Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Hon. members, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning in consideration of Bill C-30, Canada's Clean Air Act.
This government has made it clear, we are committed to delivering real solutions to protect the health of Canadians and their environment.
I was in Paris last Friday to hear from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as they released their Fourth Assessment Report.
Mr. Chairman, the science of climate change leaves little room for doubt—it is real, it is linked to human activity, and it compels us to take action. I get it, and so does Canada's government.
We accept the IPCC as an internationally-recognized scientific authority on climate change.
And we will consider the findings of this Fourth Assessment Report very seriously.
Even by Canadian standards, recent weather here in this country has been alarming. I saw first-hand the pounding the west coast has taken over the past two months. Thousands of trees that stood for centuries could not withstand the record winds, snow, and rainfall that battered our coast.
The most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history was less than two years ago, and the two warmest years on record for the world were 2005 and 1998. No one can say that climate change has caused every blizzard, every hurricane, every flood, and every drought the world has seen in recent years, but trying to disprove the basic science is pointless and diverts us from the real work of finding solutions. Instead, we need to accept what the experts are telling us and move on. It's time to take real action on our environment.
As President of the Treasury Board, I oversaw the development of the Federal Accountability Act and worked with colleagues from all parties of the House of Commons to assure its passage. Such a healthy debate is required once again, and I intend to bring the same spirit of cooperation and determination to Canada's Clean Air Act.
Just as Canadians demanded accountability in government, they are now demanding action on one of the most pressing issues of our time: the state of our environment. We believe we have taken a strong approach to begin fighting climate change, and we are willing to work with all parties to build an even stronger piece of legislation.
Canada's Clean Air Act will set in motion Canada's first comprehensive and integrated approach to tackle both air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and, in doing so, will deliver better air quality for Canadians and also tackle climate change.
Canada's Clean Air Act would amend three federal acts: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Energy Efficiency Act, and the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act.
It creates a new clean air component in CEPA that will provide a tailor-made approach to enable integrated regulatory actions for air pollutants and greenhouse gases. For the first time ever, Canada's Clean Air Act will provide new, explicit authority to collect information and regulate products that affect indoor air quality.
The proposed amendments to CEPA will require the Ministers of the Environment and Health to establish national air quality objectives and to report annually on actions taken by all governments in Canada to improve air quality.
Canada's Clean Air Act will also strengthen CEPA by enhancing the government's ability to establish effective regulations to meet our commitment for the blending of fuels, enabling Canada to achieve 5% renewable fuels content in the next three years. That's the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off Canadian roads.
The Clean Air Act will strengthen our ability to enter into equivalency agreements with the provinces and territories and avoid regulatory duplication, as long as they meet the same environmental objectives.
Canada's Clean Air Act will modernize the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act, which will improve the government's ability to regulate vehicle fuel efficiency.
Lastly, Canada's Clean Air Act will allow the government to set energy efficiency standards and labelling requirements for a wider range of consumer and commercial products by amending the Energy Efficiency Act.
I believe Bill C-30 is a platform from which the government and Parliament will provide concrete and realistic action to reduce air pollutants and greenhouse gases, all of which increasingly threaten our health, our quality of life, and indeed our economy.
While this bill is essential to protecting the environment and the health of Canadians, it is important to note that the government is already getting to work to improve our environment. Within months of taking office, our government invested tax credits and new funding to increase public transit ridership, removing the equivalent of greenhouse gases produced by 56,000 cars from Canadian roads every year.
Canada's new government has also invested $2 billion into the ecoENERGY initiative through a series of announcements, including $230 million for clean technology with the ecoENERGY technology initiative; $1.48 billion for renewable energy with the ecoENERGY renewable initiative; and $300 million for smarter energy use by Canadians with the ecoENERGY efficiency initiative.
We have also contributed $2 million to assist in the cleanup and restoration of Vancouver's Stanley Park, and thanks to the efforts of the government, future generations will know the same joy, beauty, and inspiration that this magnificent park has provided Canadians for so many years.
As well, our government has contributed $30 million to help protect the Great Bear Rainforest, the largest temperate rainforest left on earth. This 1.8 million hectare land mass on the northern coast of British Columbia is home to thousands of species, plants, birds, and animals.
In the coming months we will announce ambitious short-term targets for air pollutants and greenhouse gases from industrial sources, with sector-by-sector regulations coming into force starting in 2010. For the first time ever the federal government will regulate air pollution for major industry sectors. And, as the Prime Minister said clearly on Tuesday, for the first time ever we will regulate the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. We will regulate energy efficiency standards and labelling requirements for a broad range of consumer and commercial products. Together, these will address about 80% of the energy used in homes and almost 90% of the energy used in commercial settings.
The Prime Minister recently announced the creation of a new cabinet committee on the environment and energy security. The committee will pursue practical, results-oriented solutions that will result in real mandatory cuts in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution, and improve the health and well-being of Canadians. Make no mistake, the era of voluntary compliance is over, and this government intends to take action.
Let me be clear that there are some fundamental principles that guide this government. We will not spend taxpayers' dollars to buy international hot air credits just to meet our Kyoto targets. We know it would be easy to buy these credits. But as Professor David Boyd from the University of British Columbia said to this committee just Tuesday, those hot air credits would be a bad investment for Canada, spending billions of dollars abroad for zero environmental benefit. We want to spend this money here at home in Canada. The Conservative government's plan is to get Canada on the right track so that we can make real progress in addressing our greenhouse gas and air emissions for the long term.
The second principle is also clear. The plan must be achievable, affordable, and practical. It must deal with the reality this country faces. Because of previous inaction, Canada is some 35% above its Kyoto target, and there are only two years remaining to start meeting it. Some critics have said we should simply push harder and make it our mission to meet the 2008 to 2012 reduction target. Let me explain what that would mean.
We would have to reduce emissions by some 270 megatons. And what would that mean? Again, as Professor Boyd told this committee, to achieve that kind of target through domestic reductions would require a rate-of-emissions decline unmatched by any modern nation in the history of the world--except those who have suffered economic collapse, such as Russia.
Canadians do not want empty promises on a plan that we cannot achieve, and they do not want our country to face economic collapse. Instead, they want this government and this Parliament to take real action and achieve real reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. They want a sensible plan, just as in the progress the world has made on CFCs. It was because of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney that Canada was one of the first countries to sign and ratify the Montreal Protocol. Sometime in 2010, CFCs will be completely eliminated from developing countries, as has been the case in Canada for some time now.
This protocol was one of the most successful multilateral international agreements that the environment has ever achieved. It should serve as a reminder to all of us that great things can be accomplished when we have a concrete and realistic plan and put it in place. I look forward to discussing what actions we can work on together to address environmental challenges like clean air and climate change that we need to tackle today.
Let me say in conclusion that Canada's new government has charted a fundamentally new course on the environment, and the Clean Air Act is a big piece of that journey. As hard as it is to believe, the discussion is not about partisan politics or barbs tossed across the floor in the House of Commons during question period. Ultimately, all of us will answer to the people who sent us here, and they are watching. Canadians want this committee to succeed, and I believe they want action. In that spirit, I pledge to work closely with all opposition members to craft the best piece of legislation that's possible. I hope you will join me in this effort.
Thank you. Merci beaucoup.