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

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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;

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

(f) provides for a comprehensive review of the Act five years after its coming into force.

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

June 22, 2021 Passed 3rd reading and adoption 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
June 22, 2021 Passed Concurrence at report stage 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
June 22, 2021 Passed Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 (report stage amendment - Motion No. 2; Group 1; Clause 22)
June 22, 2021 Passed Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada's efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 (report stage amendment - Motion No. 1; Group 1; Clause 7)
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

November 25th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech.

The Liberals have said that they are open, but unfortunately I have come to the same conclusion as my colleague. This bill contains nothing but rhetoric and would not accomplish much, which is unfortunately not uncommon for the Liberals.

Since they seem to be open, I want to give my colleague an opportunity to speak. In an ideal world, we would like Bill C-215 to be adopted. If we could take provisions from Bill C-215 and put them in Bill C-12, what are my colleague's top two measures to include? Could she describe them to the House?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the opportunity to speak more to Bill C-215.

It is not complicated. As I was saying, we are being asked to vote on a plan that does not yet exist. Bill C-215 calls on the minister to develop a real plan with concrete measures to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction targets and tools to measure the progress made. I am talking about accountability here as well. The government must be accountable to the public. People want to know where we stand with our reduction targets. They want to know if these targets have been met and what needs to be done.

We still do not know whether the polluting industries will have to respect draconian measures. We do not know whether a transportation electrification plan is in the works. We do not know all of the measures that could be taken to reduce our carbon footprint. They could easily be integrated into Bill C-12.

These are the gems I would take from Bill C-215 and add to Bill C-12.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague the hon. member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

I want to confirm that I support this private member's bill, which is clearly more robust than Bill C-12. I agree with my colleague from the Bloc Québécois. We do not need new Keystone or Trans Mountain pipelines.

I have just one question for my colleague. What are the most important aspects of her bill that she thinks should be included in the amendments to Bill C-12?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her kind words and her support for my bill.

As I was saying, I think it is important for the government to be accountable. The review and accountability processes in this bill need to be improved. Under the bill in its current form, the minister can not only set and change targets, he also gets to evaluate his own performance.

We need to take a step back, consult scientists and experts and make the government accountable for the measures it takes on climate action. All of that needs to be included in Bill C-12.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I will address the second question. I think it is very important. It has to do with the issue of jurisdictions, which comes into play in our response to climate change.

Does the hon. member think that the provinces can have the freedom to choose their own policies when it comes to the carbon tax or does she think that the federal government can legitimately impose the process associated with the carbon tax?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague.

That is a tricky question. A Bloc MP would never say that the federal government should overrule Quebec, for example.

In terms of the environment, I know that my colleague and I have different opinions. The issue may be somewhat more delicate. I invite him to discuss this immediately after the sitting. We could perhaps come to an agreement.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, climate accountability legislation is so important. Why is it important? I had a question asked of me a few times this week by journalists. They asked why people should care about this. When I say we have missed every international climate target we have set, every single one, it does not really get to the heart of what is happening. We are so used to broken promises. We are so used to a government telling us we are on track, that it is taking action and that it understands the urgency, when its actions and urgency in no way match the scale of the crisis we are facing.

Why does this matter? For one thing, it is because we are stealing the future from our children. The young people know it, and they should not have to feel that fear. They should not have to march in the streets because politicians are not protecting their futures.

Before I ran for office, I taught a course at the University of Victoria that covered climate change and social movements. I remember that during one of the breaks, a young woman in my class came up with to me tears in her eyes. She asked me how she should study and work on the things we were talking about when scientists are telling us that we have a decade to turn this around. She said that if we fail, it means the collapse of ecosystems, mass extinctions and millions of people dying, along with our food systems and our future. We talked about how we maintain hope, how we make space to grieve and how to tap into fear and pain while continuing to fight for a livable planet. She went on to help organize climate strikes in Victoria.

Her wisdom and leadership, and the wisdom and leadership of kids across Canada and around the world, often bring me to tears. They motivate me to action.

What this young woman was doing was listening to the science and looking at the challenges we face, straight on. She was seeing and feeling the urgency. When people do that, when they choose not to look away and let themselves feel the real threat of what we are facing, what our children are facing and what it means for their futures, it is devastating, heartbreaking and terrifying. If people are willing to stay with that feeling, then they have no choice but to act and no choice but to act with the urgency that matches the crisis.

When Greta Thunberg said to world leaders, “How dare you...look away”, this is what she was talking about, and given that the government has put forward a bill that puts off climate accountability for the next 10 years, I can only assume that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Environment and every Liberal MP are choosing to look away. Maybe they do so because it is politically inconvenient to feel. Maybe they do so because it is unparliamentary to show emotions while debating legislation. Maybe they do so because it is scary to stand up, speak out, act with courage and face the consequences. However, whatever the reason, I say, “How dare you look away.”

However, it is not too late. We could still turn this small step in the right direction into something meaningful and real, and something that would give those young people some hope that the politicians who have so often betrayed them feel the urgency and are going to do something to turn this around.

We could still amend the bill to put in a milestone target of 2025. We could strengthen the accountability measures in the bill. We could ensure that the targets we set are in line with the best available science, our international obligations and equity principles.

I encourage every member, especially those on the government side of the House, not to look away and to take a moment to feel the scale of the crisis we are facing, the urgency. I hope they will work with us to make the bill something our children can be proud of.

In that spirit, I want to go through the parts of the bill I was really glad to see and then the parts that are missing.

I will mention the top three pieces that I appreciate about the bill. First, putting a commitment to net zero by 2050 into law is essential. The bill would not only ensure that the net-zero target is put into law, but also ensure we legislate our other long-term targets. Second, it was good to see the bill explicitly name the government’s commitment to upholding section 35 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Third, I am glad there would be progress reporting two years before each milestone target, with an opportunity to adjust and take additional actions if we are off track.

When it comes to the things that are missing, of course the most egregious omission is the lack of any real accountability for the next 10 years and the glaring omission of a 2025 milestone target. Scientists have been clear that this decade is the most important. The next 10 years are the ones the IPCC says are crucial if we want to have any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

It is hard to wrap my head around how the government can put forward a climate accountability bill that would put off and avoid accountability for the most important 10 years. It is hard for me to understand how Liberal members of Parliament, especially those with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, can stand behind the bill, how they can look young people in the eyes and tell them they have to wait another decade. It is an easy fix: Put in a 2025 milestone target.

The second big gap is in the need for stronger accountability mechanisms, both with the arm’s-length advisory body, which only gives advice right now but does not have a defined role in assessments or reviewing progress, and with the environment commissioner, who, in the bill, would only have to do one report every five years. Neither of these bodies have the capacity or mandate in the bill to properly hold the government to account.

As it stands, the minister is mainly accountable to himself. The government determines what targets should be set, opening up the opportunity to set weak targets, and whether the government is on track to meeting those targets.

To fix these issues we need to strengthen and clearly define the advisory body's role in establishing targets, reviewing climate plans and evaluating progress reports and assessment reports. We also must guarantee that this body is composed of independent experts from all regions of Canada, and that it includes indigenous and worker representatives and does not include fossil fuel executives or industry representatives.

These fixes would strengthen the advisory body, but we also need to ensure the environment commissioner is reporting on whether our targets are in line with the best available science, whether our climate plan will actually get us to our target, whether our progress report and the assessment report are accurate and whether our proposed corrective actions are adequate for addressing the times when we are not on track.

The environment commissioner could play an important role in this legislation, but we learned last week that the environment commissioner currently does not have the resources to do its regular environmental work, and that its staff and environmental experts can be reallocated to other projects by the Auditor General. We need to make the environment commissioner an independent officer of Parliament.

The third gap is the fact the government has given itself up to nine months, after the bill gets royal assent, to set a target for 2030 and therefore create a plan to meet that target.

This means it could be up to a year from now until we see a plan to reach our 2030 target, yet in the Liberal government's most recent throne speech, the Liberals said they would immediately bring forward a plan to exceed Canada's 2030 climate goal. They said “immediately”. I do not know who defines “a year later” as “immediately”. I feel like we need to remind the government, again, that a plan to create a plan is not a plan.

We know that climate accountability means nothing without climate action, so where is the government's climate action plan? When will we see the new target that exceeds our 2030 climate goals, and when will we see the plan to get us there? We need to see investments in green infrastructure, in transportation, in building retrofits and in building green affordable housing. We need a just and sustainable recovery, a green new deal that creates good family-sustaining jobs in the low-carbon economy. We need a just transition for workers, and all of this needs to be outlined in a climate plan that will get us to our targets, ones that are ambitious and that are based on keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5°C.

There are a number of gaps that I will not cover in as much detail, but we should be talking about carbon budgets instead of milestone targets, about Canada's fair-share contribution to 1.5°C, and we should be requiring the minister to meet strong standards when setting targets, as well as strong standards when creating and adjusting plans. Currently, the bill would allow future governments to set weak targets and create plans without much detail. If we fail at strengthening the bill, we have to tell young people and tell Canadians that we were not courageous enough to put the measures in place to avoid catastrophic climate change, that we were not courageous enough to protect their future.

For most of this speech, I have been speaking about the future and the severe consequences of our present action and inaction. That future outlined in the IPCC report is scary, but this is not just about our future. The impacts of the climate crisis are already being felt in Canada. In my riding of Victoria and in B.C., it was not too long ago that we were choking on the smoke from the climate fires south of the border. We know that temperatures in Canada are increasing at twice the global rate. The impacts are felt particularly in the Arctic along the coasts, and are disproportionately felt by indigenous, rural, marginalized and racialized communities. Canadians want real action on the climate crisis, and they want a government that not only promises to fight climate change but will actually deliver on that promise.

When I say, again and again, that our government has missed every single climate target and that the current Liberal government is not even on track to meet Stephen Harper's weak targets, I hope that the members in this chamber feel the seriousness of this failure, that they do not look away and that they feel the urgency. We need climate accountability now, not in 10 years. We need climate action now, not in nine months to a year.

It was back in 2008 that the United Kingdom created its climate accountability framework, the Climate Change Act. This act was the first of its kind in the U.K., and it remains highly regarded and has served as a model for legislation in other jurisdictions, including Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, France, Germany and Spain. The U.K. has set five-year carbon budgets covering immediately from 2008 onward, and regular reporting to Parliament has enhanced transparency and accountability. The U.K. also has an expert advisory committee, the Committee on Climate Change, that is much stronger than the advisory body proposed by the current government.

Two years before the U.K. implemented this bill, in 2006, Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP at the time, originally introduced the first climate accountability act in Canada. The bill passed at third reading by a vote of 148 to 116. The Harper Conservatives voted against it, but the bill died in the Senate. The NDP has introduced the climate change accountability act as a private member's bill in the 39th, 40th and 41st Parliament, by Jack but also by former MP Megan Leslie.

Imagine where we would be if we had passed strong climate accountability legislation back then. Since implementing climate accountability, the U.K. has successfully reduced its emissions over the past decade, in stark contrast to Canada, whose emissions continue to increase despite the government's empty words and claims to climate leadership.

In this Parliament, my NDP colleagues, the member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Elmwood—Transcona, have both put forward legislation in Parliament that calls for strong climate accountability. I want to thank my Bloc colleague for introducing Bill C-215.

I want to highlight one important piece of the member for Winnipeg Centre's bill, Bill C-232, an act respecting a climate emergency action framework. It provides for the development and implementation of a climate emergency action framework. It explicitly outlines how a climate emergency action framework and climate accountability legislation must be built on a foundation that recognizes the indigenous inherent right to self-government, that upholds the provisions in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that takes into account scientific knowledge including indigenous science and knowledge as well as the responsibilities toward future generations.

While I was glad to see that the government included a commitment to upholding section 35 in UNDRIP in the preamble of the its bill, so far the Liberals have failed to enshrine UNDRIP into law. When will the government put action behind its words when it comes to reconciliation and put the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law? We have a lot of work to do and we must come together if we want to do it.

As I wrap up, I want to note again that there can be no climate accountability without climate action. The government has missed every single climate target that it has set. Climate accountability is important, but the Liberals are not only putting it off for 10 years. They are also putting off a new target and a plan. They are putting off a climate action plan for up to another year. Where is the government's climate action plan? Part of that plan has to include an end to all fossil fuel subsidies. Stop giving away billions of dollars to profitable oil and gas companies. Stop throwing good money after bad at the Trans Mountain expansion. Please invest those billions of dollars in creating the good, sustainable jobs that people need right now.

We need investments in green infrastructure, in transportation and in building retrofits. We need a just and sustainable recovery, a green new deal, one that creates good jobs in a low-carbon economy. We need a plan that is based on science and in line with keeping global temperatures below 1.5°C.

We must move forward with climate action and climate accountability legislation immediately. We needed it in 2006 when Jack Layton first put it forward and Jack would not want us to wait another 10 years for climate accountability. We needed it in each iteration of the IPCC report. We needed it when we read about the catastrophic impacts of global warming. We needed it last year when young people were marching in the streets, begging politicians, begging decision-makers to listen to the science, to not look away, and we need it now.

I will be pushing the government to make this bill stronger. We cannot afford to wait any longer. We are running out of time. Young people and Canadians are watching us, and they will not forgive us if we fail them, if we lack the courage do what is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. They are telling us to wake up.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I am really shocked by what I thought I heard. I am going to ask the hon. member to clarify what she said.

I heard that if there is to be an advisory committee or an advisory board that we should specifically exclude the oil and gas sector from that. This, to me, is offensive on two levels. First, that sector would probably be the most impacted by any substantive changes to our climate change approach. It would seem that it would simply be unfair to exclude their voice from the consideration of things that should be done. Second, from things that I have read, that sector has in fact outperformed just about any other in Canada when it comes to dealing with climate change.

How can the member justify excluding such an important sector in such an unfair way?

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, perhaps the Liberal member did mishear me. I said we need representation from workers and that includes workers in the fossil fuel industry. It includes workers who are impacted.

What I would like to avoid is having industry representatives and fossil fuel executives driving our climate plan. I think Canadians can understand why we no longer want to be listening to the fossil fuel industries and the big oil and gas companies that have been making millions of dollars while also receiving billions of dollars in handouts from the government.

We need to not only take a strong stand to stand up for workers and to create a responsible climate plan, but also to stop handing out billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies to these profitable oil and gas companies.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Warren Steinley Conservative Regina—Lewvan, SK

Madam Speaker, I always enjoy the fanciful tales from my colleague, the member for Victoria. It is always an interesting world the New Democrats live in, where somehow they get here to Ottawa magically in an airplane, but they are against the energy sector. It is really interesting.

New Democrats are always saying that $200 billion in subsidies is being given to the oil and gas sector. I would love for her to table that document, where it shows $200 billion in subsidies, and I am assuming she means per year, to the oil and gas sector. Could the member table that?

Also, I would love to know how the member feels about the 900 billion litres of raw sewage her city has dumped into the Pacific Ocean since 2013. Divers in Victoria have said that right off the coast, the ocean floor is littered with garbage, but when they go further out, the ocean becomes more beautiful and more vibrant. As a former city councillor, the member should really work on cleaning up her backyard instead of looking down her nose at the oil and gas sector in western Canada.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I encourage the member across the way to look at the reports that outline the fossil fuel subsidies. I would be happy to email the member a copy of those reports.

It is important to note that the reason we are here, the reason we are at this point where young people are marching in the streets, where Canadians across this country are demanding climate action, is the failure of consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments. We went through the Harper years, the years with no climate action, with no real protection of our oceans and our coastal ecosystems.

The member mentioned divers who are going off the coast of Victoria. We are very concerned about the environment. We are very concerned about climate change. I think that concern is shared by Canadians across the country. It is disappointing that the Conservatives continue to focus on individual actions, rather than acknowledging that this Liberal government—

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Victoria for her passionate speech.

I would like to know what she thinks of the fact that the fight against climate change could be the driving force behind the creation of a sustainable and green economy and a fairer and greener post-COVID recovery. According to a 2019 nation-wide study, more women than men have decided to take action on climate change. Groups such as Femmessor and Mothers Step In are demonstrating the growing interconnectedness of the feminist and the environmental movements advocating for the future of our children.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I will answer the question around the opportunity for good green jobs in the low-carbon economy first. We know if we were to invest the billions that are being spent on the fossil fuel industry, the $12 billion that is proposed for the Trans Mountain expansion project, into green infrastructure, clean energy and building retrofits, it would create hundreds of thousands of good jobs across the country in local communities.

I also want to touch on the other part of the question, which is about the connection between the women's movement and the environmental movement. We know women are disproportionally impacted by the climate crisis, both here in Canada and around the world. We also know that women have been leaders in a lot of these climate movements. I want to thank the member for bringing up that point.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Victoria for an incredible speech. She did her constituents proud with her interventions on Bill C-12.

The previous intervention from my Conservative colleague illustrates the complete disconnect that exists there with the impending challenge that is before us with respect to climate change. In order to make people like that understand the gravity of the situation, perhaps it would be informative to the House for the member for Victoria to put the costs in economic terms. In other words, what are the costs going to be to our economy? Never mind the ecological devastation; what will the economic costs be to Canada with respect to upgrading our infrastructure and adapting to a new climate if we do nothing? Perhaps that will make my Conservative colleagues finally understand the gravity of the situation before us.

Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2020 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

Laurel Collins NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for his insight.

It is the acknowledgement that the costs of inaction greatly outweigh the costs of investing in the kinds of good sustainable jobs we know Canadians need and are needed to meet our climate targets. There has been a lot of research, both globally and some here in Canada. One of the amendments I would like to see for this bill is for the advisory body to have a role in outlining those costs so we get updated annual reports on not only the costs of catastrophic climate change, both present and future, but also how we adapt our planning to adjust to some of these horrific things, like forest fires, flooding and increased severe weather events.