Climate Change Accountability Act

An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.


Bruce Hyer  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Report stage (House), as of Dec. 10, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


May 5, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
April 14, 2010 Passed That Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, be concurred in at report stage.
April 1, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

moved that Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, we are faced with the biggest challenge in the history of the civilized world. We have choices. Canada can choose to lead, we can follow the world's leaders and scientists, but what we cannot do is just get out of the way.

My riding is vast and covered with boreal forests and lakes. Today the boreal forest is under extreme stress: from insects and disease, not only the mountain pine beetle; from more forest blowdowns because of more wind extremes; from record low water levels in Lake Superior; and, of course, forest fires, more forest fires all the time.

Greenhouse gases, up to a point, are a good thing and give the earth an average temperature of 15° Celsius. Without them, we would not be here to complain about cold winters in Canada because even in the tropics life as we know it could not exist. However, in the last century, especially in the most recent decades, human activities have resulted in more greenhouse gases and the global average temperature is increasing steadily.

Let us look at a little history. How did we get here?

Temperatures are closely linked to the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Temperatures have varied in the far distant past but human civilization has been here for a relatively brief period as a civilized entity, a mere 10,000 years. During this period, global average temperatures have been very consistent, with a variation of less than 1° over the past 10,000 years.

Droughts and little ice ages took place that forced people to move or perish. However, climate extremes, prolonged temperature shifts and weather catastrophes have been mostly limited to regional areas. They were not, as today, global in scope or scale.

The amounts of greenhouse gases were stable for this entire period. Humans used some wood for heating and cooking. Nevertheless, new plant growth easily captured that carbon. Around the beginning of the industrial revolution, CO2 was at 280 parts per million.

Worldwide concern about climate change had its first peak in the 1980s. World gatherings of policy makers and scientists studied the problems and issued directives to parliaments and congresses around the world.

Right here in Canada, in 1988 the United Nations conference in Toronto called “The Changing Atmosphere” was the beginning of a more modern consciousness about climate change. At that conference, the UN established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, to assess changes in climate, estimate their impacts and present strategies on how to respond.

Delegates from 46 countries all recommended developing a comprehensive global framework convention to protect the atmosphere and a 20% cut in global carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2005, and we have delivered a 28% increase. In many ways, we knew it all more than 20 years ago and we politicians did not listen to our own scientists.

The Rio earth summit in 1992 followed. Sustainability was the talk and there were more rehearsals about reductions. The Liberal government of the time announced an action program on climate change in 1995 but to no significant effect. There was so much well-intended talk but so little real action here in Canada.

The second peak in activity about climate change took place in the late 1990s. It was in response to new science and real world experience with nasty and extreme weather events. Some examples include: an unusual number of hurricanes; a number of billion dollar storms in the United States; a Chicago heatwave that killed 740 people; the Saguenay flood in 1996, Canada's first ever billion dollar natural disaster; and Winnipeg's Red River flood of 1997.

There was a lot of momentum leading to Kyoto in 1997 when almost all countries signed it, including Canada, to reductions below 1990 levels by 2012.

Unfortunately, the Bush years scuttled that process. The U.S., with nearly one-quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions, refused to ratify that protocol. Canada did ratify but with a puzzling disregard for a binding treaty. We continued to increase emissions.

The big three of emissions per capita, the United States, Australia and Canada, made only token investments in renewable energy technology. In fact, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions actually increased considerably more than the United States on a per capita basis.

Today, Americans and Canadians emit more CO2 per capita than anywhere else in the world.

When will we reach the tipping point?

Those familiar with Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point , will remember the example he uses of the light switch. We can move it, more and more, but it still remains dark, it is still dark we can move it, it is still dark then the room is suddenly filled with light.

There is a consensus among many scientists that at 450 to 500 parts per million, a climate tipping point will be reached from which we can never recover.

Most of us in Canada would welcome a few extra degrees more warmth on certain days, but it is a package deal. Warm temperatures increase the range of insects, for example the mountain pine beetle, and disease, such as the West Nile virus and Lyme disease, with predictions of malaria for southern Ontario in the not too far distant future.

All of our regions are vulnerable. Atlantic Canada: more intense hurricanes and nor'easters; more frequent and extreme floods in central Canada, indeed throughout Canada; more drought, hail and tornadoes on the prairies; more blowdowns on the west coast, like in Stanley Park; and, most vulnerable of all, our Canadian Arctic where the land and the ice are already experiencing major change. Permafrost is melting and has the potential to release huge quantities of greenhouse gases, like methane. Polar bears and traditional Inuit culture are headed for extinction.

We must heed these warnings. The severity of ferocious bushfires in Australia a few weeks ago shocked probably everyone but especially people in countries that deal with wildfires. Some people fled while others chose to stay and fight, and die.

On television, Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, symbolized a shocked nation. He looked around, barely able to find any words, and publicly wept. The final death toll will be over 240 in Australia. Our deepest sympathies do go out to the families and the Australian people.

However, the tragedy should not have come as that much of a surprise. A grim warning was issued by Australian scientists a few years ago. Their equivalent of our national research council stated:

...a new order of fires should be expected in south-eastern Australia [...] catastrophic fire events every five to seven years, with fires of such ferocity they would simply engulf towns in their path.

And here they are. Fire temperatures are estimated to have exceeded 1000 degrees Celsius, hotter than crematoriums typically set at 850 degrees.

Most of my own riding is in the boreal forest. I in fact I have spent most of my life in the forest as an ecologist, business person and forester. Forest fires are and have been a reality in our life there. It is not unusual for communities in my riding to be evacuated because of approaching forest fires. Some day we may be weeping when we lose entire towns full of people to wildfires right here in Canada.

Forest fires are part of a changing reality. According to the Canadian Forest Service, the area burned in Canada annually has almost tripled over the last three decades. Projected warmer temperatures and less reliable rainfall in the next decades may hugely increase that.

In the Arctic, the last two summers have featured records in ocean ice melting. There is the likelihood we that will see an ice-free Arctic in our lifetime. It is troubling that all these trends are predicted and, indeed, expected with increased greenhouse gases.

An essential part of the new weather is the higher frequency of extreme events. This is just a preview of the worsening next two decades. We need to act. Instead, we have Canada's inaction. We Canadian politicians have a sad record of inaction. Why is that?

Opinion polls keep saying that 80% of Canadians favour strict measures to reduce emissions, yet our own governments have been impotent and unwilling to confront what will be the defining issue of the 21st century: a changing climate and a dying world.

Voluntary compliance does not and will not work. I have already mentioned the failure of Sheila Copps' national action program on climate change in 1995. It is just one of many examples where we have failed. Canada is now approximately 28% above, not below, 1990 levels. To be blunt, Canada is an embarrassment on the world stage. We have retreated from recent world meetings in Bali and Poznan with a folder of fossil-of-the-day awards.

The next world conference in Copenhagen this December will provide another opportunity to regain some stature on the vital issue of climate change. This act would help re-establish our credibility at the bargaining table and increase the chances of persuading major developing countries to take on such commitments.

In this 40th Parliament, we have one last opportunity to take real action to prevent the threat of worsening economic and health effects of climate pollution. Bill C-311 would ensure that the government is accountable to Canadians on climate change and that Canada is accountable to the world.

This bill gives us a goal. It would require the Minister of the Environment, now and in the future, to implement measures to ensure that Canada reduces our absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. It introduces greater government accountability by requiring the minister to prepare five-year target plans starting in 2015 and report on progress every two years. It would mandate an independent body, the national round table on the environment and the economy, to review and report on the feasibility of each target plan.

The bill offers flexibility. The government has the option of setting targets, including for 2020, if it can make a convincing case that those targets are part of an appropriate trajectory between here and the bill's 2050 goal.

This bill builds on Bill C-288, the Kyoto protocol implementation act. In particular, the accountability mechanisms where the government is compelled to public emissions reduction plans and have them independently audited would die with C-288 at the end of 2012 if this bill is not passed. This bill would continue where Bill C-288 ends.

This bill would give us certainty, with long timelines and much greater predictability for business and industry. The plan lays out targets for five-year periods until 2050, giving a very clear picture of future regulatory environments. Controlling emissions offers us new opportunities. Cutting emissions is promoted by some as being detrimental to industry, but in many countries cutting emissions has created abundance. New technologies in Denmark, Germany and other European countries are creating jobs and internationally marketable products, which Canada could also choose to do.

Reducing emissions creates financial opportunities with lots of money to be made in the green economy. Consider, please, the Canadian who came up with a new solar panel, and could find no Canadian buyer and whose company was bought up by Germany. ZENN electric cars are made in Quebec, but exported to the U.S. because Ontario will not buy or legalize them.

In reducing carbon emissions we would be building fresh companies that would be addressing our current energy and environmental needs. We would create rewarding green collar jobs by building solar and wind infrastructure, as well as safe and renewable energy for our future.

As parliamentarians we can choose to finally confront this crisis decisively. This crisis is about the survival of millions of species, including our own. This issue must not be a partisan issue. It is not about right versus left. This is about right versus wrong.

Albert Schweitzer said over 50 years ago that “Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth”. Let us prove him wrong. Let us join together to save a future for our children, our grandchildren, and our beautiful world.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Langley B.C.


Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I have had the pleasure of speaking with the member and talking to him about his bill. I let him know that I was going to be asking him some questions. I have a question regarding the cost of his bill and the massive impacts his bill would have.

We heard from his leader, when Bill C-377 was introduced in a previous session, that he had no idea how it was going to be achieved. He called it his impossible dream. He had no idea what the costs were going to be and he said it should be costed. He admitted that he had not written the bill, but an environmental group had written it for him. That environmental group also admitted that it should be costed.

My question for the member is, has it been costed? We know that the Kyoto implementation bill will have a 4% drop in GDP. This would be massive. Does he have any idea what it would do to the jobs in Canada?

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, Bill C-311 is very straightforward. It sets science-based targets. It requires the government to publish a plan. It would ensure that the government has the tools to meet those targets and accomplish its plan. Therefore, the cost will depend on the measures chosen by the government in the plan.

This sets the direction we need to go and gives total flexibility on how we do it. For example, I hope that the Conservatives hope carbon capture technology will work. We do not know if it will work and it certainly cannot be the only tool in our toolkit, but if it works, more power to us. We must set the targets now so we know where we need to go by certain set dates between now and then or we are never going to get there.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
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Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, to follow up on the line of questioning from the climate denying Conservatives, my question is around the actual creation of jobs through implementation of such a bill. We have heard this recently from the Minister of the Environment, that it is one or the other for Canadians. It is either the environment and saving the climate, or jobs and the economy; that is, Canadians must make this choice.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague could help further dispel the myth that has been proposed by government after government as an excuse for concrete and serious action on climate change, that in fact Canada is missing opportunities made available to it and that such a bill would help aid the green economy that so many Canadians are looking for.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
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Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, when I look at history, I see that at the turn of the 1900s, those who bought, sold and used horses were really concerned about the new automobiles that were scaring the horses and threatening their jobs. The future means change. It is time for us to change and being resistant to that change is foolish and probably economically foolish. We have no idea what the opportunities will be when we say no to ourselves and continue to glut ourselves with diminishing oil.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
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Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Madam Speaker, without denigrating my hon. colleague's sincerity on the subject of climate change, I think we should be careful to avoid lumping every natural disaster that occurs under the rubric of that which is caused by climate change. I note his comments regarding the Australia wildfires. I am a former resident of Australia. While I lived there in the 1990s, I had the experience, living on the outskirts of Sydney, of having wildfires burn to within about 200 metres of the place where I lived. The wildfires in Australia were largely caused by the large supply of natural fuel that had not been burned off in previous fires due to the fact that fires had been forestalled. This I think is a better explanation for the terrible wildfires that occurred there recently.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
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Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, 8 out of 10 of the hottest years in the history of the planet as far as we can tell have been in the last 10 years. I have no doubt that some fires and some storms obviously are a natural variation, but we have 2,500 distinguished scientists from around the world who believe they have proven, and just plain believe, that this is not random, this is not natural, this is anthropogenic. It is time not to go with the Ronald Reagan “trees make pollution” kind of argument and move on.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:25 p.m.
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Langley B.C.


Mark Warawa ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by summarizing the key elements of Bill C-311, then I will outline the reasons why the government opposes the bill.

Bill C-311 is clearly both bad law and bad policy. Its implementation would have significant negative implications on the Canadian economy, impose unrealistic and impractical timelines, and may in fact be unconstitutional.

Bill C-311 would create an obligation on the Government of Canada to ensure Canadian greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to 25% below the 1990 level by 2020 and to 80% below the 1990 level by 2050.

The bill would also oblige the Minister of the Environment to establish an emissions target plan for every five year period from 2015 to 2045, and to put in place regulations and other actions to ensure that these targets are achieved.

The bill calls on the government to have regulations in place as early as December of this year designed to meet the 2015 target. Members of the House who are familiar with the regulatory process know the problems associated with that unrealistic timeframe.

Quite simply, this is completely unrealistic and shows that the NDP is more interested in political grandstanding than in finding real solutions to deal with the fight against climate change.

Unlike the party opposite, our government has been clear on the need to strike a balance between environmental and economic progress. Our approach to addressing climate change will achieve that balance.

We are committed to stopping the increase in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and then dramatically reducing them. We established a national target of an absolute 20% reduction in greenhouse gases, relative to 2006 levels, by 2020. By 2050 Canada's emissions will be 60% to 70% below 2006 levels. The government has also established a target that by 2020, 90% of our electricity will come from non-emitting sources. These are the toughest targets in Canadian history and some of the toughest targets in the world.

At the same time we are helping Canadians reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through programs such as the ecoEnergy for renewable power program, the trust fund for clean air and climate change, and supporting investment into research, development and demonstration of promising technologies, including large scale projects like carbon capture and storage. In fact, we are one of the world leaders on that technology.

Bill C-311 on the other hand does not endeavour to strike such a balance. When an identical bill, Bill C-377, was introduced in the last Parliament by the leader of the NDP, he admitted that he had made no attempt to calculate how much economic damage his bill would do to the Canadian economy. In fact, he called his bill the impossible dream.

Further, the massive costs would also have to be borne at a time when Canada's economy is under severe pressure as a result of the global economic downturn. Bill C-311 would impose a massive new burden on industries that are already facing very difficult and serious times.

It is clear that the NDP do not believe it is necessary to consider changing course slightly, despite the economic realities that we face. The NDP has learned nothing from its power in Ontario under the leadership of the member for Toronto Centre where the NDP policies led to record high levels of debt and unemployment.

Our assessment of Bill C-288, the Kyoto implementation act, an act with requirements that are quite similar to those in Bill C-311, suggest that an attempt to meet our Kyoto targets within the 2008 to 2012 period would result in a drop in GDP of 4%.

Given that the proposed 2020 target under Bill C-311 is significantly deeper than under the Kyoto protocol, of 25% below 1990 levels as opposed to the 6% below 1990 levels under the Kyoto protocol, the conclusion of massive, negative economic impacts reached under the KPIA analysis would also apply to Bill C-311.

Bill C-311 creates an economic uncertainty by suggesting that Canada should maintain a domestic policy and an international policy negotiating position based on the UNFCCC ultimate objectives immediately after royal assent of the bill.

There is uncertainty around the UNFCCC's ultimate objectives and the bill does not define what a responsible Canadian contribution is or indicate how it can be determined.

Bill C-311 compounds this uncertainty by asking Canada to take a radically different approach to climate change than our most important economic partner.

Do the sponsors of the bill really believe we can turn our back on the possibility of a coherent, co-operative North American climate change strategy in partnership with the President Obama administration? I think not.

The government must be able to fully represent Canada's economic interests and unique circumstances in international negotiations, including with the administration of President Obama.

I would now like to bring to the attention of the House the serious concerns we have over the constitutional aspects of the bill. Last year in discussion on Bill C-377, the predecessor of Bill C-311, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development heard testimony by respected lawyers as to their concern over the constitutionality of clauses that remain in Bill C-311. The primary concern remains whether the bill's authorities are soundly based on the peace, order and good government head of power.

Joseph Castrilli, counsel for Canadian Environmental Law Association said:

Peace, order, and good government would appear to be less likely to find favour with the Supreme Court as a basis for upholding the constitutionality of the regulatory limits authority of Bill C-377 under any circumstances because of the potential for major impact on provincial jurisdiction to act in a host of areas.

That remains in Bill C-311.

Mr. Castrilli went on to say that the bill was also unlikely to be upheld under the federal government's authority over criminal law because the law was not specific about the characteristics of the regimes contemplated or the actual substances to be addressed leaving this detail to the regulations.

Amendments of the bill were passed in the House of Commons to specify which substances the bill would consider, but there is much doubt as to whether these amendments were sufficient to address Mr. Castrilli's concerns, particularly against jurisdiction of the provinces.

Peter Hogg, professor emeritus and former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School of York University stated in his testimony that the bill would not be upheld under the federal government's peace order and good government authority or its jurisdiction under criminal law.

With respect to peace, order and government, Professor Hogg expressed concern over the lack of direction provided by the bill to the Governor-in-Council with respect to its regulation making power. Professor Hogg indicated the regulation making authority of the bill, as first introduced, was so broad as to potentially reach into every area of Canadian economic and social life.

I would like to reiterate the Government of Canada's opposition to Bill C-311.

We are working diligently to promote domestic, continental and international action to ensure lasting greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Our approach is a balanced approach, an approach that will see Canada's greenhouse gases decline, while protecting our economy and the standard of living of the Canadian people. Our plan includes billions of dollars for technology, technology like carbon capture and storage, working with the United States, and the world is counting on us to work together. We are doing that through the clean energy dialogue with President Obama and our Prime Minister.

Therefore, I encourage the member to remove the bill or vote against his own bill because the bill will take us in a direction that would be bad for Canada, it would be bad for Canadian jobs and it would be bad for the environment.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:35 p.m.
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David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate tonight on Bill C-311. The bill has been reintroduced under a new MP, a bill that was put forward in the last Parliament by the leader of the NDP. As such, it really has no material changes compared to its predecessor bill.

Before pronouncing on the bill, I want to take a few minutes to talk a bit about where we are now nationally with respect to this climate change crisis.

In the last three and a half years, I think it would be fair and objective to describe the government's performance as varied, at best. We really do not know any more where the government stands on the climate change challenge.

Just a year and a half ago the predecessor minister of the environment announced to the country and all the industries that operated their businesses that there would be, for example, no international trading. Yet the new Minister of the Environment says that apparently we will join the United States in a cap and trade system, as if the United States has even invited us to join.

The Government of Canada has said, de facto, that we have withdrawn from the Kyoto protocol. We are the only country in the world to have signed this treaty to have unilaterally declared we will not use, for example, 1990 as the baseline year or, worse, we will not even try to meet our targets.

In 2007 we saw a new plan emerge, the so-called made in Canada plan, called “Turning the Corner”. We have seen no regulatory text in the country yet. It is apparently supposed to come on January 1, 2010. The problem is the 11 independent groups, not political parties, but third-party groups, left-wing groups like the C.D. Howe Institute, that have looked at the government's plan have said that its plan cannot possibly achieve the reductions it claims it will achieve.

Right now I think we are in a situation of great flux. There are some, for example, in the NGO movement that declare the bill is the right text, or it is reaffirming the science of climate change and the need to take an evidentiary approach to setting targets. I agree with that claim.

Others in the NGO sector are telling the official opposition that, on the contrary, we do not need to be fixated any more on targets. What we need to do is develop a robust plan in Parliament like we tried to do with the government's failed clean air act when it was rewritten in a special parliamentary committee, a clean air act that was inspired completely by the clean air act efforts of the former Republican administration in Washington.

Now we have a big change. The Democratic government in Washington and the new President are using 2005, so far, as the baseline year. They are saying that the Americans will reduce their emissions by 14% from 2005, effectively meaning we are going back to 1990 levels of U.S. emissions by 2020.

The government says that this is in line with its targets, that its targets are yet more advanced, more ambitious than the American targets. The problem is we are talking apples and oranges because the government is talking intensity targets and the United States is talking about absolute cuts.

Recently President Obama went to Congress, 535 members strong, and asked it to deliver a comprehensive cap and trade scheme, along with renewable energy strategies for the United States.

Right now in the 110th Congress, there are at least 10 different cap and trade schemes on the floor of Congress, not 1 or 2, but 10. The United States is proposing a massive auction of permits to raise up to $80 billion by 2012, $15 billion of which is go to renewable energy and $60 billion for tax credits for modest-income Americans.

The United States is warning its citizenry that the cap and trade system it intends to bring in will have a profound effect on energy pricing. It will, to use the words of the Conservative Party, increase the price of everything, that unfortunate and infantile advertising claim the government used in the last election campaign to the detriment of the understanding of the Canadian people on the need to act now on the climate change crisis.

We have a situation where everything appears to be in flux. We found that the vast majority of the powers and the reporting provisions in Bill C-311 were already law as a result of the two Liberal private members' bills passed by the last Parliament: first, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act; and second, the Federal Sustainable Development Act.

We also know that medium and long-term targets will be set internationally at a United Nations conference culminating in Copenhagen this December.

What troubles the official opposition about this bill is it does prejudge the outcome of those negotiations. However, we have no idea in this Parliament where those negotiations are. Nothing has been disclosed at committee or in the House. We do not know if Canada is effectively still participating in the post-2012 world of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Having abandoned the Kyoto protocol, I am not even sure how Canada can come to the negotiating table with clean hands, as they say in international law, and purport to put forward a position to be received by 170-plus countries that have signed the deal.

What concerns us as well on this side is if the NDP were really serious about improving Canada's climate change laws, would it not be seeking to amend the existing Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, extending it beyond 2012, for example? All the regulatory standards that we would like to see and the powers that might or should accrue to a government to follow through on these commitments are there. I see in the bill so far nothing that is conferred to a government, which it needs in order to move forward on the climate change challenge.

Other than enunciating medium and long-term targets, Bill C-311 contains very few provisions, as I said, that are not already under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act. For example, 90% of the wording in the bill is word for word the same as those already granted by the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

Similarly, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy is already required, under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, to review the programs undertaken by the federal government to meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets and to report on the effectiveness of the measures and to report to Canadians on how well things are going, or are not going.

There is an awful lot of overlap. There is also an awful lot of factors in play.

However, in my view it is important to take this issue further. It is important to take the bill further. It is important to have a close examination of its amendability, for example. Because the situation is so much in flux, because we are waiting to a certain extent, unfortunately, for Washington, because we have no climate change plan from the Conservative government, it is our position that the bill requires more analysis and more examination as we go forward.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:45 p.m.
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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very happy to speak today about Bill C-311. I have to say that I am very surprised at the Liberal Party's position this evening.

It will be interesting to reread the speech given by my colleague, the Liberal environment critic. It is quite a change from past Liberal positions on the fight against climate change. I remember debates on the Liberal bill, Bill C-288, when the opposition was in agreement that greenhouse gas reduction targets should be established. I remember debates on air quality when we also agreed on setting targets.

Basically, that is the goal of Bill C-311, which is before us today. The preamble to the bill clearly states that temperatures must not be allowed to increase more than two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial period. That is the key part of this bill. The scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change propose and recommend that the increase in temperatures be limited to two degrees over the pre-industrial period.

It is the only way to avoid major climate change. It is the only way to avoid the worst case scenario. How do we translate this scientific objective into tangible results? By adopting short-, medium- and long-term reduction targets, as proposed by Bill C-311. Experts say that to limit the increase to two degrees, we have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 25% to 40% below the 1990 lby 2020. The following is found on page 3 of Bill C-311:

—25% below the 1990 level by the year 2020—

Some members of this house have said that targets are not important. On the contrary, this flows directly from a recommendation made by recipients of the Nobel Prize. It is the only way to reduce emissions and to avoid the worst case scenario in future.

We like this bill because, unlike the government's proposal, it establishes 1990 as the reference year, as provided by the Kyoto protocol. We are pleased that this reference year is mentioned in the definitions on page 3 of the bill and in the undertakings because, among other things, it acknowledges the efforts made by Quebec companies in the past. In recent years, they have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by almost 10% compared to 1990. With 1990 as the reference year, we can take into consideration reductions made by Quebec companies. That would allow us to apply the polluter-pays principle rather than the polluter-paid principle. The government prefers to use 2006 as the reference year simply because it wants to reset the clock.

They would not want to take into consideration the greenhouse gas emissions over the past 16 years, that is from 1990 to 2006. It is not true that Quebec will accept that, for it has made efforts, some of its industries have made efforts to change their industrial procedures, because Quebec—along with others, such as Manitoba—has decided to put in place greenhouse gas reduction measures, because it has made efforts already. We hope that these efforts will be recognized by the government, and that is exactly what Bill C-311 does.

What is more, the bill proposes absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets, not intensity targets as the Conservative government recently proposed in its plan. When I compare the plans presented by the Conservatives with those presented by the Liberals in recent years, it is nothing more than cut and paste. One can see that since the Liberal party changed leaders, there has been a blurring of the lines between the Liberals and the Conservatives. This is a problem, and a very fundamental one, since it is going to weaken Canada's position internationally when the time comes for the post-Kyoto agreement to be negotiated in December 2009 in Copenhagen. We will have a government trying to water down the international agreements on the fight against climate change, with the backing of the official opposition. That is absolutely unacceptable.

Steps must be taken, therefore, to keep that opposition party from backing up the party in power. This is what we have been seeing in recent weeks, and it is a source of concern.

What is more, one of the interesting points in the bill we have before us is subsection 7(2), which reads:

—each province may take any measure that it considers appropriate to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

That means that the bill supports the idea of provinces implementing their own greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans, agreeing among themselves about how to apportion the targets and using different approaches to meet those targets. That is the European model.

I was in Kyoto in 1997. I was there when Europe proposed an 8% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target to the international community. Europe reached agreements with its partners, with sovereign nations, about how much each EU member nation would have to contribute. The model is an interesting one, one that is the basis of the bill before us, and it would enable Canada to go back to the international community with a better greenhouse gas reduction record than it has had up to now. Why? Because it would recognize that Quebec's energy policy is not the same as the rest of Canada's. By bringing in a territorial approach, we could optimize every dollar invested in the fight against climate change. It seems to me that the government should be able to understand an approach that involves optimizing public investments.

We will support this bill. However, I have to say that I am disappointed. Of course, the Liberal Party will support the bill, but we need firmer resolve on the part of the official opposition to make sure that, when we go to Copenhagen next December, we will have a bill that represents a broad consensus here in the House. I hope that the Liberal Party will be firmer and more determined when this bill goes to committee.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 6:55 p.m.
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Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in support of Bill C-311 introduced by my hon. colleague. I wish to thank the hon. member who spoke before me for his very cogent and knowledgeable comments. Obviously, he has been working on the file a long time, and we appreciate his support.

Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol in December 2002 and it came into legal effect in February 2005. As a consequence, Canada is now legally obligated to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. The next targets are being negotiated as we speak here in the House. We are into a countdown to Copenhagen. It is necessary for the members in this House to wake up and realize that we must develop a position that Canadians will support taking to Copenhagen. We are informed by leading scientists that these targets may now be overly conservative, that more substantial reductions, and sooner, may be necessary to prevent, or at least mitigate, catastrophic climate change impacts.

In Canada international obligations must be implemented through domestic law. Regrettably, to date the government has rejected science-based reduction targets, failed to establish legally binding caps, failed to enact any national emission trading regime, and relied on and invested dollars in unproven and costly technology of minimal practical worth to actually reduce greenhouse gases.

In addition, at the past two international conferences of the parties, Canada chose to block progress toward urgent action on science-based targets. But it is not too late to change course, as my previous leader was wont to say, to join forces with progressive nations committed to serious credible action and to do our part to address climate change.

If we are truly to be in sync with the Obama administration's groundbreaking environmental agenda, if we are going to ensure our industries a competitive edge in producing and exporting clean energy, if we are going to provide a level playing field for all generators of energy, both fossil fuel and renewable sectors, if we want Canadian industries to benefit from a continental emission trading regime, then this Parliament must support the passage of Bill C-311. The substance of the bill already received the support of the majority of votes in the last Parliament, which incidentally included the Liberal Party.

The definition of a democracy is straightforward. To qualify as a democracy, the nation must agree to abide by the rule of law. The rule of law means that those who make the rules are democratically elected. They enact laws to govern the affairs of the nation. Those laws are committed to and enforced, which is a refreshing concept in this House.

Why is this important to climate change? The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, which the Liberals are proud of, was enacted by Parliament in 2007 and prescribes in law the requirement to comply with the Kyoto targets by 2012. To date the government has refused to enforce that law despite its purported support of and strong commitment to enforcement of environmental laws. That is a law on the books. So much for its commitment.

Bill C-311 imposes a positive legal obligation on the Government of Canada to take action to meet specified reduction targets in the mid and long term, targets which can be revised over time based on science. It removes the current unlimited discretion to delay action. The bill introduces both legal certainty and government accountability, something the government professes to stand by.

At the same time it allows for flexibility in measures used by industry and government alike to meet the targets. It requires reports on compliance by the minister and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.

Why is this important? Legislative or regulatory measures have been proven empirically to be the most effective mechanism to trigger new investment in environmental technologies. Twenty years of reliance on voluntary measures, as my hon. colleague mentioned earlier, and subsidies to fossil fuels have given us monumental increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Binding targets with prescribed compliance dates provide advance notice and clear price signals to the current and future cost of carbon. It prescribes directions for Canada's position in international and bilateral climate negotiations and dialogues, including the dialogue going on now with the United States of America.

The economic crisis has fostered economic uncertainty. Legal certainty is needed to give industry a secure footing for recovery and to attract investment. This is backed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who stated at the United Nations' COP 14:

We also urgently need a deal on climate change to provide the political, legal, and economic framework to unleash a sustained wave of investment. In short, our response to the economic crisis must advance climate goals, and our response to the climate crisis will advance economic and social goals.

The United States has announced its intent to move forward on a hard cap and a North American emission trading system. They have committed $76 billion to renewable technologies, close to 100 times more than the investment by the government. The government's 2007 plan provides less stringent intensity-based targets, and budgets no new funds to incent renewable energy sources, despite an oversubscribed, successful program from an enthusiastic and burgeoning Canadian clean energy sector.

Billions of Canadian tax dollars will be redirected to subsidize experiments by the fossil fuel industry, with a vague promise to consider regulatory caps post-2020.

The government has refused to support the International Renewable Energy Agency, the recognized global forum for advancing technology for renewable energy. Bill C-311 gives the government a credible backbone for our role in the Canada-U.S. energy and climate change dialogue. It provides a credible action plan that Canadians support.

Current polls tell us that the majority of Canadians still want action on the environment. Canadians know that our environmental and economic crises are best addressed in tandem. In fact, 57% of Canadians support federal action on climate change even if it means a higher deficit.

By supporting Bill C-311, Parliament can finally show leadership. It provides the clear signal to our trading partners that we are committed to genuine engagement in global and bilateral action. It sends a new, positive message to the world that we are finally taking action to deliver on our international obligations to address climate change and forge a greener economy.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 7:05 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Wetaskiwin will have about three minutes.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 7:05 p.m.
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Blaine Calkins Conservative Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, the government's many concerns about the economic implications and potential unconstitutionality of Bill C-311 have already been brought to the attention of the House.

I would now like to comment on the action that the government is taking to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions, including working with the United States on a clean energy dialogue. Canada is also committed to working within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change towards a post-2012 implementation on global emission reductions, but it is Canada's domestic and continental efforts on which I will focus my comments.

Unlike the Liberals, who had 13 or so years to work on this issue and did virtually nothing, our government is committed to stopping the increase in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and then dramatically reducing them. We have established a national target of an absolute reduction of 20% in greenhouse gases, relative to 2006 levels, by the year 2020. By 2050, Canada's emissions will be 60% to 70% below 2006 levels. This government has also established a target that, by 2020, 90% of our electricity will come from non-emitting sources.

While Bill C-311 would impose a long-term emissions reduction target that goes far deeper than anything proposed by the global community, our target would bring Canada in line with the accepted requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while striking the necessary balance between environmental and economic progress, as opposed to the economic evisceration of the Canadian economy, which is what the NDP is proposing to do through this bill.

Our government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector through regulations and is continuing to develop the regulatory regime. It will be the product of significant consultation, including the provinces, territories, industry stakeholders, and environmental non-governmental organizations. These industrial regulations will require mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and will also create the incentives for development and deployment of new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, which will result in significant emissions reductions over time.

In addition, this government is using its regulatory authorities to increase renewable fuel content in gasoline and to strengthen the energy efficiency of a wide variety of products.

Through this government's suite of eco-action programs, we will drive emissions reductions beyond the industrial sectors of our economy. Eco-action investments cover a range of sectors and activities, including renewable power, home retrofitting, and commercial transportation.

For example, through the eco-energy for renewable power program, the government is investing $1.5 billion to provide incentives to increase Canada's supply of clean electricity from renewable sources such as wind, biomass, low-impact hydro, geothermal, solar—

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

March 4th, 2009 / 7:05 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but he will have the rest of his time when this debate resumes.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The House resumed from March 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, be read the second time and referred to a committee.