Elizabeth May: Is Canada on track for the Paris climate talks?

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pursue a question I asked of the Minister of the Environment on January 26. It was my first opportunity to raise with the Minister of the Environment and the House the results of the meetings of the Conference of the Parties at the Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was COP20, which occurred in Lima, Peru in December.

In the terms of the agreement to which Canada has agreed, countries that are ready to do so would provide their targets and planned actions under a basket of terms now in the UN lingo called INDCs, intended nationally-determined contributions, no later than the end of the first quarter of 2015. Next week, March 31, is when Canada’s statement of intentions are due. I would certainly hope Canada would want to fulfill its responsibilities with the rest of the industrialized world.

I will back up in terms of why this is so critical. Members of the House will recall that the negotiations that took place in Copenhagen, at what was then the 15th conference of the parties, were not successful. However, there was a kind of patched together side deal called the Copenhagen accord, which the current Conservative administration greeted favourably. That approach was launched by President Barack Obama in sort of a backroom deal with other nations, in which a two-page agreement was provided to world leaders, such as our Prime Minister, with an approach that was basically fill in the blanks, “This country will sign on, and this country will reduce by x amount by x year our greenhouse gas emissions”.

The goal that was crystal clear and that was not fill in the blanks was that the collective level of commitments of the countries that adopted this accord would be sufficient to avoid global average temperatures increasing 2°C more than they were before the industrial revolution. Further, the text of the so-called Copenhagen accord left open the possibility of a much more important target; that we avoid allowing greenhouse gas levels to rise so fast and become so concentrated in the atmosphere that we could actually avoid 1.5°C, which would be a much safer level for a new stabilization in the climate system.

Leaving Copenhagen, once they filled in the blanks, the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change started crunching the numbers to see if those countries met their commitments would it be sufficient to meet the goal of avoiding 2°C or even 1.5°C? It quickly concluded that even if every country met their targets from 2009, it would be wholly insufficient to avoid very dangerous levels that soared far above a 2°C increase.

To avoid that same phenomenon of commitments being made at the large event, only to be totted up later and found insufficient, the parties, which includes the Government of Canada, agreed to the approach to ensure that all of the commitments, including commitments to funding, adaptation and technology transfers, but very specifically reduction of emissions, would be tabled in the first quarter of 2015 to determine if each country that gathered in Paris this year met their targets would it be sufficient. We now know Canada has no hope of meeting the targets that we set for ourselves in 2009.

That is why it is critical that Canada gets its plans, its intended nationally-determined contribution, tabled with the UN Secretariat next week.

Colin Carrie: Mr. Speaker, this government’s record is clear. We have taken decisive action on the environment, while protecting our economy.

Our government is working to negotiate a new global climate change agreement that includes commitments from all major emitters. We take the challenge of climate change seriously, which is why we are doing our part, reducing emissions in Canada and working with our international partners.

At the Lima conference, the parties agreed to announce their intended nationally determined contributions well before the 21st Paris conference.

The analysis of Canada’s post-2020 contribution is currently being done and will take into account Canada’s economic, geographic, and demographic circumstances.

This government’s international efforts with regard to climate change go beyond the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations. We are working with other countries through complementary forums, such as the Arctic Council, the Montreal protocol, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.

As we approach the meeting at the end of this year in Paris, Canada will continue to take decisive actions domestically to reduce our emissions while we work with our international partners to confirm a durable global agreement that will put in place a long-term framework for collaborative action.

Our government will continue to implement its domestic sector-by-sector regulatory approach to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions, while supporting economic growth and job creation opportunities for Canadians.

We know the NDP and the Liberals support a reckless and irresponsible private member’s bill that would require Canada to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. To achieve this, we would literally have to shut down the entire oil and gas sector and all electricity generation that produces emissions, and stop all transportation in the country. This is an approach that shows once again how far removed from reality the NDP and the Liberals are.

We remain fully committed to the development of an international climate change agreement that is fair, effective and includes meaningful and transparent commitments from all major emitters.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I am profoundly disappointed by my hon. friend, the parliamentary secretary. I asked this question on January 26. Knowing the amount of notice, I had expected that the response might at least treat the subject matter of my question. The point of these adjournment proceedings is to follow up on questions that are inadequately answered.

In the last four minutes, I am afraid to say that my friend has ignored the subject matter of my question, which is very specific and very urgent. Will the Government of Canada tender the promised intended nationally-determined contribution data to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change when it is due, which is March 31, next week?

It is all fine, well and good to hear platitudes about being committed to the convention, but the most important required step by any country really committed to this process is to tender the INDCs on time within the first quarter of 2015. Will we be doing it? Will the parliamentary secretary commit now?

Colin Carrie: Mr. Speaker, Canadians can be very proud of our record. For example, in Canada we have one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world, with 79% of our electricity supply emitting no greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada also became the first major coal user to ban the construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units.

We will continue to move forward with regulatory measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining job creation and economic growth.