Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act

An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050

Sponsor

Status

In committee (House), as of May 4, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-12.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires that national targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada be set, with the objective of attaining net-zero emissions by 2050. The targets are to be set by the Minister of the Environment for 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045.

In order to promote transparency and accountability in relation to meeting those targets, the enactment also

(a) requires that an emissions reduction plan, a progress report and an assessment report with respect to each target be tabled in each House of Parliament;

(b) provides for public participation;

(c) establishes an advisory body to provide the Minister of the Environment with advice with respect to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and matters that are referred to it by the Minister;

(d) requires the Minister of Finance to prepare an annual report respecting key measures that the federal public administration has taken to manage its financial risks and opportunities related to climate change; and

(e) requires the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to, at least once every 5 years, examine and report on the Government of Canada’s implementation of measures aimed at mitigating climate change.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 4, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050
May 4, 2021 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 (reasoned amendment)
April 27, 2021 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I am sure the government House leader will come back with further comments to the House in the future.

The issue we are debating is the government's failing response to the climate challenges that Canada and the world face. Canada, under the Liberal government, does not have an effective response plan, and Conservatives have offered an effective alternative that recognizes the truly international dimensions of this crisis.

What we have not heard from the government is a plan that takes into consideration the international dimensions by having appropriate adjustments at borders. Instead, what we have is the government punishing domestic industry in a way that pushes development outside the country but does not actually address the problem.

The government's approach imposes regulation as well as taxation on Canadian industry, but if the same investors move that industrial activity outside the country and then sell back into Canada, they are not subject to any such mechanisms. The system the government has put in place simply creates incentive to push economic activity out of the country rather than respond to these challenges.

We have a government that is very happy to import foreign oil, for example, while making the development of a domestic energy sector very difficult. For the first time, Conservatives are proposing a plan for Canada that takes into consideration this inequality. It says that the same standards would have to apply to products imported into Canada as are being applied in the case of production taking place in Canada.

I know this responds to what my constituents are saying and to what is frankly a source of significant frustration for my constituents. They ask the question of why our oil and gas sector is subject to further and further taxation and inconsistent regulatory burdens, and why, in cases where projects have been approved, the government allows lawless acts of protest to disrupt projects that have already been approved from moving forward. Why is that happening?

On the other hand, we do not hear the same criticisms about the environmental crimes, in many cases, in other parts of the world, as well as violations of human rights taking place in the production of things that then come to Canada. This is where we need to be rethinking our approach and where we have proposed a rethinking of the approach that emphasizes the global nature of the challenge we face.

As we look at Bill C-12, the government's request for a reporting framework, again there is no clear plan on actually responding to the environmental challenges we face. We are also very frustrated that despite the Liberals coming into Parliament and saying that they are going to look at these issues in good faith and consult with other parties, they have already presumed to declare who will be on the advisory board that is supposed to be set up by this legislation.

We have to look at this bill in a context where the government seems to have already preprogrammed certain decisions that it has not been forthright in communicating to the House at all. On that basis, Conservatives have put forward a reasonable amendment to challenge aspects of this framework, to challenge the failure to take into consideration the international dimension of the challenge and the unfortunate decision of the government to announce in advance who is going to be on the panel without consulting.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his intervention. I think I was here to hear the first half of it.

As we talk about our accountability toward getting to net-zero and how we are going to measure that, the government has put a policy in place here, a framework for exactly how that will happen. I know the member is critical of that. However, in all fairness, the Conservatives do not really have a great reputation, as it stands, for being able to properly gauge the direction of environmental legislation of the day. It was not that long ago that the member spoke very adamantly against a carbon tax, and now his party has decided that it is the best way to go.

I am just worried. If we take this member's advice, will he not realize, a couple of years from now, once the public opinion is fully there, that, again, the Conservatives had it wrong?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, the government's proposal is to impose taxation on Canadians as a proposed solution to environmental challenges, for the government to take that money and redistribute it according to its own choices, including to include various public works programs in that spending.

Conservatives have been consistent in opposing that Liberal approach. We have proposals that take into consideration the global dimension of the challenges, as well as leaving resources in the pockets of Canadians in order to support their response to environmental challenges. I would submit that this is very different. It is also lowering the price overall. Without taking the same punitive approach, the taxation-oriented approach the Liberals have, we have independent agencies showing that we will achieve environmental targets.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I did hear some rather positive points as I was listening to his speech. For example, he said that the same standards would have to apply to products imported as are being applied in the case of production taking place in Canada. I think that the reciprocity of standards is very important. However, today we are talking about Bill C-12 on reducing greenhouse gases.

Does the member not think that clear standards should be set in Bill C-12? Is he open to adopting amendments to set such standards and allow for an independent oversight authority other than just the minister?

Does the member not think that there is a way to support his constituents by maintaining investments in his region without insisting that these investments be made in the oil sands?

This is not a judgment, but is now not the time to invest in the transition and in other energy sources? The Bloc Québécois will support the people in his region, but we also think that starting the transition is imperative.

What are the member's thoughts on this?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I will focus on the last point first.

The way we can respond effectively to the environmental challenges we face, recognizing the increasing global need for energy, is to leverage the technology that is being generated through the development of our energy sector, technology that is constantly, aggressively improving the performance of the sector, and work to make that technology available as part of development around the world.

We are not going to address the challenges we face by expecting Canadians and people around the world to stop using energy. If we stopped using energy tomorrow, the rest of the world would still be increasing its use of energy. It is the technology we generate. It is the use of cutting-edge techniques, like carbon capture and storage projects in my riding. It is the—

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his interesting speech.

I hear the Conservatives criticizing the Liberals for introducing a bill when we are not even on track to meet our 2030 targets, targets that herald back to the good old Conservative days. We just continue to move in a direction that promised that the environmental crisis we are in is going to continue.

Would the member admit that the Conservatives lack total credibility around having an active climate plan that is actually going to get us where we need to get to save the planet?

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May 3rd, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, the member will not be surprised to find that I do not agree with her characterization of things. We can debate some aspects of the policies, but at the end of the day, it should be remembered that the last Conservative government was the first government in Canadian history that actually reduced Canada's greenhouse gas emissions output.

Members of the NDP may say it was not enough, but it was the first government in history, unlike the Liberals, who signed the Kyoto Protocol and did absolutely nothing and saw emissions increase. Conservatives have been ahead of the Liberals in terms of actually delivering the goods when it comes to these issues. We continue to see all hat and no cattle from the Liberals when it comes to really achieving results—

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, the climate change challenge has often been compared to the moon shot of the 1960s. The moon shot involved a redoubling of resolve after a difficult and halting start to the space race in the United States. The moon shot was very much about targeting a seemingly out-of-reach objective on a seemingly impossible timeline: namely, reaching the moon before the end of the decade of the 1960s.

By all accounts, the scientists and engineers who came together to achieve this astounding historic feat that was the moon landing came up against tremendous technological challenges, brick walls that no doubt appeared insurmountable, especially on a tight timeline. NASA scientists were up against a target for which they were held to account by a president who created a public expectation of success with American national security and American pride on the line.

The key words here are “public expectation of success”. That is what the net-zero emissions accountability act is all about: a public expectation of success backed by a legal mechanism aimed at holding successive federal governments to account for fulfilling that expectation.

In the same way NASA scientists followed a critical path informed by experts for reaching their target, Bill C-12 will require the government to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets informed by experts, plans for achieving those targets informed by experts, regular reporting by the government on its progress in achieving its targets, regular assessments by the government on the effectiveness of its measures for achieving its targets, and regular independent analysis by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development of the government's measures aimed at mitigating climate change, including those undertaken to achieve its most recent greenhouse gas emissions target as identified in the relevant assessment report.

More specifically, the government's progress report must provide an update on the progress it has made toward achieving its relevant milestone GHG target and an update on the implementation of its climate plan: that is, the federal measures, sectoral strategies and federal government operations strategies aimed at reaching the relevant milestone target. These progress reports must be prepared no later than two years before the beginning of the relevant milestone year so that adjustments can be made to these measures and strategies.

For its part, the assessment report must contain a summary of Canada's GHG emissions inventory, a statement on whether Canada has achieved its national GHG target for the milestone year and an assessment of how federal measures, sectoral strategies and federal government operations strategies described in the relevant emissions reduction plan contributed to Canada's efforts to achieve the national GHG target for that year.

The strength of this framework is that it does not rely solely on the government's own assessment of its progress and the effectiveness of its climate action plan. It allows for multiple expert voices to weigh in, in a sense to write the government's report card on climate change. In other words, the government will not be grading itself.

Incidentally, the space race achieved more than a target. It achieved a government-driven acceleration of technological progress and economic growth. Similarly, Bill C-12 is not only about meeting a life-saving target for the planet. It is ultimately about driving technological innovation and economic growth associated with the proliferation of the green products and services the world increasingly wants and needs.

There is, however, one difference that I see between the moon shot and the present task at hand. In a sense, the moon shot was a closed system involving a singular locus of scientific activity and a well-defined technological focus, all within the purview of a dedicated government program that obviously involved numerous partnerships.

The quest to meet targets around greenhouse gas emissions reductions in Canada is, in a sense, organizationally more complex, with more moving parts. Achieving net-zero emissions involves technological progress in many areas and simultaneous co-operative actions by many orders of government, where the degree of commitment to the goal of fighting climate change is not always shared equally across jurisdictions.

Added to this is the fact that the federal government lacks exclusive jurisdiction and power in the matter. We are a federation, not a unitary state. Nonetheless, our government has been able to exercise meaningful leadership on climate change.

We have been a government of firsts. Our government was the first federal government to put a national price on carbon and fight for the constitutional right to do so all the way to the Supreme Court. Our government was the first to develop a clean fuel standard.

Our government was the first to have the courage to attempt to negotiate a pan-Canadian framework on climate change with the provinces and territories, and we were successful, thanks to the Prime Minister's political will and capital and the can-do determination of the member for Ottawa Centre, who was the Minister of Environment and Climate Change at the time, but, governments change and can renege, and we have seen this happen.

Our government was the first to provide financial incentives for the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle. Our government was also the first to require environmental assessments of large energy projects to factor in their GHG emissions. Our government was the first to set a net-zero emissions target, and our government is now the first to create a legal accountability framework for setting and achieving interim GHG targets on the way to net-zero emissions.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I have two quick questions. Do we have a new environment minister in Canada? On Earth Day here in Quebec and in the media it was the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, who is also the Minister of Canadian Heritage, who came to sell us on Canada's new measures. I was wondering about that.

Also, the possible new environment minister mentioned something rather surprising on Radio-Canada. In the past year, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have increased, as they have in previous years, and the new environment minister said that was good news. He saw good news in that. That is newspeak to me.

What does my colleague think of that?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, I am not aware of the exact quote the member is referring to.

As far as the Minister of Canadian Heritage is concerned, when there are important announcements such as the budget or major steps when it comes to the environment, the entire Liberal caucus looks after delivering the message. There is nothing extraordinary about that.

As members know, many members of cabinet have expertise in the environment. In fact, the Liberal caucus is very concerned about the issue.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask a quick question of my colleague with regard to some of the issues we have with climate change and the opportunity for electric vehicles. One of the things I have been raising recently is a national auto strategy. The United States has moved ahead quite successfully with a lot of investment, and Canada is lagging even on a battery plan.

Why not create a national auto policy that sets targets and goals to achieve low emissions and produce electric vehicles, especially right now, given the fact we need to compete against not only the United States, but also Mexico and the rest of the world?

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May 3rd, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, I think it is a very good development that we have a government in the United States that is committed to environmental action. Obviously, it makes things much easier to be working with a like-minded government on a continental basis.

In terms of zero-emission vehicles, the member may know, as I know the industry is very important to him and his riding, that the environment committee of the House of Commons just completed a study on zero-emission vehicles and made a number of recommendations. I believe one of them was very much in line with what the member just mentioned. We will see, going forward, how we can work with auto makers and battery makers to make Canada a leader in the area of zero-emission vehicles.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, at this point, around the world there are 11 countries that have passed climate accountability legislation. Canada's will hold the distinction of being the weakest. If we are looking for a moon shot, and if we are shooting for a moon, this is the equivalent of a stepladder.

Does my hon. colleague not think it would have been wise for the federal government to consult, particularly with the gold standard? The country with the climate accountability that has worked for the longest and the best is the U.K. The legislation before us today differs in substantial ways from theirs, particularly by not having an independent expert group that monitors government progress and reports to the nation, as opposed to a multi-stakeholder advisory group for the minister. Would the member not agree it would be better to try to base our bill on what has worked elsewhere?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member's views and insight carry a lot of weight in this chamber. As the member knows, the bill will hopefully be passed at second reading and make its way to the environment committee, where amendments will no doubt be tabled and we can have discussion about the points the member has raised.

However, it is important to acknowledge that there is much room for expert advice in this bill, and this is key. It is important that we do rely on expert advice and indeed that any consultative body be not just a diverse group of individuals who represent the country the way this House does. We need also some expertise to move forward, so I appreciate the member's point.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

May 3rd, 2021 / 1:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Tako Van Popta Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to the draft legislation of Bill C-12, with regard to net-zero emissions. I am also very pleased to highlight some of our party's positions, which are set out in our position paper, entitled “Secure the Environment”. With a Conservative government, Canada will meet its Paris Agreement targets, importantly, without killing jobs or taxing an already over-taxed population. Our plan will help the environment while also helping Canadians succeed in every region of the country and in all sectors.

The Liberal plan is based on an ever-increasing taxation plan that, while being presented as being revenue neutral to the government, is certainly not revenue neutral to the taxpayer. At best it is a tax scheme that redistributes wealth away from those living in parts of the country where greater energy consumption is a fact of life. Why are they being punished for that?

The Conservative plan, on the other hand, is much fairer in that it sets aside some of the money that each consumer will pay for energy consumption into a personal savings account that the consumer can spend or invest as they see best for their own purposes on green options.

The big distinction between the Liberal carbon tax and the Conservatives' plan to secure the environment is that Conservatives trust Canadians to do the right thing, spend their money wisely, be incentivized to think green, act responsibly with regard to the environment and do their part. We all want to do that. The Liberals, on the other hand, think that government knows best. We think educated Canadians know best.

Bill C-12, while being promoted as a significant step forward in the fight against climate change, is really more symbolic than substantive. It might give the casual political observer the impression that something significant is happening, but keep in mind that Bill C-12 follows up from Canada's dismal record of setting, and then missing, its emissions reductions targets.

What does Bill C-12 do? I think this is important and should be read into the record, so let us take a look at section 16. This is under the heading “Failure to achieve target”, and it states:

If the Minister concludes that Canada has not achieved its national greenhouse gas emissions target for a milestone year or for 2050, as the case may be, the Minister must, after consulting with the ministers referred to in section 12, include the following in the assessment report:

(a) the reasons why Canada failed to meet the target;

(b) a description of actions the Government of Canada is taking or will take to address the failure to achieve the target; and

(c) any other information that the Minister considers appropriate.

What happens if we miss the target? Not much, we just set another target. We create more reports, and the conversation just continues as though nothing happened. If anything, this would help Canada's pulp and paper industry as more and more reports are being printed.

Canada is a federal country, as has been noted by some of the previous speakers, with parliamentary sovereignty shared among two levels of government. Much of what is needed to be accomplished in protecting the environment falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces under section 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867, property and civil rights within the province.

The federal government cannot do it on its own. It must work with the provinces. Sadly, the Liberal government's record is one of being sued by the provinces. The federal government won the last round, so I guess congratulations are in order, but Canadians are wondering why intergovernmental affairs on something as important as the environment needs to resort to the courts in the first place.

Why does the federal government not work with the provinces and come to a consensus on how to move forward? Conservatives understand the significance of that, and we will work with the provinces. Conservatives also recognize that the fight against global climate change is, in fact, global.

Canada cannot do it on its own. If it is global, after all, solutions also must be global. Canada is a large expanse of land. It is in the northern hemisphere. It is cold, and people must travel a lot and heat their homes and offices. That is just a fact of life in Canada.

Canada produces only a small fraction of the total world's greenhouse gas emissions, something often overlooked. Canadians want to do their part. We are inventive, we have great universities, we are leaders in technological advances and with strategic partnerships, we can develop and export green technology around the globe, not only for our own use domestically but internationally. We are a trading nation, but that trade must be fair. We have to be on an even playing field and if we are to impose tough environmental standards on ourselves, and I agree that we must, then it is only fair that others who trade with us should be held to the same or comparable standards.

Producers in countries with emission reductions targets and mechanisms compatible with our own would be exempt. Countries that do not and have high-emission reductions standards would have to pay. That way, the Conservative plan would secure both the environment and Canadian industry and jobs and would urge our American trading partner, our biggest trading partner, to adopt the same approach.

I want to talk about the oil and gas sector. Canada is a big producer, but also a responsible producer. We have the best minds in the world working on cleaner energy production, and that applies not only to renewable energy but also the more traditional oil and gas extraction, production, processing and delivery. We are a leader in all of that. To say that this sector needs to be phased out misses the reality of an ever-improving industry and the very obvious fact that the world needs Canada's oil and gas.

The International Energy Agency has projected that demand for oil will remain high for decades, and this is particularly true with the downturn in U.S. shale production. The world needs our oil and we need to produce it responsibly. We do not need to be talking about phasing it out.

The government's stated goal in phasing out oil and gas also overlooks the fact that since 1998, investment and production of Canada's oil sands is one of driving forces behind Canada's economic growth, and that must be true as we look to a pandemic recovery plan as well.

I also want to talk about LNG. The province of British Columbia is a big producer of natural gas and it can be a big tool in Canada helping the world become cleaner. Natural gas burns much cleaner than other fossil fuels and should be used at home and abroad to replace other more polluting energy sources. Using LNG instead of coal cuts emissions in half and countries across Asia are eager to do business with us.

Red tape imposed by the Liberal government means massive projects like Kitimat LNG being in danger of cancellation. This would not only hurt Canadians and Canadian jobs, but the planet. What Canada needs is a government that sends a message to the world that we are proud of our natural resources and that we will develop them in a responsible way. We will attract investment, not scare it off.

When we talk about investment, the Conservatives recognize that industry leaders are already changing their world view and investment strategies to be looked at through an ESG lens, an environmental, social and governance lens. Our plan recognizes that increasingly there is an expectation in global capital markets that ESG is an important factor. Our ESG leadership would help demonstrate the leadership of our oil and gas sector with respect to emissions-intensity reduction.

I want to mention indigenous peoples. We need to acknowledge the historic fact that they have not been treated respectfully. Canada needs to show leadership here as well. The current government has often said that no relationship is more important to it than with our indigenous peoples, but let us look at how that has worked out recently.

Coastal GasLink investors thought they had an understanding with the Wet’suwet’en people, the people whose traditional lands the pipeline will be built across, and who should be benefiting from that investment and structure. However, so far, it is not built and the protects continue—