Adjournment Proceedings: Rising Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question that I asked earlier, in September of this year. It deals with the issue of Canada’s greenhouse gas records: Are emissions rising, or are they falling?

These adjournment proceedings that give us more time do allow for something of a tutorial. I am going to start by reading my full question, and then the answer that I received. That gives us a framework to explain why I want to come back to this point. It is important, and I want to make it very clear that I believe that all members of this place want to get full information and to deal with numbers that are accurate.

I will paraphrase slightly what I asked initially. I said that in an answer in question period, before I asked my question on September 22, I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, a good friend whom I see is in the House tonight, say that greenhouse gas levels are falling. Then he said that it has led to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas levels. I said the following:

If the PMO had consulted the Environment Canada website, it would know that neither of those statements is correct. Greenhouse gas levels have been rising steadily since the end of the recession and are slated to end at 734 megatonnes by 2020, less than one half of one percent below the 2005 levels, when the Prime Minister committed to 17%.

I asked the parliamentary secretary to find out if the Prime Minister’s Office would check Environment Canada’s website before writing the talking points to be used by Conservative parliamentary secretaries and ministers.

My hon. colleague, the parliamentary secretary, said:

Since 2005, Canadian greenhouse gas emissions have decreased 5.1%, while the economy has grown by 10.6%.

Here is what I want to put to him. Both statements are correct. One is an attempt to explain, and one is an attempt to confuse. I believe that my statement was the one to explain, and the talking points from the Prime Minister’s Office were designed to confuse.

Therefore, let me explain. Greenhouse gas levels in Canada fell to a low point during the recession. After the recession, in 2009, greenhouse gas levels fell below 700 megatonnes to 692 megatonnes. That is the lowest that they had been in some time. What happened was that as soon as the recession was over, greenhouse gas levels started rising. They have been rising ever since 2009. When I hear hon. colleagues say that they are falling, that is a statement that would lead Canadians to believe that they are currently falling.

In terms of the actions of the Conservative administration, I do not believe that the Prime Minister wants to take personal credit for the economic meltdown of 2008, nor do I believe that he had any responsibility for it. However, that is the reason that greenhouse gas levels went as low as they did in 2009. Ever since then, as the economy has recovered, greenhouse gas levels have been steadily rising. They are slated to go, from around 692 megatonnes, in 2009, as I said, to 734 megatonnes by 2020. That means that we will completely blow the so-called Copenhagen target.

Colin Carrie: Mr. Speaker, our government’s record is clear: we have taken decisive action on the environment while maintaining a strong economy.

Through our sector-by-sector regulatory approach, we have already taken action on some of Canada’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, including the coal-fired electricity and transportation sectors.

As a result of regulatory measures, Canada became the first major coal user to ban the construction of traditional coal-fired electricity generation units. Canada already has one of the cleanest electricity systems in the world, with more than three-quarters of electricity in Canada being generated from non-greenhouse gas emitting sources, such as hydro, nuclear, and renewables.

With the stringent new regulations, Canada’s system will be even cleaner. Emissions in the electricity sector are expected to fall by 46% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

As far as the transportation sector is concerned, in September our government announced that it is implementing additional initiatives to cut air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. These measures will allow us to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and clean the air for Canadians.

Thanks to the government’s measures in the transportation sector, passenger vehicles and vans built and sold in 2025 will emit roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions of 2008 models, and emissions from heavy vehicles will be reduced by up to 23% in 2018 models.

Our government is also taking action on climate change in other areas. Last month we announced that Canada will move forward to regulate hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which are potent greenhouse gases. Canada will be aligning these new regulations with regulations proposed by the United States. In doing so, we will be taking pre-emptive steps to reduce the harmful HFC emissions.

Our approach to climate change protects the environment and supports economic prosperity. Indeed, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have been falling and the economy has been expanding. As reported in Canada’s national inventory report, between 2005 and 2012, total Canadian greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 5.1%, while the economy grew by 10.6%.

More recently, emissions have remained steady since 2010, while Canada has seen economic growth of 4.4% over the same period. Furthermore, Canada’s per capita emissions are now at their lowest point since fracking began in 1990.

Our government is working to ensure that we achieve results for Canadians and the environment. Our approach will lead to real emissions reductions, maintain Canada’s economic competitiveness, and support job creation opportunities for Canadians.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I do not know where to begin, because now we have heard it again. The hon. parliamentary secretary says that greenhouse gas levels have been falling when the opposite is the case.

Ever since the economic recovery began after the 2008 meltdown, greenhouse gas levels in this country have been rising. That is clear on any chart or graph that one examines on the Environment Canada website. These levels are on their way up, not down, and throwing in per capita measures is merely a shell game. The population of Canada is larger, so per person one can say that our emissions are lower, but the reality is that per capita we are one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters. That is nothing to be proud of.

It is time to stop the Enron accounting. It is time to pay attention to the warning of scientists. We need a comprehensive plan that tracks Canada’s emissions in order to reduce them substantially before mid-century, to leave a lot of hydrocarbons in the ground, as required by science, and ensure that our children have a livable world before it is too late.

Colin Carrie: Mr. Speaker, climate change is a significant challenge facing all countries, and Canada is doing its part to address this challenge.

As a result of collective action by Canadian governments, consumers, and businesses, Canada’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be about 130 megatonnes lower relative to a scenario of no action having been taken since 2005.

We recognize that more work is needed to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Federal initiatives, along with further provincial measures, will contribute to additional emissions reductions.