Canada needs to take real leadership on climate

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise tonight in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked in the House on June 14 of this year.

Adjournment proceedings is what we colloquially call within the House of Commons “late show”. The purpose of adjournment proceedings is to pursue an answer we received in question period that did not completely answer the question.

One of the difficulties with this process is that quite often by the time we get a chance to pursue the answer a great deal of time has passed. I asked this question on June 14, and the Prime Minister’s answer was not in any way evasive, but it did not fully respond to what I hoped to hear. Of course, that is not uncommon. However, I now address the question many months later and much has changed.

Let me first review the question I asked June 14, which was in relation to the upcoming G20 summit. There were a number of stories, particularly in the German press, that Canada was backing off full commitment to reference to the Paris accord in the communiqué, which was to be hosted by Chancellor Merkel. The speculation in the German press was that Canada was doing this to appease the U.S. administration. I was entirely pleased that the Prime Minister refuted these claims in the German press and that, in fact, the G20 summit communiqué was strongly in favour of commitment to the Paris accord, even though the U.S. made it clear that at least the executive of the U.S. government did not want to abide by the Paris accord, although it has not legally withdrawn and neither has it withdrawn from the United Nations framework convention on climate change.

Much has changed since then. I have just returned from COP23. The 23rd conference of the parties, in Bonn, took place over two weeks and ended in the wee hours this last Saturday at 7 a.m. As ever, climate negotiations are difficult. However, the negotiations in Bonn were hosted by the government of Fiji, an unusual proceeding, but it was the first time a low-lying island state from the Pacific could actually host a climate negotiation. This round of negotiations, despite the novelty of Fiji and the chair and the efforts by the Fijian presidency to raise the issues of the immediate, existential threats to low-lying island states, were fairly described as minimalistic, workmanlike, and achieved the bare minimum of what had to be done.

Right now, Canada is poised on the eve of taking the chairmanship of the G7. This is an amazing opportunity for Canada at this time, and I will set out why. I am particularly pleased that Government of Canada and the Prime Minister have said that three themes will emerge for Canada’s presidency of the G7 and that one of them will be climate. This is also encouraging.

What is not encouraging at this point is the lack of progress and leadership since Paris. I am not pointing fingers at any one government, but there is clearly a lack of leadership globally. Chancellor Merkel has been very damaged by the last election in Germany. I know I speak for many who hope she will succeed in putting together a coalition government to avoid holding yet another election so soon in Germany, particularly in light of the frightening rise of the far right and anti-immigration, in fact, pretty close to Nazi party. We are looking at a situation where obviously the U.S. is not in leadership.

The world actually needs Canada to step up and show real leadership, which means not just saying we are leaders. It means updating our nationally determined contribution, pledging to deeper cuts in carbon, and pledging to better financing. This is the challenge we face tonight.

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

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member mentioned, the original question actually related to the G20 and the G20 declaration. As she also mentioned, I am proud to note that Canada worked hard with its G20 partners to reaffirm the irreversibility of the Paris agreement and its strong commitment to take action. A number of concrete measures were outlined in the G20 communiqué relating to that.

Canada remains fully committed to playing a significant leadership role on the international stage with respect to addressing the incredibly important issue of climate change. On an international basis, the One Planet Summit coming up in France will be an opportunity for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada to once again demonstrate Canada’s commitment to moving this issue forward on an international basis.

Domestically, Canada has developed, with the provinces and territories, the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change, which provides a path through which we intend to meet or exceed the targets to which we have committed under the Paris agreement.

As we have said a number of times, the focus for us, unlike previous governments, is on ensuring we meet the targets to which we have committed and to the extent that we are able to make progress more rapidly, we will ratchet up our level of ambition.

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, we have the report now from the Commissioner of the Environment within the Office of the Auditor General. The report makes it clear that at this point, Canada has not been developing plans to meet the 2020 Copenhagen target, and that on current projections, it is very difficult to see how we would meet our target.

Our target is actually too weak to be called a Paris target. It is the same target put forward by the previous government of Stephen Harper. This is not to blame anyone here. There is a global problem, in that if the totality of targets committed to by all governments were fully achieved at the moment, we would still not achieve the Paris target of not going above a 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase. We are looking at catastrophic levels of warming, two to three times more than our pledges.

We cannot wait to take the decision to increase the target and develop the plans to meet it.

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

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows very well, the focus of the government is the 2030 target.

The government was elected in late 2015, and through the course of 2016, it developed, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change. The focus of that document is on achieving the 2030 target. We will be taking concrete measures to ensure that we meet or exceed that goal.

The hon. member is very familiar with the fact that many of the measures contained in the pan-Canadian framework relate to changes in the way that Canadians actually do things, which will require time and thought. If we are going to electrify significant portions of the transportation network, it will take time and infrastructure. If we are going to work towards accelerating the phase-out of coal, it will take time and thought and planning as to how we are going to replace that power.

The government is taking thoughtful and concrete steps to ensure that we are addressing climate change domestically, and we are playing a significant role to push forward the climate agenda internationally.