moved that Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to address the House of Commons today for the second reading debate of Bill C-12, the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act. It is an act that I believe is extremely important.
Our government's highest priority continues to be the health and well-being of Canadians. That is why we are taking unprecedented action to combat the health emergency presented by COVID-19. As we come through this, and we will, that commitment to the health and well-being of Canadians demands that we put two things in place with an eye on the post-pandemic horizon.
First, we must build back better in a way that makes the economy more competitive, cleaner, stronger and fairer than it was before.
Second, Canadians expect us to have a thoughtful plan to counter a parallel emergency that has continued during the pandemic and will get significantly worse in future if we do not take more action than we are now, that being climate change.
Canadians know how much of a threat climate change is to our health, our economic well-being and our planet. We are already experiencing the ravages of climate change, what with extreme weather events, catastrophic floods and devastating fires.
As with COVID-19, ignoring the risks of climate change is not an option. Such an approach will only increase costs and worsen the long-term consequences. To use a pandemic metaphor, if we want to flatten the climate curve and avoid its worst effects, the best available science tells us that the planet must reach net zero by 2050.
Reaching net zero by 2050 means that emissions produced 30 years from now would be fully absorbed through actions that scrub carbon from the atmosphere, whether through nature, such as planting trees or through technology, such as carbon capture and storage systems. This imperative comes at a time when the world is changing. We are seeing an acceleration of global momentum and healthy competition toward a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 as nations, investors and consumers recognize the ecological imperative and the economic opportunity of moving to a clean economy.
Over 120 countries have made a commitment to be net zero by 2050, including many of our major economic competitors and trading partners. This will likely soon include our biggest trading partner south of the border. Low carbon and climate-resilient projects and technologies are not just good for the planet, they are good for business.
Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, recently said that the transition to net zero “...is creating the greatest commercial opportunity of our age.” On the day before Bill C-12 was introduced in this House, Tiff Macklem, the current Governor of the Bank of Canada, said that “...we need to position Canada to seize the climate-smart opportunities that consumers, workers and investors are looking for.”
Major Canadian companies have already committed to net zero by 2050, including companies such as Cenovus, Teck Resources, MEG Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Enbridge and the Canadian Steel Producers Association. Shell's global chief executive officer says that net zero is “the only way to go” for his company. Canadian companies such as Maple Leaf Foods and CAE are already carbon neutral.
Leveraging climate action as we rebuild Canada's post-pandemic economy is simply the smart thing to do. It will ensure that we emerge stronger, better prepared and more competitive in a low-carbon world.
During the last election campaign, our government promised to come up with a plan that would allow Canada to exceed its pollution reduction targets and create a legally binding process for all future governments to set national climate targets that will achieve the science-based goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Bill C-12, the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act, is the fulfillment of our commitment to Canadians to put these legally binding processes in place.
This process is essential to our strategy for a sustainable post-pandemic economic recovery and long-term prosperity for all Canadians in a low-carbon world. It reflects our government's desire to stimulate our collective ambition for climate action and to do more than ever before in a considered and pragmatic way, guided by scientific data and evidence.
The proposed Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act is an important contribution to articulating a Canadian vision for a clean economy, and it sends a signal of the depth of our resolve to be a serious competitor in the clean global marketplace.
To do that, we need to tool up for low-carbon advantage and demonstrate that Canada is meeting climate risk head-on. By doing so, we can provide the confidence and certainty required to attract investment and ensure that Canadians are delivering products and services that will be in high demand the world over now and well into the future.
The bill marks the first time a Canadian government has introduced emissions accountability legislation to address climate change and achieve net zero by 2050. One element of its importance is that accountability legislation has the muscle to depoliticize climate action by setting legal requirements on governments to achieve climate headway. It is intended to ensure that never again will Canada have a government like that of Stephen Harper, which established an emissions reduction target but never brought forward a credible plan to achieve it.
The Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act would be the first significant step in the second phase of our government's climate plan. In phase one, during our first term in government, we spearheaded the creation of a pan-Canadian framework to fight climate change that comprised over 50 separate initiatives, including a price on pollution, a plan to phase out coal by 2030 and historic investments in public transit, nature and renewables.
In the coming weeks, the government will be announcing an enhanced clean-growth plan and further investments that encourage, accelerate and support the work Canadian businesses are doing to move to a thriving carbon-neutral economy. The plan will also provide Canadians with visibility on how we will meet and exceed our 2030 Paris Agreement target.
Bill C-12 provides the legal framework to put the emissions reductions goal of that plan and future plans between now and the middle of the century into law. The act would provide a legally binding process for this government and for future governments to set national climate targets on a rolling basis every five years between 2030 and 2050 and to meet the goal of net zero by 2050.
It would provide that this government and future governments must bring forward detailed plans as to how they would meet these targets. In the near term, Bill C-12 would require the Government of Canada to establish the initial 2030 target within six months of the act's coming into force, along with an emissions reduction plan. Both would have to be tabled in Parliament.
A progress report would have to be tabled by 2027. If the government of the day is not on track to meet the 2030 milestone, it would have to detail how it will get back on track. In addition, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, supported by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, would have to examine and report on the Government of Canada's implementation of the measures aimed at mitigating climate change within five years of the coming into force of this act and every five years thereafter.
For each subsequent milestone year, in 2035, 2040 and 2045, a target would have to be set and an emissions reduction plan established at least five years in advance of each subsequent milestone year. Both would have to be tabled in Parliament.
Finally, if a target is not met, the government would have to table a report in Parliament detailing the reasons why and identifying specific actions to correct course and catch-up.
Bill C-12 also requires the Minister of Finance to publish an annual report explaining how the government is managing its financial risks and opportunities related to climate change. This information will help the government manage the risks of climate change in its decision-making.
This is in addition to our current reporting requirements, including the fifth biennial report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the official national greenhouse gas inventory that we publish every year.
The five-year targets and the plans for meeting them will be based on the best scientific information available. They will require an inclusive approach that reflects Canada's unique demographics and geography, the importance of our resource-based economy, and the governments' shared responsibility for energy and the environment.
The input and engagement from all parts of Canadian society are crucial. The Government of Canada simply cannot achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of the century on its own. That is why the act would establish the independent net-zero advisory body, a group of up to 15 experts with a diverse range of experience and expertise from across the country. It would include business, labour, indigenous, clean technology and environmental leaders.
The advisory body's ongoing advice to government over the next 30 years would be informed by extensive consultation and engagement with Canadians. Its initial work would focus on identifying actions that support both net zero and economic recovery from the pandemic. The advisory body would provide its advice through an annual public report, and the government would be required to publicly respond to the advisory body's recommendations.
All of the public reporting measures are designed to ensure accountability to Canadians and accountability built on transparency, both of which are vital to establishing credibility with Canadians. Moreover, transparency and accountability are key to fostering dialogue when friction arises on the ways and means of moving forward on climate change. Bill C-12 lays out a framework of accountability and transparency to ensure we reach net zero by 2050 in a way that gives Canadians confidence that as a nation we will succeed in this endeavour.
Should the bill pass, it will be extremely difficult for any future government to shirk its responsibility to take action on climate change. I believe the reaction in Parliament and among Canadians generally would provide severe sanction to a government that did not honour its legal obligations under the act.
I want to say a few words about the parliamentary process.
It takes co-operation and collaboration to bring about real change, and several parties in the House of Commons have proven their commitment to ambitious climate action, including the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, the Green Party and even some Conservative members.
I want to congratulate the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia for her work on Bill C-215 and the member for Winnipeg Centre for her work on Bill C-232. These bills are part of a long line of bills introduced in an effort to address this problem.
It is important to recognize the contribution made by Jack Layton, who was the first to introduce his bill, the climate change accountability act, in 2007. Unfortunately, that bill was defeated by Conservative senators 10 years ago to the day last month, without debate, despite majority support in the House of Commons.
I would also like to commend the work of my colleague, the government House leader, who managed to get his private member's bill, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, passed in 2007, before the Harper government repealed it in 2011 and withdrew from the Kyoto protocol.
In developing the bill, I have reflected on the hard work done by my colleagues in the House and on the work of those who came before us. It is certainly my hope that they see their work and devotion reflected in the spirit and intent of Bill C-12. I am committed to taking an approach of co-operation and collaboration and will consider, in good faith, constructive suggestions to improve this legislation further. That is how the parliamentary process is supposed to work, and I am committed to doing my part to make it work.
I am confident that together, in the spirit of co-operation, we can achieve an outcome that allows us to continue to move another step forward to address the threat of climate change. I have engaged in constructive conversations with many of my parliamentary colleagues on moving forward with action to address climate change, and it is my hope that we can work together to pass the bill in this minority Parliament so that we can quickly move forward on its implementation.
At the end of the day, climate change is a science issue, not an issue of ideology. It should not be a partisan issue. It is my hope that MPs from all parties in the House will work together and collectively support this vital legislation.
As a nation, we cannot afford inaction. It certainly will require resources. It will also require pragmatism and, certainly, Canadian ingenuity.
Canada has the tools to do this, including a skilled and innovative workforce that is already rising to the challenge of emissions reduction. From copper to nickel to energy, Canada has the resources needed to develop, produce and deploy clean technologies and proven expertise. We have a productive and resilient manufacturing sector. We also have the innovative spirit, talent and experience to be among the world's cleanest suppliers of natural resources, and we have the drive, born of a chance, to create a future we can pass along to our children and grandchildren with confidence and with pride.
I am sure that many colleagues, as well as their children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren, have watched some of Sir David Attenborough's programs on the the natural world. One of his comments resonated strongly with me. He said, “We are the only species that can imagine the future. Living in balance with nature simply requires the will to do so.”
The bill represents a key step in demonstrating our collective will to do so, and I very much look forward to engaging with my colleagues today and in the days to come as we move forward with this very important legislation.