Our carbon budget cannot go up any further

Speaker: Ms. May
Time: 31/05/2022 19:07:47
Context: Question

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP): Madam Speaker, I rise tonight in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question I asked on March 28 during question period at two o’clock in the afternoon, the day before we were expecting the emissions reduction plan from the federal government.

My question to the minister was about what we were to make of the fact that there would be an announcement on March 29, and knowing that by April 4 there would be a new IPCC report that could well make the emissions reduction plan outdated and require immediate overhaul. Not surprisingly, the parliamentary secretary who responded felt that we were really on track, but the parliamentary secretary did say that we will need to do more.

What I am going to do with the three minutes I have remaining in my opening statement for tonight’s adjournment proceedings is be brutally honest about the science and where we stand. There is no sugar-coating this. It is not easy. I do not say these things because I want people to be afraid or because I want people to despair, but I desperately want people to wake up, particularly the people who have the power to make the decisions over whether my children and grandchildren survive on a livable, habitable planet, or endure unthinkable deprivations from climate breakdown.

What we did not know when I asked this question on March 28 was what the third working group of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its sixth assessment report would say. It advanced the clock. It advanced our timetable more than I had expected. It shook me and I have been working on the climate issue since 1986 when I was with Environment Canada.

What the IPCC said was that to hold to 1.5°C, which is the target of the Paris Agreement, at most we must try and, at the very least, as far below 2°C as possible global average temperature increase above what it was before the beginning of the industrial revolution. They are hard concepts to get our heads around and long to describe. What the IPCC said on April 4 makes the government’s plan from March 29 completely useless. Doing better, doing more and trying hard means nothing if we miss the main point.

The main point is this: The IPCC now says that we must ensure that between 2020 and, at the latest, before 2025, all around the world we must ensure that we stop addition and start subtraction. It is math, it is a carbon budget. We cannot go up anymore. We must peak and go down, and go down rapidly, such that by 2030, globally, we are emitting about half of the greenhouse gases that we did in 2010 or else. This is the part that gets hard. If we do not do that, we run the risk of hitting tipping points in the atmosphere that we cannot predict, which could lead to unstoppable, self-accelerating global warming.

At the very least, we can look at what is happening right now to us, including here in Ottawa, with a very dangerous storm that killed 11 people and people did not see that coming. That is at 1.1°C global average temperature increase. The heat dome in British Columbia killed 600 people in four days was at 1.1°C. We have had wild fires and floods. We see what is happening at 1.1°C global average temperature increase and we are pretending that we have it under control as we stand at the very edge of “too late”, and because it is not too—