Thank you very much and good afternoon, members of the committee. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to testify before you.
Our organization, Équiterre, has existed for over 12 years and we promote solutions to individuals, businesses and governments. We work with over 100 organizations every year and we reach approximately 300,000 people in Quebec.
In its current form, Canada's Clean Air Act will not allow us to appropriately address problems related to pollution and greenhouse gases in Canada. Équiterre believes that serious changes need to be made to this legislation in order to ensure sustainable protection of our environment.
Canadians and Quebeckers have high expectations with regard to the environment and Kyoto in particular. Équiterre believes that Parliament and the government must take action in seven areas of intervention that we have identified.
First, reaffirm Canada's long-term commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. Second, set specific and quantifiable targets for 2008-2012 in order to honour our commitment to reduce emissions by 6% below 1990 levels. Third, set intermediate and long-term reduction targets in order to ensure an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. Fourth, regulate heavy industry, which represents 50% of GHG emissions in Canada. Fifth, regulate energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for auto manufacturers that meet or exceed the best practices in North America. Sixth, adopt an ambitious energy efficiency strategy for the country. Seven, adopt a sustainable transportation strategy for the country.
For more detailed information on the first five items that I mentioned, we invite you to refer to presentations made by our partners in Climate Action Network Canada: Greenpeace for points 1 through 3, the Pembina Institute for point 4 and Pollution Probe for point 5, as well as to the other organizations and partners who spoke on this issue.
For its part, Équiterre wants to speak on the last two elements, in other words energy efficiency and transportation.
According to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, 40% of greenhouse gas emission reductions in Canada could be achieved through energy efficiency. Équiterre believes that improving energy efficiency is the way to go, since this is the least costly way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and there is an enormous technological economic potential. Furthermore, this option will create the most jobs per billion dollars invested. It comes as no surprise then that, in the British plan on energy and climate change, energy efficiency measures represent 50% of all GHG emission reduction initiatives.
There are many things that Canada can do in this area, many of which are surprisingly simple. The round table said, in particular, that it was not so much about determining which technology to implement, but rather deciding how to implement nearly all possible technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Équiterre encourages the government to be proactive in adopting regulations prohibiting the sale of products that are not energy efficient.
I want to give a very simple example, and it might seem somewhat insignificant: incandescent light bulbs. We believe that this technology should no longer be sold in Canada. In passing, Australia did just that by announcing, last week, that traditional light bulbs would be banned by 2010. This is the kind of regulation that we want. The resulting energy savings and reduction in greenhouse gases are possible with measures that cost the government very little and push industry to adapt in order to improve energy efficiency.
Naturally, other areas could be regulated, including household appliances and heating and cooling systems, which should not be sold unless they meet the ENERGY STAR program criteria. In other words, instead of making ENERGY STAR an optional incentive program, we propose making it mandatory in order to ensure even greater efficiency.
We estimate that up to 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada come from building operation. Therefore, significant action needs to be taken in this area. Unfortunately, take-up of some programs is insufficient at present. For example, the ecoENERGY Retrofit program offers incentives for owners in order to urge them to invest in energy-saving improvements. However, this program targets barely 140,000 homes over four years! In comparison, the round table previously mentioned advised the government to provide support to at least 165,000 households per year. Équiterre believes that a target of 200,000 would be achievable and more appropriate, given the enormous potential of homes across Canada.
The EnerGuide program, which preceded the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, had demonstrated that we could achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions of 3.9 tonnes on average per home. So this is an interesting program to develop.
If the ecoENERGY Retrofit program remains unchanged, results might not be forthcoming. In fact, the program does not directly relate financial incentives to concrete energy efficiency improvements, whereas the former EnerGuide program did to a greater extent. It would be worthwhile looking more closely at the implementation of this program in order to ensure that targets in which we are investing are being achieved.
Another example of some inconsistency with regard to energy efficiency is the cancellation of the Commercial Building Incentive Program, which has encouraged energy efficiency improvements in buildings since 1998; the Canada Green Building Council recognized the success of this program. It should not only be renewed but also improved.
The Government of Canada should also lead by example in this area. Public Works and Government Services Canada currently requires new buildings to meet the goal-rating of LEED Canada or Leadership in energy and environmental design standard, which is the main standard in green architecture in North America. Équiterre believes that the government can and must do better by aiming for platinum, which is the highest rating, for buildings that it builds itself or rents on a long-term basis. This is an achievable goal, as the Gulf Island National Park Reserve Operations Centre in British Columbia proves, which Parks Canada opened this fall. This is the first building in Canada to have obtained the platinum level accreditation from LEED.
Canada should also reduce the amount of energy being used by the transportation sector. In order to do this, we will need to not only improve vehicle energy efficiency, which is essential, we will also need to review the entire transportation system. Because the criteria used to assess road infrastructure needs in urban areas will need to be reviewed, Équiterre encourages the Government of Canada to impose a moratorium on funding for highways and roads in urban areas. This moratorium should be maintained until Canada has, in particular, adopted a cohesive strategy on urban sprawl. This strategy must then guide the granting of federal funding, as well as the activities of the government itself. In fact, the location of federal buildings, the number and proximity of parking spots provided and incentives related to purchasing transit passes, for example, are factors that influence how government employees travel. In short, we invite the federal government to ensure consistency.
At the same time, Canada must support the construction of strategic infrastructures in order to reduce the number of motorists driving without passengers. London is an inspiring example. Last week, London authorities extended the perimeter of the urban toll system established in 2003, extending to nearly 30 square kilometres the area within which drivers must pay an entrance toll. This measure has cut traffic in the downtown core by 20%, according to Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, who also wants to impose a special tax on the cars generating the most pollution. To date, nitrous oxide has dropped by 13% in London, particle matter by 15% and carbon gas by 16%. In addition to reducing congestion and GHG emissions, the urban toll has generated significant funding for public transit.
With or without an urban toll, the Government of Canada must make significant investments in public transit and alternative transportation.
Équiterre invites the Government of Canada to more closely monitor compliance with the voluntary GHG emissions reduction agreement for cars and vans that it reached with auto manufacturers in April 2005. Équiterre believes that the bill should include an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumptions Standards Act, in order to ensure that vehicle emissions are regulated once the voluntary agreement expires. Should there be any delays in the implementation of this agreement, Équiterre encourages the federal government to immediately adopt legislation to implement California's emissions standards.
Canadian voters are impatiently waiting for the Canadian government to take significant action. A public poll conducted early this year shows that the environment is the top concern of Canadian voters, before health care, the conflict in Afghanistan and the economy. This poll also showed that this is the area in which the government's performance disappointed them the most. In November, the results of a poll also showed that 71% of Canadians felt that the government's plan to deal with pollution and climate change was not ambitious enough. Last month, a new poll confirmed that the environment and climate change are the main concerns of Canadians, and 68% of those polled stated that they were more concerned than last year. Clearly, Canadians remain unhappy. And they have reason to be afraid, since, in 2004, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada exceeded 1990 levels by 27%.
Canada's Clean Air Act will not reassure Canadians. The government must keep its international commitments on climate change. It can no longer withhold its signature from the Kyoto Protocol, and moreover this is undermining its credibility. Canadians want their country to take action in order to stop climate change, which is the greatest crisis facing humanity according to 72% of polled Canadians.