We need a comprehensive plan to meet our Paris target

On Thursday, February 1st, 2018 in Adjournment Proceedings, Climate Change, COP 21, COP 23, Parliament

Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, I rise tonight at adjournment proceedings to review a question and a response I received on October 4, 2017. It relates to the challenge of climate change.

My question was for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister did rise and provide a response, but it was not entirely to the point of the question. It was certainly positive, and he was very generous in praising my long-time personal work on the file.

I quoted from our colleague, the late Arnold Chan, who in his last words to the House in a speech that was read by the hon. member for Ajax, who said to all of us:

It is imperative that we stop treating climate change as solely an environmental issue, but recognize it as an all-encompassing priority that we as a society and a government must confront with the utmost urgency.

When I stood to ask that question October 4, the day before we had had the release of the report of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, within the office of the Auditor General, Julie Gelfand, the commissioner, happened to have said this about how we were doing as a country and as a government to meet our climate change targets. She said:

Climate change is one of the defining issues of the 21st century. These audits show that when it comes to climate change action, Canada has a lot of work to do in order to reach the targets it has set.

As my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to minister of environment, will know, because I have made this point in the House in debate before, Canada showed leadership in 2015 in Paris. In the negotiations of the Paris accord, Canada was the first industrialized country to step up and agree with the developing world that we had to aim to hold global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5o C above what it was before the industrial revolution. These sound like trivial numbers, but in the context of survival for the low-lying island states, survival for people in the African content, and survival for the Arctic ice to be present over our north pole, seasonally, year round, and into the future, we have to hold global average temperature to 1.5o.

However, the target that Canada chose domestically was the very one that our Minister of Environment and Climate Change criticized in Paris, pointing out that the target of the previous prime minister, Stephen Harper, was really, as the minister said at the time, the floor, that we had to do better and aim higher. Certainly, the target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, put in place by the previous government in May of 2015, is entirely insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris accord.

This inconsistency is troubling, but even more troubling is the observation that we do not yet have a plan. We have the promise of a global carbon price across all of Canada, and that is a step in the right direction. However, in the context of what needs to be done, as Arnold Chan said, we need to make this an all-encompassing priority. That means we do not approve one project that increases greenhouse gas emissions, like approving pipelines full of bitumen and diluent, and then claim we can somehow meet the targets even though we have not yet put in place energy efficiency measures, gotten rid of fossil fuel subsidies, nor delivered on a comprehensive plan to avoid going above 1.5o. We need more. We need action.

Jonathan Wilkinson – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Madam Speaker, the government very much agrees, and I personally agree, with the hon. member that this is an urgent and pressing issue that needs to be addressed in an all-encompassing way.

The Government of Canada has made taking action on climate change a very high priority. One of the first things the Minister of Environment and Climate Change did, once appointed, was to lead the Canadian delegation to the successful achievement of the Paris Agreement. Our government committed to an ambitious greenhouse gas emissions target. We then worked actively with our partners in the provinces, territories, and with indigenous leaders to develop the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. This is a detailed plan that provides a well-defined path through which we will achieve the target.

The previous Harper government set greenhouse gas reduction targets, but never developed a plan nor did the work required to meet them. That hurt Canada’s credibility at home and around the world and was unhelpful in the context of developing an international consensus. Step one for us is to show that when we set a target, we mean it. Two years after Paris, we have a lot to show for our efforts. We are introducing new legislation and regulations to ensure that a price on carbon pollution will apply across the country. The government is accelerating the phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity units. We are establishing a clean fuel standard to reduce our emissions by incentivizing the use of lower carbon fuels, energy sources, and technologies. We are developing increasingly stringent model building codes so that all new homes will be built to a standard that will allow them to generate as much energy as they use.

We have made significant investments to support clean growth and innovation. In December, we invested more than $1 billion in the low-carbon economy fund, which will help the provinces in their fight against climate change.

We are also investing over $2.3 billion to support clean technology and innovation and to support the creation of good jobs in growing sectors of our economy. We are 100% committed to achieving our target and to working collaboratively with the international community. On December 9, 2017, we released the first annual progress report on the implementation of the pan-Canadian framework. This report highlights the strong progress that federal, provincial, and territorial governments have made in putting the pan-Canadian framework into action. We have made very significant progress, but we know we need to do more. That is part of the Paris Agreement. All countries will need to increase their level of ambition over time.

The pan-Canadian framework establishes a concrete plan to meet or even surpass our commitments under the Paris agreement. The measures we are taking today will have a real and lasting impact on the well-being and resilience of our communities and the environment.

This government will continue to work every day to turn Canada’s clean growth and climate action into new laws, regulations, actions, investments, jobs, and economic opportunities for Canadians.

Elizabeth May

Madam Speaker, here is the problem. The very same target that the hon. member just described as an ambitious target was the one that was put in place by the previous Harper government, which the hon. Minister of Environment described in Paris as the floor and that we could do better. The reality is that achieving our target—and there are large questions about whether we will—means achieving the weak target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, which does not get us to what we promised to do in Paris.

This will become glaringly apparent in October of this year when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, as it was asked to do in Paris, on the pathway to 1.5°C. That moment of ratcheting up that the hon. member mentioned, the fact that we all have to do better, and I mean all countries on earth, could be led by Canada by going into the next Conference of the Parties prepared to say that we are stepping up and that we are going to move that 2030 deadline to 2025, because Canada wants to be a leader in reality, not just rhetoric.

Jonathan Wilkinson – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Madam Speaker, as the hon. member knows, Canada has a history, under governments of all political stripes, of establishing targets and not meeting those targets because no clear and comprehensive plan was developed. This government took the very firm position that we would establish a target. We would work with our provincial and territorial counterparts and with indigenous leaders across the country to develop a detailed plan that would enable Canadians to have visibility about how we will achieve our targets. We will work very hard to ensure that those are achieved and to the extent that we can make progress more quickly, we are certainly willing to ratchet up our level of ambition.

This government cares very much about climate change and ensuring a good future for our children and grandchildren. It is something we are committed to and we look forward to working with all parties in the House, including the hon. member, to ensure we actually play our part in this important international issue.

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