If we were all in on climate change, this is what it would look like

On Friday, June 15th, 2018 in Adjournment Proceedings, Parliament

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, I am rising tonight at adjournment proceedings, and the hour is late. The hour is late both literally and metaphorically, because I am addressing the topic of climate change, and we are literally running out of time.

I raised this question in question period on March 2. I addressed the fact that it was startling, and actually terrifying, that the Arctic was going through a thaw at that time through the month of February, that the Arctic defence as being the polar vortex appeared to have collapsed. I referred to it as being like an advancing army. Warm air from the south had occupied our Arctic, driving up temperatures 25 degrees Celsius above what is normal at that time. Of course, throughout the winter months, no sun reaches the Arctic. It is 24-hour darkness, so what was occurring that we should have a thaw in our Arctic at that time was actually a signal that what we are doing to our climate is beyond what we are experiencing in the south, where we see extreme weather events. We are actually tampering with the ability of this planet to support life.

After that question was put in question period, we had more disturbing warnings that the Gulf Stream has slowed to its lowest point since measurements began. The Gulf Stream is slowing because as the Arctic ice melts, it goes in through the currents and reaches the Atlantic Ocean areas, where the Gulf Stream is moving, but it depresses the Gulf Stream, because it is fresh water, and it floats on top and presses down on the Gulf Stream and weakens it.

We have also had worrying evidence that the Greenland ice sheet and the western Antarctic ice sheet are weakening, and both of them are on land. If either of those dislodged into the ocean, unlike the melt from the ice that floats on water I just mentioned, this would cause an acute sea-level rise. Either one of those events would result in an eight-metre sea-level rise.

What I submitted to the hon. Minister of Environment and Climate Change—I put the question to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment responded—is that we are in a climate emergency, but we are acting as though it is a political promise that can be handled incrementally. It is not the current Prime Minister’s fault that he took office at the point that procrastination is no longer viable. Incremental change will not ensure that our children have a livable world.

There has been a lot of work done. By the way, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change said on that day, March 2, “We are all in on climate action.” I submit that although the intentions are better from the current government, there is no sign that the Liberals are all in. If we were serious, we would recognize that the current target left over from the Harper administration does not meet our Paris target. It is not even close. As things now stand, we are not on track to meet the weaker Harper target.

If we were all in on climate change, it would look like this. We would look at the carbon budget, realize there is only so much more CO2 we can put in the atmosphere, and work globally to get every country on earth to increase ambition and put in place a tougher target.

For Canada, we would do more than carbon pricing. That is just a first step. We would eliminate subsidies to fossil fuels. We certainly would not buy a pipeline. We would divest our investments in fossil fuels in the Canada pension plan. We would eliminate all subsidies. We would use all the levers we have, including that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has the power to regulate through part 4 of CEPA. We would do absolutely everything at our disposal, including eco-energy retrofits, to ensure that we meet the Paris target of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Celina Caesar-Chavannes – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her strong advocacy when it comes to climate change and taking action.

The Government of Canada is taking concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support clean growth, and build a climate-resilient infrastructure. In addition to being one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Paris Agreement, Canada is also following through on its Paris commitments by implementing a national plan to reduce its GHG emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

A landmark achievement is the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. It is the first climate change plan in Canada’s history to include collective and individual commitments by federal, provincial, and territorial governments, and to have been developed through engagement with national representatives of first nations, Inuit and Métis nations, the general public, non-governmental organizations, and businesses. The pan-Canadian framework includes more than 50 concrete measures to reduce carbon pollution, build resilience to the impacts of climate change, foster clean technology solutions, and create good jobs that contribute to a strong economy. This includes putting a price on carbon.

To support implementation of the pan-Canadian framework, the Government of Canada has announced historic investments, including the low-carbon economy fund and the investing in Canada plan, which supports projects aimed at reducing GHG emissions and generating clean growth. By investing billions of dollars in green infrastructure and public transit, including smart grids, energy-efficient buildings, and electric vehicle infrastructure, the federal government aims to help mainstream innovative, clean technologies. Furthermore, to bolster climate resiliency, the government’s $2-billion disaster mitigation and adaptation fund backs large-scale national, provincial, and municipal infrastructure projects to reduce the impacts of natural disasters and extreme weather events and build resilient communities across the country.

Government leadership is critical to achieving Canada’s goal for environmental and sustainable development. Introduced in 2017, the greening government strategy sets an ambitious target to reduce GHG emissions from federal operations by 80% by 2050, relative to 2005 levels. When the policies and programs within the pan-Canadian framework are fully implemented, the framework will not only allow Canada to meet its 2030 target in full, but also position Canada to set and achieve deeper reductions by 2030.

We continue to work with our partners, including provinces, territories, and indigenous people. We have been listening to Canadians from across the country. We are committed to annually reporting on Canada’s greenhouse gas emission projections and issuing annual pan-Canadian framework reports to take stock of progress achieved and give direction to sustain and enhance our efforts.

We have made taking action on climate change a priority. Tackling climate change and helping our country transition to a low-carbon economy are the smart thing to do and the right thing to do. Taking action on climate change is not just the priority of the Government of Canada; it is an imperative for all of Canada. Our significant achievements since 2015 demonstrate that we are serious not only about developing a real plan to reduce our emissions, but about turning that plan into action and results.

As for the Arctic, we are working with all departments, provinces, territories, indigenous peoples, and northerners to co-develop an Arctic policy framework that recognizes and re-prioritizes federal activities in the Arctic. This framework is intended to increase partnerships and collaboration with federal government, indigenous peoples—

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, here is the problem: There is no climate plan from the government; there is a climate wish list. There is a pan-Canadian framework, but it is a compilation of what provinces and territories plan to do without federal leadership. Other than the carbon pricing scheme and the promise, not yet delivered, to eliminate subsidies, the federal government is not using the levers it has at its disposal.

The target that my hon. colleague mentioned is the one left over from Harper. I repeat: It will be too little, too late. The year 2030 is too far out there for us to guarantee our children a liveable world.

I recommend that the government look at the 2017 report called “Three Years to Safeguard Our Climate”. It was signed by over 100 climate experts, led by Christiana Figueres. It is very clear. We cannot let it go past 2020 before we turn the corner, before we bring greenhouse gas emissions down. We have to do it quickly, or the chance to hit 1.5° Celsius and hold it there will be forgone and foreclosed, and our children will have an unlivable world.

Celina Caesar-Chavannes

Mr. Speaker, the pan-Canadian framework commits to ongoing monitoring and reporting of results to ensure that policies are effective, to take stock of progress achieved, and to inform Canadians of the future national actions in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

This includes annual reporting to the Prime Minister of Canada, and to provincial and territorial premiers, external assessments and advice by experts, meaningful engagement with indigenous peoples, and a review of carbon pricing approaches in 2020 and 2022.

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