moved that Bill C-215, An Act respecting Canada’s fulfillment of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, I am deeply moved to rise today to present, support and defend the climate change accountability act on behalf of the Bloc Québécois, our team of MPs, our members and the thousands of Quebeckers who support us. It is a signal honour for me to be the author and sponsor of this bill.
I entered politics knowing my convictions. I am a democrat, a Quebec separatist, a feminist and an environmentalist. Today, my goal is to use my words, my arguments and my heart-and-soul sincerity to convince parliamentarians, every member of this assembly, of the merits of this bill. Given the chance, for years to come, it will be the cornerstone of our shared efforts to create an environmentally sound future.
Sustainability is a word that should resonate and make us think right now. For the past few months, we have all experienced something quite real that we could not quite grasp before, and that is how fragile the world is. The pandemic is not changing the laws of nature, but it is revealing new aspects, things we did not notice before, things that were hard to imagine or we simply did not want to see.
Our wealth comes from our efforts, but also very much from the services rendered by our natural environment. Environmental degradation increases health risks and compromises our economic well-being. More than ever, the relationship between environmental health and human health is becoming apparent.
The current challenge does not replace the previous one, it adds to it. Governments around the world will respond to the economic challenge as they responded to the health challenge. They will need to respond to the climate challenge better than they have in all these years.
The climate crisis is as real as the health crisis. I know that every party here in the House recognizes that. I believe that, as legislators, we have a common challenge that must be stated, affirmed and heard by everyone: The fight against the pandemic must not become an excuse for failing in the fight against climate change.
Let us now all agree that we will not be fooled by this false opposition, that it would be a complete failure on the part of public officials to respond to the great challenge of our time. Let us prove together, despite our differences of opinion on certain issues, that democracy can produce better results.
This is not just rhetoric. The main goal of the climate change accountability bill is to help us put words into concrete action.
I have no doubt that there have been decision-makers in Canada in the past who were sincere about their desire to meet the challenges of climate change, but let's face it, Canada has never met its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
Canada has failed repeatedly. Canada had to withdraw from the Kyoto protocol. Between 1990 and 2017, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions increased by 18.9%. Over the same period, it should be noted that Quebec's emissions decreased by 8.7%. I might add that the Canada-wide statistic includes the Quebec data.
However, I am not willfully blind. Quebec is not perfect and there are still major challenges to be addressed. Like all highly industrialized societies, Quebec has a large environmental footprint, and much remains to be done to restore the balance between prosperity and environmental sustainability. However, in this federation, Quebec has made contributions to climate action even though it does not control all the levers that it should legitimately have to protect its territory. In short, that is Quebec's and Canada's political reality. The intent of this bill is not to retaliate, far from it.
Many states around the world have adopted framework legislation for climate governance. In general, the objective of these laws, commonly known as climate laws, is to make governments accountable for their climate action. Despite having a so-called progressive society, young people who are engaged and politicians who profess to be green, Canada does not have a climate law.
Canada's current target is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. That was Stephen Harper's target.
According to the most optimistic projections, namely those that take into account the impact of reduction measures already announced, Canada will miss its target. Holding the government accountable for its climate action will prevent this failure from happening again. That is the bill's objective.
I want people to buy in. Everyone knows that pollution knows no borders, even though the sources of pollution are unevenly spread out throughout our territory. Our domestic and international climate policy must account for this unevenness. More specifically, if we want to be a world leader, if we want to convince the major polluters in the world to contribute, there is one fundamental thing we need to do: We need to lead by example and show that we are capable of fulfilling our own obligations.
We need to show some credibility if we want to be able to negotiate. It pains me to say this, but I think we lack any shred of credibility. We are offside but we need to get in the game.
Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris Agreement. Canada's commitment falls short of the global objective, but at the very least we should start by achieving our own objectives. The climate bill we are debating would allow us to do just that, since it would enshrine Canada's obligations under the Paris Agreement into Canadian law.
The act would provide for two essential things. First, it would set official reduction targets, increase them and set interim targets until we achieve the target of net-zero emissions by 2050. I believe that Liberal Party members will agree with this objective, since they were the ones who set it.
Second, the government's action plan should be assessed by a competent, independent authority. We can count on the commissioner of the environment to do that. We all agree that, in order to have enough teeth, climate legislation must include mechanisms that make it binding. That is what is proposed here by giving an entity that already has the confidence of the House the power to assess whether the government's actions are consistent with the legislation's objectives.
The Bloc Québécois released a comprehensive plan that included a variety of proposals for implementing a true green recovery. The government can draw upon that when developing an economic recovery strategy that addresses climate change.
The good thing about this bill is that it gives the government the freedom to choose the approach it wants to take to deal with this issue. The bill seeks to ensure that the government's choices are in keeping with Canada's international commitments and that the measures it plans to take are realistic and sufficient.
This bill is very simple, but it is of crucial importance. It already seems to have the support of the opposition parties. I have talked to NDP, Green Party and Conservative colleagues. They all agree that the principle of the bill is sound, they agree with the principle, and they recognize that Canada needs a bill like this as soon as possible.
I know that many people find it hard to grasp the concept of climate change because we cannot see it from one day to the next. We know we need to act locally, at home, by doing things like recycling, composting, choosing low-emission vehicles and minimizing our use of single-use plastics. There are many things we can do individually, but we need to do a lot more collectively.
The transition affects all regions and communities in Quebec and Canada because the effects of climate change are devastating and ubiquitous. Every region has its own unique economic realities and its own distinct challenges. Municipalities are grappling with erosion, insect pests are proliferating, fisheries are changing. We can observe the effects of climate change everywhere.
Back home, riverside municipalities have to deal with shoreline erosion. People have to abandon their homes because the location where they were built is no longer viable, as it is too risky. In my riding, Sainte-Luce-sur-Mer and Sainte-Flavie are the two municipalities in Quebec that are most affected by shoreline erosion. The people back home do not need to be reminded of the high tides of 2010 to raise their awareness of this issue. More than 40 homes were damaged along the river in Sainte-Flavie, which is a lot for a community of 800 people.
More than 50% of the coastline is susceptible to erosion in Quebec's maritime regions due to rising sea levels, storms, the absence of ice along the coast, the increased frequency of freeze-thaw cycles, milder winters and the advent of heavy rains in the winter, all of which are consequences of climate change resulting from human activity.
Farmers have to deal with drought and losing their harvest because of the unpredictability of the climate. People in the Baie-des-Chaleurs region fear for their respiratory health because pollution from nearby factories is degrading the air quality in the Gaspé region, which is so dear to us.
We need to make a major collective effort. We need to come together.
On a broad scale, it takes governments that take their responsibilities seriously, that have the courage to fulfill their commitments and that are not afraid to bring in drastic but necessary measures to combat the greatest challenge facing the next generation.
Unfortunately, Canada cannot boast about being at the forefront on this matter. Other countries have had the courage to act before us. It is possible to give up fossil fuels and live off solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy. Not only is it possible, it is crucial.
I am thinking of countries like Morocco, which relied almost exclusively on imported oil back in the early 2000s. Today it generates more than 40% of the energy it needs thanks to a network of renewable energy plants, including the largest solar power plant in the world.
I am also thinking of the Netherlands, one of the most densely populated countries, with thousands of agricultural producers in a very small geographic area. They have learned how to produce more and better with less, meaning less water, less fertilizer, and less pesticide, and how to use their land sustainably, emitting less CO2. The Netherlands is doing this and is the second-largest food exporter in the world.
Another example is Costa Rica, three-quarters of which was covered by forest a hundred years ago. Most of this forest was wiped out by uncontrolled logging in the 1980s. Then, the government took the bull by the horns and offered subsidies to owners who planted new trees. In just 25 years, the forest has reclaimed half of the country.
These countries are obviously different from Canada. They are not perfect, but they did the best they could with what they had, because their government was brave enough to take action. Canada needs a little bit of that courage.
Ironically, regardless of how the American presidential election turns out, the U.S. is officially withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, as decided by the Republican President in 2017. That is shameful. It shows that we need to double down and set an example. We need to show that we are stronger than that. I cannot emphasize enough that we need to lead by example.
I cannot speak about the climate issue without mentioning Quebec's legitimate ambitions. Members can see where I am going with this. Canada is an oil-producing country, which provides the highest per capita funding for the gas and oil sector, whereas Quebec has access to a phenomenal amount of renewable natural resources such as forests, water, mining resources and agricultural land on its territory. Quebec has built a robust and renewable electricity network which, unlike Alberta's oil sands, will be an asset for the future.
We could become world leaders in renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable development. That is one of my favourite arguments for sovereignty. We recently marked the 25th anniversary of the referendum, and I must say that Quebec has really changed since that day, as have we. That does not affect the legitimacy of the bill. Quebec is positioning itself as an environmentally friendly model of wealth creation that is setting an example for the rest of the world. Canada should unreservedly follow its lead.
I need to cut my explanation short, but I am sure that members will have taken the time to study the mechanisms in this bill in minute detail before voting. I am confident they will have assessed its merits and will see that this bill is substantive, constructive, well thought out and well written, and no mere statement of principle or list of arbitrary measures.
This is my final argument. Members will have noticed that the bill is deliberately drafted in such a way as to preserve the room to manoeuvre that a democratically elected government needs to conduct public affairs and fulfill its mission in accordance with its party's legitimate political ambitions. Our goal is to ensure successful climate policy, not to tie decision-makers' hands.
That reminds me of one specific quote that reflects a governance style that inspires me. As Premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois skilfully managed a minority government like this government. At the beginning of her term, she said, “We will be flexible in our approach but remain firm on our objectives.” Those are wise words.
The bill that I am introducing proposes that, for the future of the planet and climate justice, Canada be flexible in its approach but firm on its objectives in the coming years. I have the following question for the current government, which continues to repeat that it is committed to addressing climate change, and for the future government: Are they prepared to be firm on our objectives?
If so, I humbly invite them, on behalf of my constituents and with a sense of accomplishment in my heart, to vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois's climate change accountability bill.