Adjournment Proceedings – The Environment

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to pursue a question that I put to the Minister of the Environment in November of last year and it has only now come forward for adjournment proceedings. I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue the matter that I raised at the time, although some time has passed.


The matter relates to the composition of government delegations to international conferences, in particular to the 17th conference of the Parties that took place in Durban, South Africa at the close of 2011 under the framework convention on climate change. Members may recall that there was a change in government policy and a decision was made to exclude members of the opposition from the delegation that took part in COP 17 in Durban.

Given the passage of time, I am hoping that I will be able to determine from the parliamentary secretary what the position of the government will be in relation to the composition of the delegation to COP 18 when it occurs in Doha. I am particularly interested to know whether, at this point, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment can confirm whether Canada plans to participate in COP 18 which will also include negotiations relating to the Kyoto protocol.

The reason for this question will be obvious to those who have been attentive to this issue. On return from Durban, the hon. Minister of the Environment announced that Canada had no intention of participating in the second phase of Kyoto and that we also intended to legally withdraw.

There has not been sufficient attention to the fact that when the Minister of the Environment made this announcement he did not legally withdraw Canada from Kyoto. That is not possible In one fell swoop, so he sent a letter to the UN secretariat on climate change. The effect of that letter was to give a one year notice of Canada’s intent to withdraw. This creates an interesting dynamic for the Privy Council in that the legal withdrawal from Kyoto will not take place until after the conclusion of COP 18 which is taking place in Qatar in the city of Doha.

I want to explore a couple of future prospects that I am hoping the government has considered. Will we participate in negotiations relating to the second phase of the Kyoto protocol, as we did in Durban, undermining the progress that other nations intend to make in that second commitment period? Will we stay home from Doha? If we attend Doha at COP 18, will we return to the practice of decades, not merely of a previous Liberal government or a previous majority government or a previous minority government, but going back in time, at least as far as the government under former Prime Minister Trudeau, certainly the practice of former Prime Minister Mulroney and so on through the decades, until we find ourselves in a situation where opposition members for the first time were excluded by the current government?

Will Canada be participating in COP 18? Will members of opposition parties be included? If we participate in COP 18, will we have the effrontery to participate in negotiations under the Kyoto protocol when we have already signalled our legal intention to withdraw?

Michelle Rempel: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be able to speak to my colleague opposite’s questions this evening, because there are a lot of mistruths in her statement.

First, I will address her question with regard to the composition of the delegation leading into Durban. Our government has been quite clear in our approach to priorities, that we have a strong mandate to ensure that our economy continues to thrive and that we see job growth in this country. From that, I think in the lead-up to Durban, we felt it was very important for our government to speak with one voice at Durban, because of the varying positions that would be in violation of, or in a dichotomy with, that initial principle.

When we look at the NDP, they actually have worked against the interest of the country by going to the United States and lobbying against our jobs in the energy sector. The Liberals have a track record of complete inaction when it comes to climate change. The former Liberal government signed on to Kyoto with no plan to implement it. We also saw greenhouse gas emissions rise under its tenure. My colleague opposite’s party has been varied in its policy stance on how to approach environmental stewardship while balancing the need for economic growth.

By contrast our government has been very clear. We have said that we need to ensure that we take real action with regard to greenhouse gas emission reduction, but we also need to do that in a pragmatic way to ensure that our economy retains a competitive advantage.

That said, we felt it was very important to have our country speak with one united voice at Durban, including a recognition of the fact that we are taking strong action here at home domestically. We are leaders. The International Institute for Sustainable Development said in a recent report that our government’s policy is a good start. We are making actual progress with our sector by sector regulatory approach. We have seen regulations come into place in the transportation sector. We are now looking at the coal-fired sector. We have plans for other sector reductions and regulations as well.

Thus, number one, we have had a strong domestic approach. Number two, our government has said that the Kyoto protocol is not something we should just be standing still on with regard to an international approach to greenhouse gas emission reductions. We need to see all major emitters come to the table.

My colleague opposite has to acknowledge that the Kyoto protocol now includes less than 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions at present. Therefore, we need a new agreement. We need to have all of these countries come to the table and sign on to an agreement with binding targets.

We did not feel that the opposition parties had that stance. As such, because we are proud of the approach we are taking and because we want to see real action, our government was proud to go to Durban and take that message forward.

With regard to some of the other questions the member asked, we do have a very clear position. We have been very transparent. We withdrew from the Kyoto protocol because it does not work. The international community needs a new agreement to see real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore, we will continue on the good work that was started in Copenhagen and continued in Cancun and in Durban this year toward that new agreement, but we will also continue with our pragmatic, balanced action-focused approach, a sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while ensuring that our economy is not competitively disadvantaged while we do that.