Adjournment Proceedings – the Environment

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am rising this evening in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked November 27 in the House. The question related to the issue of the climate crisis.

The Speaker and other members here may be familiar with my own activities. I participated in COP 19. This was the 19th Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These meetings have been going on, as the name suggests, for 19 years of annual meetings to develop mechanisms to meet the commitments. All governments around the world, literally over 190 countries, are committed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to avoid levels of greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere. The term used in the convention is to avoid levels that become dangerous and to avoid human cause. The convention language is “anthropogenic climate change” at a level that becomes dangerous.

The scientific community was organized by United Nations agencies, such as the World Meteorological Organization, and UNEP, into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to advise policy-makers, because the term “dangerous” is one without an absolute definition. One could say it is dangerous now. It is certainly dangerous if one were in shantytowns in the Philippines when Typhoon Haiyan hit. It is certainly dangerous if one were on the east coast of the United States when Hurricane Sandy hit.

We have seen dangerous individual accelerated events packing more power because of the warmer ocean waters, because of the strange weather patterns we are experiencing, with oscillations of the jet streams, which are becoming slower and more permanent. They are creating periods of extreme high pressure and low pressure sitting on parts of the world much longer than when we had the jet streams moving pretty quickly and moving at mid-latitudes in horizontal fashion.

We have seen significant, dangerous impacts. If one is in a low-lying island state, one might say it is dangerous now. The scientific community has advised, and the world community, including the Prime Minister, accepted the warning, that we must ensure that whatever else we do, we do not allow global average temperatures to increase 2° Celsius above where it was before the industrial revolution. In other words, that is before anthropogenic gases began to build up.

Two degrees may not sound like a lot, but it is well into the danger zone. If we do not avoid 2° Celsius, we are not talking about another political target that gets missed. We are talking about irrevocable changes, changes we will not be able to remedy down the road. Therefore, it is essential that we address the climate crisis and are meaningfully engaged as a country, which we are not right now.

My question for the Prime Minister, which he did not address at all, is whether he is prepared to accept the invitation of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who, in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, announced a special leaders summit to take place September 24, 2014, in the days ahead of the UN General Assembly, when many world leaders will be there anyway. This is to be a “solutions summit”, in the words of the Secretary-General.

World leaders are invited to show up and bring forward solutions and to create some political momentum, because we are coming to a new deadline. After the failure of the 2009 Copenhagen conference, the UN, through the Conference of the Parties, through all the nations involved in the process, including Canada, have accepted that by COP 21, in 2015, we will have a global binding treaty engaging all nations, developed and developing, and that treaty will be sufficient to avoid 2° Celsius.

We have a very serious disconnect between the pace of the negotiations and the pace of climate change in the atmosphere. We have very little time. I wish the Prime Minister had addressed my question. Perhaps the hon. member across could tell us if the Prime Minister of Canada will be attending the leaders’ climate summit.

Scott Armstrong: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the comments from my fellow Nova Scotian across the way.

Canada remains committed to its climate change targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and our action and leadership demonstrate this. Canada’s latest emissions trends report projects that as a result of existing measures and actions from all levels of government, consumers, and businesses, Canada’s GHG emissions in 2020 will be 734 megatons.

This means we have reduced emissions by 128 megatons compared to where Canada’s emissions were projected to be in 2020 if no measures were taken to reduce emissions since 2005.

Canada has continued to demonstrate leadership on the international stage as well. Representing less than 2% of the global emissions of greenhouse gases, Canada understands the importance for any international climate change agreement to include the participation of and action from all major emitters.

That is why, at COP 19 in Warsaw, we continued to push for such an agreement, and the outcome from Warsaw firmly solidified that position.

Canada’s leadership was also instrumental in achieving a breakthrough in Warsaw on an important initiative to help developing countries reduce deforestation and forest degradation, which account for nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

I would like to highlight that in addition to the negotiations at COP 19, Canada participated in important meetings, including the High Level Assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. Being a top donor for the coalition, Canada’s contribution has been significant and is leading to practical actions being implemented to achieve near-term emissions reduction.

Canadians should also be proud to know that this leadership is being recognized on the world stage. In fact, while the minister was in Warsaw, she heard from a number of representatives from other countries who thanked and praised Canada for its environmental record. This record includes a systemic sector-by-sector regulatory approach to address greenhouse gas emissions.

So far the federal 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.

As a result of our action to date, Canada has strengthened its position as a world leader in clean electricity generation by becoming the first major coal user to ban future construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units. In 2025, passenger vehicles and light trucks will emit about half as many greenhouse gas emissions as 2008 models, and greenhouse gas emissions from 2018 model year heavy-duty vehicles will be reduced by up to 23%.

Our collective actions are achieving success. Between 2005 and 2011, Canadian GHG emissions have decreased by 4.8%, while the economy has grown by 8.4%. Moreover, per capita emissions are at an historic low of 20.4 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per person, their lowest level since tracking began in 1990.

Our government will continue to show strong leadership on this file.