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View Jonathan Wilkinson Profile
Lib. (BC)
Madam Speaker, Canada's economy, among the 10 most prosperous in the world, was built in part by the wealth provided by our natural resources. Our resource sector provides tens of thousands of well-paying middle-class jobs to hard-working Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
At the same time, we know that the global fight against climate change to protect our natural environment and biodiversity are among the most pressing issues we face as human beings. Climate change is the existential threat of our age. It calls for effective, lasting action and clear-eyed, pragmatic policies that will measurably reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions over the years to come.
Canadians are increasingly recognizing the magnitude of the climate crisis.
Going forward, thoughtful Canadians understand that economic progress will need to take place within the frame of environmental sustainability. Certainly, in the case of the oil and gas sector, the investment community is telling all of us that future growth and prosperity will require reductions in our carbon emissions and overall environmental footprint.
The latest scientific report from the IPCC indicates that human activities have already caused 1° of global warming above pre-industrial levels. If global emissions continue to rise at their current rate, the world could see a 3° rise in warming by 2100.
The implications of this are very real. On average, Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. A warmer climate will intensify weather extremes, result in sea level rises and reduce the amount of snow, ice and fresh water. Heatwaves will increase and contribute to droughts and wildfires.
It is no wonder that youth around the world are fed up with our generation not acting on the science we have before us and question whether they see a future in which they can contemplate having children of their own.
In the 2019 election, Canadians overwhelmingly voted for parties that offered ambitious climate plans.
The international community has also been coalescing around the issue, with 77 countries now committed to achieving net-zero by 2050. Our election platform reflected those concerns. During the campaign, we committed to two key climate policies: exceeding our target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
We have made a lot of progress since 2015. For the first time since then, our greenhouse gas emissions are dropping.
Early in our first mandate we developed the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, the first real climate plan this country has ever had. It contains over 50 different measures, from phasing out coal, to major investments in public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure, to energy efficiency for buildings and industries.
We invested over $3 billion to scale up clean technology and put in place a national price on pollution, because there can be no credible plan to fight pollution if polluting is free.
In jurisdictions where the federal pricing system is in place, revenues are returned directly to the people, making 80% of families better off.
Perhaps the most important impact is the opportunity that a price on pollution creates for innovation. It prompts businesses to deploy their engineers and entrepreneurs to find solutions to reduce pollution.
Despite identifying over 200 megatonnes in emissions reductions through the framework, we need to identify an additional 77 megatonnes of emissions reductions just to hit our current 2030 target.
Meeting our 2030 target in itself will be a challenge, but it is a challenge Canada is ready to take on.
Developing a plan aligned with science to achieve net-zero by 2050 will be even harder given our vast geography, northern climate and reliance on a resource economy. What is exciting though is the conversation it allows us to have with provinces, companies and others about pathways for achieving our goal.
Achieving our climate goals requires cross-partisan leadership from every region of the country. We need a national consensus, a real team effort.
The enemy is climate change. It should not be each other.
That national consensus must include Canada's oil and gas sector. It must include provinces and territories. It must include our energy companies, exporters and explorers, and their employees. It must include the millions of Canadians who heat their homes and drive their cars with carbon-based fuels. It must include all of us.
Let me be clear: The Government of Canada remains committed to furthering Canada's natural resource sector to create good middle-class jobs. We recognize that, in the modern world, a strong economy and a clean environment must go hand in hand.
Some say these goals are irreconcilable. I disagree. In my conversations with resource sector leaders and western political leaders, I hear more and more about the importance of Canada to build its brand as the cleanest supplier of resources to remain competitive as the world transitions to a net-zero future. I agree with them.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce stated clearly that:
In order for our [provinces] and our country to thrive, we can and we must be able to lead in natural resource development and solve climate change through innovation. Canadian businesses know this, and the global marketplace is demanding it, yet the rhetoric by political leaders is severely hindering any future progress.
Hard-working families are paying the price.
In its letter to me, Teck also calls on us to develop a framework that reconciles economic development and environmental protection as the only path forward. The letter recognizes that Canada is “uniquely positioned”, with its abundant resources, to be that provider of “climate-smart resources” to global markets.
Canadians have the innovative spirit and know-how to provide the world with the most environmentally and socially responsible resources, and that is what we must strive for.
Canadian energy companies are among the most innovative in the world, and they can lead the way. A number of oil and gas companies, including Shell, Cenovus, CNRL and MEG Energy, have already committed to net-zero, as have companies in other sectors, such as Microsoft.
Achieving net-zero will require an economic and an environmental transformation and the mobilization of significant amounts of private capital. The Government of Canada is committed to working with Alberta, Saskatchewan and the resource sector, to ensure that the best projects get built so that we can create jobs and ensure clean, sustainable growth.
The best projects are those that have the lowest pollution per unit of production, develop a path to net-zero emissions and minimize impacts on biodiversity and the natural environment. In 2020, these conditions are increasingly non-negotiable. Leading money managers and investors like BlackRock are making sustainability and climate risk tenets of their investment strategy. They are pulling their money out of environmentally risky ventures and diverting to sustainable projects.
We are very concerned that times are tough in the resource sector and in Alberta due to market conditions. Let there be no mistake, our government stands with workers in Alberta, and with resource sector workers across the country. That is why we are moving forward with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This project is delivering nearly 3,000 jobs for Albertans today and will peak at 5,500 in the near term, which is important for Alberta and thus for all Canadians.
We also understand, and I believe most Albertans understand, that it is time Canadians had a much deeper and more thorough conversation about how we keep our energy sector competitive in a world moving to net-zero emissions by 2050. This is how we will protect well-paying resource jobs and create opportunities for the future.
The status quo no longer works. Consumers and the investment community are demanding change, and so are industry leaders, and that change must accelerate.
No one has a step-by-step guide to net zero. We must engage Canadians and experts to create credible pathways.
Certainly, a key component will be a focus on clean technology.
Hoping for technology to save us from the hard policy choices required to reduce emissions is not a climate plan. However, a thoughtful approach to clean tech must be a key part of an effective strategy to get to net-zero, and in particular to help us decarbonize key sectors of our economy. In the oil and gas sector, for example, exciting work is going on, not just on carbon capture, but on developing ways to extract energy value from natural resources without carbon pollution.
Canada needs to be the cleanest source of resources as we transition to a low-carbon future, and current projects need to also focus on continuous improvement. Partnering with industry on the development and commercialization of clean-tech solutions will create enormous opportunities to expand exports and jobs.
With sound investments, Canada can be a leader in clean technology. In fact, we already are.
Already, global markets for clean-tech and low-carbon goods and services generate trillions in revenue, and clean tech employs over 180,000 people here in Canada. Beyond taking action domestically, we believe that Canada must also work with like-minded countries to lead internationally.
The enormity of the work ahead requires that people from all backgrounds and all political affiliations pull in the same direction to ensure we can leave a healthy and sustainable world for our children.
Climate change should not be a partisan issue; it is a science issue. We all have a role to play in de-partisanizing climate. A generation ago Canadians were deeply divided about free trade, yet today we have a national consensus on the desirability of free trade in North America and with our international partners. That national consensus offers us a model and an example to follow.
I invite my colleagues from across the House to work with us to tackle the greatest challenges of our time.
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