Mr. Speaker, in tabling the motion, the government has presented us with a quandary. My constituents, in fact, the majority of Canadians, want Canada to take action on climate change. There was cheering when the Paris agreement was signed. Canadians were delighted when the Minister of Environment and Climate Change took Canada's commitment one step deeper and agreed to take action to limit temperature rises to only 1.5oC.
However, all in this place, including her own colleagues, are faced with this dilemma. Are we facing a repeat of 2002 when another Liberal government ratified Kyoto with no plan to deliver and then did nothing for 13 years? Absent a concrete action plan with measurable carbon reductions to achieve that target, is this just another photo op?
As the Minister of Environment stated in this place, last January, “It would be irresponsible to come up with a new target without actually having a plan to implement it, as the Conservatives did.” However, is this not exactly what she agreed to in Paris, deeper reductions?
The Department of the Environment has reported that even with collective action on the commitments made to date by the present government, the provinces, and the territories, Canada will fail to meet even the pathetic reduction target set by Harper.
The motion before us says that the House support the government's decision to ratify the Paris agreement, and second, support the Vancouver declaration, calling upon the federal government, the provinces, and the territories, to work together to develop a pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change.
What exactly has the government committed to deliver under the Paris agreement?
In Paris, last December, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change committed this country to take action to support global actions to deliver deep reductions in greenhouse gases. Canada committed to do our part to ensure that the world can hold the increase and global average temperature to well below two degrees centigrade, above industrial levels, and pursue efforts to a lesser increase of 1.5oC.
Less than a year later, the same government is asking members in this place to embrace its decision to backtrack on its promised greenhouse gas reductions. While the Paris agreement allows the parties to adjust their nationally determined commitments, the undertaking is to move to reduce more, not less, greenhouse gases. Paris calls upon parties to expedite action as rapidly as possible, reflecting the highest possible ambition.
Canadians are aghast that the Liberals are seeking support for the decision to ratify the agreement, while simultaneous backtracking on their commitments here at home. The present government is now adopting the same Harper reduction targets that the Liberals called inadequate, the weakest, and catastrophic. Today, it has asked us to vote to adopt them. This we cannot and will not do.
Our glaciers are melting. Arctic ice is receding at an unprecedented rate. I learned last evening that the major glacier in Kluane National Park has receded so far, it is now only feeding one of two rivers. Communities are experiencing catastrophic fires and flooding, with experts advising they will only worsen as the climate changes.
Second, the motion before us calls upon members to agree that Canada has shown sufficient evidence of an action plan to be made binding to our share of reductions by submitting to the Vancouver declaration.
Yes, Paris also commits Canada to recognize the importance of engagements of all levels of government and other actors in addressing climate change. The present government has engaged the provinces and territories in a dialogue and an aspirational agreement for action. However, the Vancouver declaration is just an aspirational document, not an actual strategy for action. It offers no concrete plan with concrete actions to achieve measurable reduction targets. It simply says the signatories will “work together to develop”.
The Paris agreement requires that Canada, in ratifying, provide clear, accurate, and transparent information on how exactly it will deliver the reductions. As the Climate Action Network has said, “Show us the tonnes”.
We have yet to have presented to us the action plan showing the quantity of emissions that will be reduced under provincial, territorial, and federal initiatives, and by what date. Surely, we are not setting about ratifying another international agreement without a clear, credible action plan, and the legal measures to measure how exactly Canada can and will deliver its commitments. We witnessed that with Kyoto. Surely this time around Canada will not move to ratify the Paris agreement until first finalizing and submitting a credible plan with legislative measures and a timeline to achieve compliance.
Today the announced targets appear encouraging but where is the implementing instrument? The starting point of $10 a tonne is far below that imposed even by the provinces. What concrete measures if any are actually offered by the Vancouver declaration? The declaration states:
First Ministers commit to:
Implement GHG mitigation policies in support of meeting or exceeding Canada's 2030 target of a 30% reduction below 2005 levels of emissions, including specific provincial and territorial targets and objectives....
Again, as noted, this target backtracks on Liberal promises of deeper reductions.
The Vancouver declaration provides no actual reduction targets nor does it specify the measures that would be taken to achieve those targets. The declaration states that it provides merely a vision and principles. It does not document how any of the commitments would deliver specified reductions. As the Climate Action Network has called once again, “Show us the tonnes”.
The provinces, territories, and federal government admit they need to act to address the climate risks facing our populations, infrastructures, economies, and ecosystems, particularly in Canada's northern regions. They all agree our country needs investment in climate-resilient and green infrastructure, including disaster mitigation, but to date, the provinces and territories have merely agreed to develop a strategy. Where are the working group reports? What concrete progress has been made? As far as we are made aware, there is no agreed strategy, most certainly no comprehensive reduction commitments. Where is the accountability?
We still await the federal law that would impose national reduction targets either on emitting sectors or the provinces and territories with potential for equivalency. Some provinces have stepped forward with concrete measures and target dates and in some instances the intent to impose caps on specified sectors. To its credit, Alberta has committed to accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired power and is imposing a cap on greenhouse gases from the oil sands. Is this enough?
The commitment under the Vancouver declaration is to increase the level of ambition of environmental policies over time in order to drive greater greenhouse gas emissions reductions consistent with the Paris agreement. However, the Liberal government is already backtracking to a low bar starting point. The Vancouver declaration also provides no clear timeline for improvement, by how much or by taking what specific actions.
Under the Vancouver agreement, the jurisdictions promise to promote clean economic growth to create jobs. They assert this will be achieved by a transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy but only by 2050. In the meantime, Canada will continue to support their agreed Canadian energy strategy for sustainable energy and resource sector economy as Canada transitions to a low-carbon economy.
The measure of commitment to an energy transition is zero emission target dates and zero commitment of dollars to renewable energy, jobs, and training. We see some evidence of that commitment at the provincial levels by way of an example of the Northwest Territories, which is adopting a renewable energy strategy. Alberta has at long last committed to joining others and establishing an energy efficiency program.
The Vancouver declaration promises the development of an integrated economy-wide approach that includes all sectors, creates jobs, and promotes innovation to be determined at a later date. The same goes for investments in clean technology solutions, especially in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and cleaner energy production. Few solid commitments are yet stated on achieving reductions.
While the federal government and the provinces promised to make deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, to foster and encourage clean technology, and to implement measures grounded in the idea that clean growth and climate change are of net economic development, we still await the concrete measures.
On the central issue of imposing a price on carbon, we are advised there is no consensus. It is equally important to recognize that the Vancouver declaration specifically references the Canadian energy strategy, a strategy developed through a process excluding the public. It is a strategy that in large part endorses co-operation and continuance of the carbon-intensive energy sectors.
What concrete actions has the federal government taken to reduce greenhouse gases? The federal government committed under the Vancouver declaration to take specific and early actions, including investments in green infrastructure, public transit infrastructure, and energy-efficient social infrastructure. However, the government has yet to release any detailed plan for green infrastructure, including what portion of infrastructure dollars would be dedicated to greening.
During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to tackle climate change and invest in the green economy. However, even their first budget came up far short. After promising over $3 billion for public transit and over $3 billion for green infrastructure in the first two years of their platform, budget 2016 was short by over $800 million for transit and green infrastructure. The budget failed to deliver on their promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, which continue to give hundreds of millions of dollars to polluting industries.
Much of the funding announced in 2016 is just repurposed money, with only $100 million in new money out of the $300 million promised for a clean growth economy this year. The investment in Sustainable Development Technology Canada is just $50 million over four years, far less than previous investments in this entity of $40 million each year. Is this enough action to deliver rapid change? The Canadian investment in clean tech has fallen by 41% over the last decade, while global investments in this sector grew exponentially, surpassing investments in fossil fuels.
We have a lot of catching up to do if we hope to provide economic opportunities for our youth. The Liberals promised to advance the electrification of vehicle transportation, foster regional plans for clean electricity transmission, and invest in clean energy solutions for indigenous, remote, and northern communities, yet their budget commits to levels that will not deliver expedited action on any of these. At least their commitment to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production substantially by 2025 is good news, as it finally plays catch-up with Alberta.
Canadians had hoped for better. Of concern, the thrust of the Liberal action plan to date has, in the majority, been to download the federal duty to reduce greenhouse gases to the provinces and territories, not to mention the municipalities. When asked what actions her government is taking, the minister now repeats the same refrain, that she is consulting the provinces on a plan.
We are expected to agree to ratification without the courtesy of even seeing the working group reports, which I understand may be coming forward today, including, for example, the report on carbon pricing mechanisms. It is important to recognize that the burning of fossil fuels delivers impacts beyond climate change. They emit significant sources of pollutants, causing well-documented impacts to our health and the environment. The Government of Alberta strategy recognizes this aspect in announcing the accelerated phase-out of coal power. Many others are calling for the federal government to follow suit and amend its regulations. It is high time the federal government finally replace its absurd Canada-wide standard on industrial mercury with a binding regulation. Also, when can we expect federal action on harmful particulates?
It is also important that we pursue energy generation alternatives that reduce environmental impacts or impacts to treaty or constitutional rights. The over 190 conditions to the approval of the Petronas LNG plant and the associated pipeline of fracked gas indicates additional significant, and in some instances, unmitigable impacts to the environment and indigenous rights and interests. Government and independent scientists have documented significant environmental impacts from oil sands operations, including localized and long-range pollutant loading. Indigenous communities near the oil sands operations still await a health impact study and have called for action.
What would an ambitious strategy actually look like?
Both the Paris and Vancouver agreements commit the government to a just transition to a clean energy economy. The federal government must contribute more generously to programs already in place, including building Canadian expertise and offering hands-on training in the renewable and energy efficiency sectors. In my province alone, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, and the Lethbridge College, all provide these programs, and they are oversubscribed.
As the Pembina Institute has said, Canada needs to be at the front of the race for a new global, clean, sustainable economy.
First and foremost, the government must expedite the promised removal of the perverse fossil fuel subsidies. Some have called for a 2050 target of zero-emitting electricity. This could readily be enabled by federal investment into a grid that better serves renewable power sources, including localized generation sources. While support for cleaner energy research must continue, with particular emphasis on energy storage, I encourage much greater support and attention to increasing the actual deployment of renewable power.
By finally imposing a price on carbon and a steadily rising price, the federal government will provide an important driver for both investments in renewable technology and cleaner technology, but also hopefully for installation.
A report by a parliamentary committee a few years back documented the potential for substantial savings if the government committed greater funds now to retrofit federal facilities, saving in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars. Canada could also mirror U.S. federal directives prescribing efficiencies in energy and water use and purchase of renewable power.
It is long past time the government revised the National Building Code and the National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings. The federal government should also contribute more generously to provincial and municipal energy retrofit programs. Some have called on the federal government to assert its powers to take concrete measures to expedite greenhouse gas reduction in transportation by prescribing targets for Canadian manufacturers of electric vehicles and zero-emission vehicles. People have also called for increasingly stringent low-carbon fuel standards for all transportation fuels.
Where is the promise in the Vancouver declaration for public engagement? What Canadians want more than vacuous consultations is measures to actually help them lower their heating bills or to install solar panels. They want their governments to switch to cleaner energy sources that do not impact their health, their environment, their farming operations, or their treaty rights.
Finally, Canadians want the right to share their voices for a cleaner energy future. Let us expedite the reform of federal law, policy, and practice on environmental protection, assessment, and project review to actually enable that voice. Therefore, I wish to move the following subamendment.
I move, seconded by the member for Trois-Rivières:
That the amendment be amended by:
a) replacing the words “, the provinces, and the territories” with the words “to work with provincial, territorial, municipal and indigenous governments and the Canadian public”; and
b) deleting all the words after the words “combat climate change” and substituting the following: “that commits to targets that deliver on Canada's undertakings from the Paris Agreement, and finalizes the specific measures and investments to achieve those greenhouse gas reductions prior to ratification.”