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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-17 18:31 [p.29218]
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for graciously sharing his time with me.
This emergency debate is now under time allocation. It started over a month ago and this is my first occasion to be able to speak to the various reasons that I want to support both the Liberal motion that this is a climate emergency and the Conservative amendment that would require that we do something more rigorous about it. I have already voted in favour of the NDP motion to similar effect that called this a climate emergency.
I want to back up and set this in a context that is indeed global. I am going to attempt to do this in as non-partisan a fashion as possible.
Clearly, we are in a global climate emergency. The greatest threat to our future comes not from some foreign foe but from our very own human nature. The problem is that partisan politics in every democracy stand in the way of the scientific community, which knows without a doubt that we must take action.
In every country around the world the same circumstance prevails that there is a very large obstacle for people in elected office to do what needs to be done, because in one country after another they face domestic obstacles of what is politically possible.
We are in a very serious crisis now. The words “climate emergency” apply because we have been told by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have, at most, 10 years and likely less to ensure that we hit the required target for 2030, and to ensure that we can hit the targets required by 2050.
I want to underscore that these are not political targets. They are non-negotiable. Political targets can be missed, though we can try. Goodness knows how often Canada has missed targets to end child poverty. It is not a good thing, not at all. We have missed targets to provide safe drinking water on first nations reserves. We take targets in this place and we name them.
The targets around climate action in a climate emergency are essentially scientists telling us as elected people that we only have one chance. I have been working on this issue, by the way, since 1986, when I was in the former minister of environment's office. We had a lot of chances then.
Procrastination has left us where we are right now. There is no time for incrementalism any more. We have run out of time for small tweaks. We actually are in a place where, if we are going to ensure our children have a livable world and human civilization does not break down in their lifetimes, and nothing is more serious than that, we have to accept that we are in a climate emergency that means status quo behaviour is over.
That also means, in our political context, that we have to do things differently. We are on the verge of an election in Canada. I look around this room. How likely is it that we can set aside partisanship to do the right thing?
Currently, the term “climate emergency” has been accepted by two countries. The U.K. and Ireland have accepted that this is a climate emergency. I think it is very important and historic that Canada do the same. We need mobilization and increased effort from all countries on earth. I should also say that the level of government in Canada that has already done the most is the municipal order of government where we have seen many cities and towns declare climate emergencies, from Ottawa to Vancouver, Victoria and Halifax. We are seeing many communities stand up and say that this is a climate emergency.
The point of this is not just to hear ourselves talk. The point of it is to say, and I repeat, that status quo behaviour is over. We cannot continue to talk about whether a carbon tax is a good wedge issue in politics. We cannot have people talking about this election campaign as if we are just going to duke it out over whether the Liberal carbon tax plan is a good or a bad idea. That is not a relevant question, honestly. In a climate emergency, the only question that matters is if the plans we have in place avoid climate breakdown and preserve human civilization.
The answer to that is, tragically, no. We know the target we are currently operating under as a country, what is called a nationally determined contribution at the United Nations, is wholly inadequate to hold to 1.5°C.
This is a climate emergency. What if every party and leader in this place understood what it meant? First, we would have to agree that we would go off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We would start where we need to be. By 2050, we need to have zero emissions globally. Then we need to respond to global calls for action.
I want to put on the table that this is a place where we could really co-operate as parties. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for an emergency gathering to face the climate crisis and to call on countries around the world to improve their targets and respond appropriately. This emergency climate summit is scheduled for September 23 of this year, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. The next climate negotiations, COP25, begin in Santiago, Chile, in December.
All elected members here are thinking that on September 23, they will be in the middle of a campaign. What if we decided to take a page out of Greta Thunberg's, who is from Sweden, actions for a climate strike? What if we decided that the climate emergency was so serious, we would have a campaign strike, that we would all go to New York. We would tell the Prime Minister it really mattered that he be there, that we knew we were in an election campaign, but he should not worry, the Conservative leader, the New Democrat leader, the Green Party leader, the Bloc leader and the People's Party leader would go to New York together to a UN summit, where we would declare that Canada was committed to going off fossil fuels 100% by 2050, that this was the timeline by which we would do it and that we would cut our emissions in Canada by 60% below 2005 levels by 2030.
If we do not set an ambitious target, we cannot get to it ever. It is like saying our current target is as if we had a four-storey building on fire and we say we have meaningful action because we have erected a step ladder that gets to the first storey. We have to get to four storeys and rescue people who are on the roof surrounded by flames. In that context, incrementalism is not enough. The climate emergency is just such a context in which more is required of us. Even in this election year, I put before members that we need to stop our status quo behaviour.
Central to the Green Party's “Mission: Possible” is that we put ourselves on war-like footing, which, again, is not an external enemy but our conduct and behaviour, and we have the opportunity to save our children from an unthinkable world. The opportunity to achieve that, the window of opportunity, will close on us before the 2023 election. The trajectory to get to where we need to be by 2030 needs to begin rather quickly, rather sharply. Canada right now has a poorer record than the rest of the world.
Most of the countries that signed onto the Kyoto protocol are well below 1990 levels of emissions by now. Scotland is at 40% below 1990 levels. In Canada, we are still well above 1990 levels. If we hit the Harper target under which we are still functioning, we would be a bit below 1990 levels. However, as we have heard recently from anyone who studies it, the cumulative actions yet announced by the current government fall far short of that target. However, that target itself is the one-storey ladder when we need to get to the four storeys and rescue people from the roof.
I want to emphasize that if it is an emergency, then we change the way we behave. If it is an emergency, we set aside the partisanship and say we have to do this together as Canadians. We have to tell Canadians from coast to coast to coast that this is something we do together, all hands on deck.
Let us get on with it. This is an emergency, and we must work together.
It is in that hope, despite all the obvious nastiness of partisan politics, that I ask us not to think about poll results and seat counts, but our children's future. We need to work together.
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