Adjournment Proceedings – The Environment

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I put to the Minister of the Environment on May 12. The question was one of many I have put to the minister and the Prime Minister in an attempt to get a clear answer as to whether this Conservative administration remains committed to the Copenhagen target, which the Prime Minister personally adopted when he participated in the United Nations conference in 2009. He attended briefly toward the end of the meeting, and there was, as close observers of the climate debate will know, a non-UN process that took place in a back room among a number of the world leaders, including Barack Obama, the President of the United States, and the Chinese government. Canada was not in that room, but when those leaders emerged with something called a non-binding political agreement, Canada signed onto that. In doing so, the Prime Minister adopted the same target that President Obama had announced. All countries within this politically binding agreement, in other words, not binding at all, agreed to take on different targets. Canada decided to take the U.S. target, which was 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

This amounted to the second reduction in targets from the time the current Prime Minister assumed that position back in 2006. The first step was his announcement that Canada did not consider itself obligated to meet what was then a legally binding target under the Kyoto protocol. He chose a weaker target of 20% below 2006 levels by 2020, and changed it in 2009 to a weaker target, because ironically, the year 2005 had higher emissions than the year 2006, so it became convenient to adopt the U.S. target. It actually weakened our targets once again.

The reason I keep trying to find out if we are even committed to this weak target is that according to Environment Canada, based on all current steps that have been taken within Canada, federally and provincially, all targets combined amount to a three megatonne reduction below 2005 levels, when a 130-megatonne reduction below 2005 levels was promised.

It seems to be a matter of some substance and importance to know if the current administration is committed to the target it chose. I think we could still get there. We could still do it, but it would require a plan. It would require an economy-wide plan. It would require some form of carbon pricing. It would require the elimination of subsidies to fossil fuels. In other words, it would have to be a serious effort to meet a weak target, because as things stand right now, 2005 levels were 737 megatonnes, and we are projecting for 2020 734 megatonnes, a three megatonne drop. The target is 613 megatonnes. These numbers come from Environment Canada. There is no dispute about them. The only question is, where is the plan?

Is the government still committed to the target that the Prime Minister adopted personally, not through his environment minister, not from the previous Prime Minister, not from the Liberals, not from Jean Chrétien, and not from Paul Martin. The current Prime Minister adopted this target in a world forum and continues to act as though we have made some progress, when in fact we are standing still. I hope for a better answer this evening.

Lois Brown: Mr. Speaker, here we are, Wednesday night, after midnight. Déjà vu, all over again.

Our government is committed to achieving Canada’s targets and our record speaks for itself. We will continue to take action with our sector-by-sector approach that has been achieving real results while fostering economic growth. So far, our government has contributed to reducing Canada’s emissions through stringent regulations for the transportation and electricity sectors, two of the largest sources of emissions in Canada.

I would now like to take a moment to highlight some of the great achievements we have made so far. First, Canada has strengthened its position as a world leader in clean energy production by becoming the first major coal user to ban future construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units. Second, 2025 passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many greenhouse gases as 2008 models. Third, greenhouse gas emissions from 2018 model year heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by up to 23%.

Let me reiterate. Our government’s collective actions are achieving real results. Thanks to our actions, carbon emissions will go down close to 130 megatonnes from what they would have been under the Liberals. This is a reduction equivalent to the elimination of 37 coal-fired electricity plants. We are accomplishing this without the NDP’s carbon tax, which would raise the price of everything.

Between 2005 and 2011, greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 4.8%, while the economy has grown by 8.4%. Per capita emissions are at an historic low. In addition to doing our part through the United Nations, we are also actively involved in fora such as the Arctic Council, the Montreal protocol, and the climate and clean air coalition, to develop practical and collaborative initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and short-lived climate pollutants.

Canada has strong international commitments to support developing country mitigation and adaptation efforts. Our Conservative government, in partnership with other developed countries, has fully delivered on the fast start financing commitment, which provided $30 billion over the three-year period of 2010 to 2012. In fact, we exceeded the commitment by providing $33 billion. As can clearly be seen, the figures speak for themselves. Our government has committed the largest ever contribution to support international efforts to address climate change, a contribution that has supported mitigation and adaptation efforts in over 60 developing countries.

We remain committed to working with other countries to address climate change.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am so sorry that me dear friend, the parliamentary secretary has to debate this after midnight when we started the day together at 7 a.m.

However, the reality is that although everything she said is true, none of it adds up to a plan to meet the Copenhagen target. The coal regs do not take effect until 2015 and are fully considered when Environment Canada projects that by 2020 we will have reduced by 3 megatonnes.

The statistic she just gave us of what the emissions were between 2005 and 2011 is also accurate. However, between 2011 and 2020, what she did not add is that Environment Canada projects that emissions will keep rising. They are rising to reach 734 megatonnes by 2020, not dropping.

It is not her fault because it is repeated ad nauseam. The nonsense that this is 130 megatonnes less than what would have happened under the Liberals is their spin around a concept called business as usual, which is a hypothetical imagining of what would happen in some future if nothing happened anywhere, not counting Ontario’s or B.C.’s reductions. In other words, business as usual as a figure is irrelevant to the Copenhagen target, which required absolute reductions by 17%. We need a plan.

Lois Brown: Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes that climate change is a shared challenge that requires action by provinces and territories, businesses, and all Canadians. Provincial and territorial governments and others are taking action on climate change, according to their own circumstances. The federal government supports the efforts of provinces and territories, businesses, and consumers to lower their emissions and these measures will also contribute toward Canada’s climate change objectives.

If I may just say, I believe it is incumbent on each one of us as consumers to start making different choices. That is what is going to lower emissions in the long run: when we each take responsibility for the things that we use, the things that we purchase,and the things that we consume. It is up to us.