own personal experience—in my previous business experience or even working as an MP—that when I bring my team together with some of my ideas, they often improve them and sometimes massively so. Most people would say that “massively” is an understatement.
I would just simply, again, encourage all members to vote in favour of this, because if you want to see better things, then you have to change the way you do it. I think making the Governor in Council more responsible and more accountable would do that.
This is, again, to clarify.... Although it uses the year 2025 for a reference point, it is not another attempt to my several previous amendments, which were defeated, to create a 2025 milestone year.
In amending clause 9, if you go to the relevant section of the current draft, it states:
The Minister must establish an emissions reduction plan for 2030 within six months after the day on which this Act comes into force.
My amendment would require a plan for 2025 and 2030. Without creating a milestone year at 2025, it would require a plan for 2025 within six months, in tandem with the plan for 2030. It can only improve the chances that we're actually going to be on track, to have a plan for 2025 within six months of when this act comes into force.
I'm feeling fairly despairing at this point, Mr. Chair, but you never know. I hope that the committee will vote for this motion.
This is similar to the one that the committee just defeated, but I think it would be well worth mentioning some of the other witnesses and those who did not get to testify in person.
As Cathy McLeod mentioned, there were no indigenous witnesses present before committee, but in a written brief from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, they definitely called for the 2025 year, as did, of course, the Canadian Climate Action Network. Generation Squeeze is another witness that called for this, and so is Eco-elders for Climate Action, the 2025 plan being essential if we're going to see early action.
To keep everybody on the right page, this is PV-13, amending that same line, but this time stressing the need for a plan for 2025 within six months from the day this act comes into force.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.