I may not be able to vote for Bill C-12. Here’s why.

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2021-04-27 13:39 [p.6234]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to finally be able to speak to Bill C-12, the climate accountability act to reach net-zero. It was introduced in November, and now we find ourselves with a time allocation. This really does need to be debated in this place.

I know how very carefully the parliamentary secretary and the minister, when they speak of all parties in this place ready to support this bill, somehow do not mention the Green Party of Canada, the party that is known and trusted by Canadians, more than any other, to put climate at the centre of what we do to ensure sustainability and that future generations have a hospitable climate, one that will sustain the human civilization going forward.

Therefore, when we hear the words “climate accountability act” and “net-zero by 2050”, we think they really do sound good. I know a lot of people will be stunned to realize that I, as someone who has worked on the climate issue for as long as I have, starting in 1986 on the early stages of negotiating the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and being at the Rio Earth Summit, and so many other conferences I do not even want to go back and remember them all, I am struggling with how I am going to vote on this bill. How is it that I could think that it could be dangerous?

I will explain how that is, and I will make my comments in two parts. The first will look to the science. This is all about the science. We have to get it right. There are such things as carbon budgets, which are not included in this legislation. We know that the Liberals are talking about net-zero by 2050.

Let me reference for a moment Greta Thunberg. We all know she is a very dedicated climate activist. Greta Thunberg says net-zero by 2050 is “surrender” because it gives politicians the illusion that we have time, we have a couple of decades, we can work toward this and we can figure it out. That is not the case anymore.

Let me quote someone the Liberals will have heard of. In his book Value(s): Building a Better World for All, Mark Carney explains carbon budgets probably better than anyone I have ever heard. On page 273 of the book, he writes, “The carbon budget to limit temperature rises to below catastrophic levels is rapidly being exhausted. If we had started in 2000, we could have hit the 1.5°C objective by halving emissions every 30 years. Now, we must halve emissions every 10 years. If we wait another four years, the challenge will be to halve emissions every year. If we wait another eight years, our 1.5°C carbon budget will be exhausted.”
How can we have a climate accountability act that has its first milestone year at 2030? Clearly, that is too late.

I would like to share a quotation from French President Emmanuel Macron. This quote is from a speech he delivered at last week’s Earth Day summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Here is what he said: “We have to drastically increase everyone’s targets if we want to achieve the 1.5-degree objective…. 2030 is the new 2050.”

They cannot get much clearer than that: 2030 is the new 2050. We have legislation here that tells us we will be all right, we will have our first milestone year in 2030. That is past the time of any accountability for the current government and past any accountability for probably the next one too. What we need to do is make this bill work.

I think it can be fixed, but I am very worried because the Minister of Environment and Climate Change asked me and the Green Party to propose amendments back in December. We have proposed the key thing, and without consulting Parliament, without waiting until we got to second reading and committee, he has already negated one of the key things that needs to be fixed in this bill.

Turning now from the science to the policy, there are climate accountability acts in about 12 countries around the world right now. The gold standard is the law the U.K. brought in in 2008. It set up an expert, independent, arm’s-length group, a climate accountability institute that actually advises government as a whole, not just the minister and not just a multi-stakeholder group, but an expert group with arm’s-length capacity.

That was one of my key recommendations to the minister, to make sure that the group advising the minister is an expert group made up of scientists. Without waiting to go to committee to see if my amendment might pass, we now have an appointed group, and it is a multi-stakeholder group, without independence from government, advising the minister and creating delays in the way it negotiates and moves forward.

To have a 2025 milestone year, we need to do one thing and we need to know the minister is open to it, and he has already told the media that he is not open to it. We need to have the target for 2025 baked into the legislation before third reading. Now that the government says it is heading to 45%, which is far too weak if we are looking at the science, and I will get back to this if I have a moment, we need to at least say that by 2025 we will have a 25% reduction, or even 15%.

That needs to be baked into the legislation, so we have some accountability. The way the legislation works, it also says that two years before we hit the first milestone, we would have the first reporting event. That would be very consistent with the Paris agreement and the requirement for a global stock-take year in 2023. To get on the right page for that, we really do need a 2025 milestone year.
Again, looking at climate accountability legislation all around the world, something else they have in common is that the first milestone year every time is within five years. The U.K., as I mentioned, first passed legislation in 2008. It also passed legislation in 2019, and its first milestone year was 2025. New Zealand brought in its legislation, and within five years of it passing, 2025 was its first milestone year.

It is unfortunate that we hear Liberal after Liberal using talking points that mislead this House. I do not blame them personally. I think the bad advice is coming from within Environment Canada itself. I do not understand how the department is unfamiliar with what we negotiated in Paris.

However, I can be very clear that 2030 is not the only year referenced in the Paris agreement. It also has 2023 as the first global stock-take year, and under agreements negotiated in Paris, specifically the COP 21 decision document at paragraph 24, Canada was supposed to improve our NDC in calendar 2020. We ignored that requirement.

Now we are seeing improvement in Canada’s stance based on the announcements the Prime Minister made last week at President Biden’s climate summit, but they are clearly inadequate. The minimum Canada should be doing is 60% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Can we fix Bill C-12? I think we can, but the reality, and it is a harsh reality, is that the suggested amendments we have made so far have already been rejected by the Liberal government. Now we have a five-hour closure on debate. I very much fear that I will not be able to vote for Bill C-12 as is, not because I do not want climate action, but because, as Greta Thunberg says, without a near-term target that is meaningful, net-zero by 2050 is surrender.

Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North)
2021-04-27 13:48 [p.6236]
Madam Speaker, the government, in bringing forward this legislation, is responding positively to what the population as a whole wants to see.

In the past, the government has indicated that legislation might not necessarily be perfect, and that is one of the reasons we want to go into committee, so we can listen to the amendments being brought forward to improve the legislation. However, the idea of net-zero and the creation of an advisory committee is very positive.

Is the hon. member familiar with some of the appointments that have been made to the advisory committee? If she is, could she provide her comments on the quality of the appointments?

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2021-04-27 13:49 [p.6236]
Madam Speaker, I will not comment on the individuals involved. Many of them are colleagues or friends. It does not matter, the structure is wrong. This is not a time for a multi-stakeholder group. I strongly recommend, and I have done so to the minister, that the government bring back the national round table on the environment and the economy, which was killed by Stephen Harper in the omnibus budget, Bill C-38. We do like multi-stakeholder advice, and we like multi-stakeholders at committees, but this is not a place for a multi-stakeholder committee. This is a place for a panel of experts to make sure the government understands the science, because so far it does not seem to.

Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan)
2021-04-27 13:50 [p.6236]
Madam Speaker, I appreciated the member’s references to Mark Carney’s book, which I have recently finished reading. I have to say, concerning his call to more action on the environment and also greater fiscal responsibility, he seems to be putting himself outside of his chosen party on a number of issues. I hope the members who fawned over his speech at the convention would consider reading his book and absorbing at least some of his insights.

I want to ask the member about the Conservative amendment, which formally, under the rubrics of debate, we are considering right now. It is an amendment that calls for the government to take a second run at the bill. The Conservative Party and the Green Party might not agree on the precise conclusions, but the amendment calls for the government to implement a real plan that recognizes the challenges of climate change and also to come up with a way of integrating concern for the economy and the environment.

What is the member’s take specifically on the amendment from the Conservative House leader?

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2021-04-27 13:51 [p.6236]
Madam Speaker, I am afraid I tend to agree with the Liberals on this one in that it would have the effect of killing the bill. If the bill is not going to be fixed, we might as well kill it, but it is too soon to decide to do that.

I do note, by the way, that the Liberals managed to have Mark Carney speak to the convention without letting him give an actual speech. He was interviewed by the hon. member for Toronto Centre. I had looked forward to hearing his words on many things. I found the book Value(s) extremely significant. It would be worth reading for every Canadian because it really speaks to a new way of governing to build our society back better on many levels. I regretted that he was only interviewed.

Mario Beaulieu (La Pointe-de-l’Île)
2021-04-27 13:51 [p.6236]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her presentation, which was very interesting.

A Conservative member who spoke earlier seemed to really emphasize carbon sequestration and all the ways carbon can be stored underground. I would like to hear her comments on that.

Furthermore, a number of environmental organizations have pointed out the shortcomings in the bill, including the absence of any obligation to achieve results and the lack of binding measures. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about establishing accountability mechanisms and having the government’s measures reviewed by an independent authority based on the achievement—

Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2021-04-27 13:53 [p.6236]
Madam Speaker, on carbon, there is never any harm in looking at speculative technologies, but this one so far has proven to be very expensive and does not work terribly well, whereas renewable energy works very well. We need to move fast.

As to the accountability mechanisms, there are none in this bill. If the minister fails 10 years from now, all he or she has to do is say sorry and give the reasons for the failure.