Challenging the government to take concrete and meaningful steps to meet our Paris obligations

On Thursday, June 8th, 2017 in Debate, Parliament
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Elizabeth May 

Mr. Speaker, I rise to pursue a question that I asked in question period not that long ago, on Friday, June 2. I suppose it is now June 9. Though the Table still says it is June 8, it is a bit after midnight.

The context of my question to the Minister of Environment was that just the day before, the president of the United States had claimed he had exited the Paris agreement. In legal reality, which is the reality, the United States is still part of the Paris agreement and remains legally bound by its obligations. The earliest possible date on which Donald Trump can pull the U.S. out of Paris is November 4, 2020, which, ironically, is the day after the next U.S. presidential election. There is no question that the president of the United States intended to do maximum damage to the global effort.

My question for the minister was what more Canada could do under the circumstances. I named some specific actions. One was to revisit our target, which is still too weak. It is 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. That is the target that was left behind by the previous Harper administration. It is inconsistent with the Paris goals. If we achieve that target by 2030, it is insufficient to fulfill our obligations under the Paris agreement. We need to do much more if we are serious about avoiding a 1.5° global average temperature increase.

The exciting thing that happened in the days since I asked the question, and I will return to the minister’s answer, is that, if anything, Donald Trump has galvanized sub-national levels of government throughout the United States to commit to the Paris agreement. Ironically, his rhetorical flourish that he was elected by Pittsburgh and not Paris led to the mayor of Pittsburgh, Mayor Peduto, to say that Pittsburgh is committed to Paris and Donald Trump should not speak for Pittsburgh when he says he was elected by Pittsburgh. He was not elected by Pittsburgh and it wants the Paris agreement to go forward.

There are 211 mayors across the United States who have recommitted their city governments to reducing greenhouse gases, as have more than 30 states. Just yesterday, the state of Hawaii passed the first law in the United States specifically mentioning the Paris accord and saying that Hawaii and state officials are now legally bound to come up with a treaty with plans within the state of Hawaii to meet those targets.

The answer I received from the hon. Minister of Environment was excellent. I have to say it was excellent. She said, “If the U.S. administration is going to step back, we are going to step up.” However, the only specific concrete measure she suggested was that the House would debate the Paris agreement, which we have already done. She said we would vote on it, and we know how that went. It was 277 to one in support of the Paris agreement.

To meet our targets under the Paris agreement and to play a global role that could be called leadership, we need to do much more. Setting a price on carbon is merely a foundational piece. It will not achieve even the weak Harper target. We need ecoENERGY retrofit programs, we need to make sure that we encourage the transition to electric vehicles far more aggressively than we are doing. We cannot afford to postpone, as the government just did, our methane regulations. We need them right away. We need to do much more and faster on our infrastructure fund. Money that has been re-profiled for after the next election needs to be spent sooner.

In other words, what I am hoping to get to tonight in this debate is the clear understanding that the world is not abandoning Paris and Donald Trump is not going to destroy the Paris agreement, but without more action from governments that support it than what we have declared so far, we will not achieve our Paris targets. Canada needs to do much more than we are currently committed to doing.

 

Joël Lightbound – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, with or without the government of the United States, the momentum around the Paris agreement and climate action is unstoppable. We in Canada look forward to working with many states and U.S. stakeholders and partners and communities around the world to build these relationships while protecting the environment.

I am proud of the instrumental role we played in negotiating the Paris agreement. Today, we are steadfast in our determination to implement our commitments through our domestic efforts, which included the pan-Canadian framework, and through our global leadership, including through advancing the implementation of the agreement.

Canada’s historic $2.65-billion commitment is our largest climate investment ever, and it shows our commitment to global action.

As a member of the High Ambition Coalition, we want to see more ambitious and accelerated climate action, not less. We want to move forward, not back. We want to build on the exceptional success that is the Paris Agreement and see the results, not bring the world back to discussions that took place years ago.

Canada will continue to play a leadership role when it comes to climate change. In September 2017, Canada will host and co-chair a ministerial meeting with China and the European Union to move forward on the implementation of the Paris agreement and encourage clean economic growth. In 2018, when Canada holds the G7 presidency, it will give priority to action on climate change and promoting clean economic growth.

Since forming government, we have worked hard here at home to develop pan-Canadian solutions with provinces and territories.

In the Vancouver declaration, the federal government and the provinces and territories agreed on two essential things. The first is to implement GHG mitigation policies in support of meeting or exceeding Canada’s 2030 target of a 30% reduction below 2005 levels. The second is to increase the level of ambition of environmental policies over time in order to drive greater GHG emissions reductions, consistent with the Paris agreement.

In the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change our government, along with provinces and territories, put forward a comprehensive, detailed plan that shows how we will meet our emissions reductions target, a plan that the previous government always failed to deliver.

Our government made it clear from the start that it was taking a very different path from the one the Harper government infamously took, which consisted in setting targets without ever coming up with a plan to achieve them and taking no real action to fight climate change. This has made Canada’s targets that much harder to achieve, but we are determined to do so.

 

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the parliamentary secretary to help us in the wee hours to debate this, but although measures under the current Liberal government are better than what we had under the previous nine years under Stephen Harper, they are not as good as what we had under the Right Hon. Prime Minister Paul Martin. It seems to me that if we could dust off the 2005 budget that was put forward at that time by the minister who is now the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we would have more for the climate and actually have eco-energy retrofit.

Although it was in the Liberal platform that we were getting rid of them, we still have fossil fuel subsidies. We now have seen the details on how the pan-Canadian framework will deal with the largest polluters in those jurisdictions that do not have their own carbon price. They are getting all kinds of loopholes. We are letting Nova Scotia get away with still burning coal when it has weaker commitments under the pan-Canadian framework than it had before.

We have to do much better. While I applaud the government for being more on the right track than the last one, I cannot in all conscience let it off the hook when my children and grandchildren’s future is at stake.

 

Joël Lightbound - Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health 

Mr. Speaker, there is a world of difference between the previous government and our government, not only when it comes to rhetoric, but also when it comes to action

I want to remind the House and the hon. member of some of the measures we have taken to fight climate change. Canada is doing its part and is a leader on climate change.

We are pricing carbon pollution right across Canada, accelerating the phasing-out of our traditional and highly polluting coal-fired power plants, developing a clean fuels standard to stimulate greater use of biofuels, investing in public transit and electric vehicle infrastructure, putting in place strong regulations on methane emissions, and taking action on short-lived climate pollutants, including HFCs. We have introduced a lot of measures.

I think what really sets us apart is that we allocated the necessary resources to see our plans through and that our goal is not to constantly pit economic growth against the environment, but to ensure that they continue to go hand in hand.

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