Giving the Climate Accountability Act 3 strikes

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-12-03 19:22 [p.2955]

Madam Speaker, in Adjournment Proceedings this evening, I am pursuing a question for which I did not receive an adequate answer on November 20.

I asked about the new legislation before us, Bill C-12, which proclaims itself as a net-zero climate accountability act. It fails on almost every point. The Green caucus is struggling with how to handle it. We want so very much to support climate accountability, but we struggle with whether we can even vote for this legislation at second reading to send it to committee.

Here is what the legislation must do as the bottom line requirement to be called accountability on net zero for climate action: We have to get the science right, we have to get the process right and we have to get the accountability right. Right now, it has three strikes and this legislation is out.

Getting the science right means that in the preamble, one does not cite one aspect of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change science, that to hold to 1.5°C we must have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, all the while ignoring the closer-term reality of the emergency and the urgency. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also says that to have any hope of holding to 1.5°C, we need massive reductions in greenhouse gases in the next decade.

It is not an even pace of having three decades so we take our time and do it in even bits every 10 years. No, we cannot do that. Most of the heavy lifting has to be done before 2030. That is not clear in the legislation. As a matter of fact, it is denied by the way the legislation is structured with a first milestone year in 2030.

Next is getting the process right. I am honestly baffled that the Liberal government appears to have ignored the experience garnered in other countries with climate accountability legislation. The U.K. has had its legislation since 2008. There are lessons to be learned there. Similarly, New Zealand, which brought in its legislation, learned from the U.K.’s experience, as did Denmark. All of the climate accountability legislation in countries where it is working have relied on expert advice. To the extent they have an advisory group, they are experts.

This legislation wants to have an advisory body that seems to be another version of a multistakeholder group without expertise. That is a very significant error. I like multistakeholder groups. I used to be vice-chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, which was destroyed and repealed. It was originally put in place by the Mulroney government, by the way, and it was repealed under Bill C-38 in the spring of 2012. We should bring a national round table or something like that back, but not through the backdoor of Bill C-12, where we need expertise, not multistakeholder advice.

The third area of accountability that fails is having the mechanisms to hold the government to account and getting them right. This bill does not use mandatory language around the minister meeting a target. It is interesting. I have been conferring with colleagues in New Zealand and they are looking at saying, if the target is missed, that means the government will have to make up what it missed by buying credits and paying for them. Their finance department is getting ready to book the costs of missing the target. Therefore, there is a financial penalty and the government will then be keeping its eye on the ball to avoid that penalty.

The bottom line here is that the Paris Agreement now has the support of the United States, President-elect Joe Biden has appointed a high-level special envoy in John Kerry. Canada should be jumping up right now to be bold and ambitious.

This bill is not what we need. I hope we can see changes before it comes back at third stage and report stage.

Paul Lefebvre (Sudbury)
2020-12-03 19:26 [p.2955]

Madam Speaker, the immediate priority of the government is to support Canadians through the pandemic. However, we are also planning strategically for how to promote economic prosperity while also addressing the global crisis of climate change.

Canadians are experiencing the impacts of climate change and the government understands the urgent need to take action and ensure that sustainability is built into all aspects of our economy. This is critical for Canadians today and for our future generations.

We are making progress through Canada’s current climate plan, the pan-Canadian framework. This plan is projected to achieve a historic level of emissions reductions, but we know we need to do more. That is why the government has committed to exceeding its 2030 greenhouse gas emissions targets, and putting the country on a path to prosper in a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

We have also committed to bringing forward a new NDC emission reduction target by 2030, prior to COP26 in November 2021.

To reach these targets, we are strengthening existing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and introduce new ones. The 2020 fall economic statement announced some of these new measures, and our work to build back better will make the economy greener, more inclusive, more resilient and more competitive.
Investments include putting climate action at the centre of our plan to create a million new jobs; bolstering training support for those hit hardest by the pandemic, including marginalized and racialized women, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, and new Canadians; and proposing to provide up to 700,000 grants to homeowners to help them make energy efficient improvements to their homes.

We are committed to investing in Canada’s clean power supply and working to connect Canadians with clean electricity across the country. We are investing in zero-emission vehicles, including charging and refuelling infrastructure. The Government of Canada is also working to develop a well-functioning, sustainable finance market in Canada. We are also prioritizing investments in nature-based solutions, including plans to plant two billion trees over 10 years.
We are investing in climate-smart, natural solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions related to ecosystem loss, and we are committing new funding to support climate solutions for agriculture. In the coming weeks, the government will bring these and other elements together in a coherent, enhanced climate plan, providing Canadians with transparency as to how Canada will exceed its current 2030 Paris Agreement targets.

After the proposed plan is released, we will be consulting with our partners, indigenous peoples, provinces and territories, municipalities, industry and civil society. These consultations will inform the development of Canada’s updated 2030 target.

I would like to thank the hon. member for her commitment to increased climate action. I look forward to working with the member, our colleagues and Canadians as we work towards bringing forward a plan that will enable Canada to exceed our 2030 targets and help set Canada on a path to achieving a prosperous net-zero emissions future.

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2020-12-03 19:29 [p.2956]

Madam Speaker, when the hon. member refers to our Paris targets, the number he is referring to is that from the third time that Stephen Harper weakened our target. It is the weakest of the three Harper targets, and we still have it five years after an election. I find this not just baffling but tragic.
The Government of Canada committed in Paris, in the COP decision document, that we would increase our 2030 target this year, in 2020, not merely before COP26 next year, but this year, when we have vanishing days left for us to fulfill our international obligations.

We have a short time left. The window closing on 1.5 degrees will close in the coming years, well before 2030. If it closes, it closes for good, and it closes for our children the opportunity to have a liveable world. The stakes could not be higher. The government has to do better.

Paul Lefebvre (Sudbury)
2020-12-03 19:30 [p.2956]

Madam Speaker, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, global greenhouse gas emissions need to decline rapidly over the next three decades according to scientific experts.

The Paris Agreement calls for governments around the world to take urgent and ambitious action on climate change to keep global warming well below 2 degrees and to pursue efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees in 2018. That report concluded that global emissions need to reach net zero around mid-century for there to be a reasonable chance of meeting the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

On November 19, 2020, the minister tabled the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability bill, which, if passed, would legally bind the government to a process to achieve net zero by 2050. It would make our 2030 target legally binding, and set five-year emission reduction targets to 2050 to improve accountability and transparency. We look forward to working with all the parties to pass this important legislation and strengthen our 2030 targets.