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.