moved that Bill C-619, 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, I am pleased to rise to begin debate on Bill C-619, the climate change accountability act.
It is always a privilege to be here in this place, but sometimes what we have to do makes that sense much more present and inescapable. This is how it feels to me today as we begin debate on Bill C-619, because in truth we are continuing on what Jack started, the climate change accountability act. We are picking up again where Jack left off and building on his efforts to have us avert dangerous levels of global warming.
As I am sure Jack would happily acknowledge, and indeed did happily acknowledge, he too was just a torchbearer when he introduced the former and original iteration of the climate change accountability act in 2007.
Homage needs to be paid to a long lineage of Canadians who have persisted in the fight to arrest global warning. They had the foresight to know its urgency before most of us could even label it as an issue and have clung to a positive picture of our future on this planet, the possibility of living sustainably on this planet. They have hung in there not just in the face of inaction of government but in the face of the hostility of government and threats by government, most recently in the form of Bill C-51.
To paraphrase David Suzuki from some years ago, others have done their part. The scientists have done their part. The burden now shifts to the politicians to do ours.
To quote Jack Layton from his speech in this place in 2007 on his climate change accountability act, he said: “Let us take action on that burden and let us do Canadians proud by taking action”. I believe that even more than when Jack spoke those words, Canadians do want us to take action.
The science has being laid out before us many times over, most recently and most comprehensively in the 2014 working group report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The findings are simple and conclusive: climate change is impacting natural and human systems on all continents and across all oceans. Glaciers continue to shrink. Permafrost continues to warm and thaw. The IPCC warns of sea levels rising by as much as half a metre by the end of the century, putting at risk tens of millions of people living in lower-level coastal cities and communities.
The IPCC warns of the changing chemistry of our oceans, of their acidification by way of increased levels of carbon, with impacts on marine ecosystems and dire consequences for global food security, as over one billion people globally rely on fish as their main source of protein.
Around the world, changing precipitation or melting snow and ice is altering water systems. It is affecting water in terms of quantity and quality. For every degree of global warming, the IPCC estimates a corresponding decrease in renewable water resources of at least 20% for significant portions of the global population.
This, in addition to extreme weather events and population growth, will have further negative impacts on food security. We are not immune here in Canada from issues of crop failure and agricultural productivity decline, according to the IPCC.
This is the path we are on. Perversely, these are the threats to our peace, to our security, to our happiness, to the reproduction of human life and other forms of life on this planet that we are creating for ourselves.
Along this path we keep passing warning signs. Jack held up a sign, the climate change accountability act, seven years ago. It urged us to stop and provided a different way forward. It pointed to a different future. Jack, in his speech in 2007 on his version of the bill, talked about there being, “...a moment in time here that is unique in Canadian history when action can be taken”.
Some might argue that that moment was lost on us as Jack's bill got caught up in the partisan machinery and machinations of this place and as the IPCC begins prudently to model global warming beyond the two-degree mark.
However, I am hopeful that the moment that Jack identified still lingers and that we can act with haste, and with more Canadians more certain now that perhaps we must act with haste.
Bill C-619 revises that which Jack had previously tabled, recognizing changes in the institutional context—specifically, the death of the national round table at the hands of the Conservative government—and recognizing that sub-national jurisdictions and international organizations have moved forward while this place stood still, leaving Canada open to international criticism and undermining the reputation of not just Canada but of us, of all of us as Canadians, as people always prepared to do our fair share.
Bill C-619 sets out new milestones to get us to a level of greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, which is the target recognized by the scientific community as the minimum required to limit global warming to 2° Celsius and to prevent catastrophic climate change.
The bill, the only legislation in this Parliament to ever bring forward legislated emission reduction targets, would set a binding medium-term target of a 34% reduction in GHG emissions by 2025.
Bill C-619 would further require the Government of Canada to set and commit to targets for each five-year period up to 2050; to develop and publish plans to achieve these targets; to ensure that these targets are developed in compliance with the latest scientific reports and methodology of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and to ensure that these targets closely reflect the most stringent targets set by other developed nations, effectively setting the best practices in OECD countries as our own benchmark here in Canada
With the United Nations climate change conference in Paris set for December 2015, Canada needs a serious plan to bring to that table, and this is it. This bill would bring our country back to the forefront of environmental protection and climate change mitigation, because the targets set out in Bill C-619 and the accountability process set out to support them do nothing less than commit Canada to doing its fair share to avert catastrophic global warming.
However, the climate change accountability act is not here before us just because of the moral imperative to do something to change the course we are on, but also and equally because of the opportunity it presents to us. Holding firm to these targets brings forward the opportunity to invent and invest in new ways to live and be productive on this planet.
Clearly, as an example, in light of the growing food security issues created by and hastened by climate change, there is a need to usher in transformative change in what food we grow and the way we grow it. Clearly, too, there is an opportunity to usher in transformative change in how we produce energy. According to Clean Energy Canada, a global commitment to getting to 80% below 1990 levels requires a $44 trillion investment in clean energy.
There is a nascent clean energy industry in Canada, with 37% job growth between 2009 and 2013. More Canadians are employed in renewable energy production in Canada than in the oil sands, yet we in Canada have captured just 1% of the $1 trillion global clean energy industry. We are being left out and left behind.
It is notable that the China-U.S. climate change pact signed last November was not just about climate change; it was also about clean energy co-operation. We have in Canada what we need to participate more fully in this industry. As the Pembina Institute put it:
Canada is well positioned to compete in the field of clean energy technology, creating jobs and economic prosperity across the country. It was recently noted that “Canada’s skilled workforce, innovation clusters, research excellence and stable investment climate make it an ideal growth environment for cleantech firms.
However, the current government greets this opportunity with, as the director of Clean Energy Canada put it, “indifference”.
While other national and sub-national governments here in Canada make the clean energy industry a priority, the federal government continues to raise the stakes for all of us on the fossil fuel economy, putting billions of dollars of public funds into subsidies for the oil and gas industry, tearing to the ground environmental regulation in a desperate effort to get Canada's oil out of Canada by whatever means possible without regard to environmental risk or social license. There are beads of sweat rolling down the collective forehead of Canadians watching this desperate gamble, watching the economic stability and the economic prospects of this country at stake in the government's desperate gamble on fossil fuels, on a brittle, unstable carbon economy.
This bill is a response to parents worried about their kids' future. It is a response, too, to young people looking for a future. There is opportunity embedded in this bill on climate change, and Canadians are looking for such opportunity after successive failures by Liberal and Conservative governments to deal with climate change and chart a course into and through this century.
As the urban affairs critic and infrastructure critic for our NDP caucus, I want to close with a word about cities, about the possibilities for our cities that flow from this bill and, as Jack put it, about the moment we are in.
All around the world it is recognized that in cities lie our best opportunity for averting global warming. Cities are responsible for the end-use of three-quarters of our fossil fuels and, consequently, a commensurate amount of our greenhouse gas emissions.
Looking out from here, the story could get worse as the global and historic trend toward urbanization will continue through this century. However, looking out from here, one can also begin to imagine a different way of living on this planet and our potential to defeat this problem.
China and the U.S. have recognized that. Their climate change and clean energy pact includes a climate-smart/low-carbon cities initiative. The joint announcement of the pact says:
Under the initiative, the two countries will share city-level experiences with planning, policies, and use of technologies for sustainable, resilient, low-carbon growth. This initiative will eventually include demonstrations of new technologies for smart infrastructure for urbanization. As a first step, the United States and China will convene a Climate-Smart/Low-Carbon Cities “Summit” where leading cities from both countries will share best practices, set new goals, and celebrate city-level leadership.
We ought to be in on that. Bill C-619 opens up these great possibilities for us and our cities, because as China and the U.S. recognize, meeting the targets that we set, the ones that we need to reach, means rethinking how we live, what we live in, and how we move around our cities. It means cities friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. It means rapid public transit and energy efficient buildings. It means trees and green. It means that vision I have set out in my urban white paper, and yet even more, including things we have yet to invent, yet to conceive. However, cities around the world and here in Canada are moving to this future without the federal government. They are innovating.
In those cities, we have a generation of young Canadians who are eager to get engaged in building the kinds of cities, communities, and neighbourhoods they want to live in. We have, in this climate change accountability act, the opportunity to open up the door and move through it into an exciting sustainable future. The door is ours, as politicians, to throw open with this bill.
The only truly important questions to be answered are still about us, not about the science or the math. They are about whether we are capable of seizing this moment, of seeing beyond ourselves at this time, in this place. To fail to do so would be a failing beyond us as politicians and our political system, a failing more fundamental.
As I said when I introduced this bill last June, all of us are entrusted with the care of the earth we inhabit and the well-being of those who inhabit it. We now need to act upon that responsibility. I urge all members of Parliament to support this bill.