Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me. I want to apologize to the interpreters. My decision to appear today was made quite late, and thus I was unable to prepare written notes for the interpreters. I will try not to speak too quickly.
I have four points. First, on the international scene—I know you discussed this last week—I have had the privilege over the last ten years of following international negotiations on climate change. I attended the first Conference of the Parties in Berlin in 1995. I was also in Kyoto. I have taken part in more than a dozen such conferences in the last decade.
I was also in Nairobi. The international repercussions of the Canadian government's policy shift as regards our Kyoto commitments are extremely significant. For example, since the month of May, the Canadian position has been publicly criticized by a number of officials on the international scene: by the European Union's Environment Commissioner, Mr. Dimas; by the German Environment Minister, Mr. Sigmar Gabriel; by the President of France, Jacques Chirac and by the French Minister of the Environment, Ms. Olin, during the Nairobi conference.
The headline in the editorial of Le Devoir newspaper, following Ms. Ambrose's speech during the United Nations Plenary Session, read as follows: “Ambrose is a disgrace”. Le Devoir also published a column, that same day, by Michel David, a political columnist in Quebec, who said that it was clear that Ms. Ambrose lies as easily as she breathes.
What is emerging ever more clearly is that foreign delegates who come to see us really don't understand what is going on. In fact, Mr. Dimas, the European Commissioner for the Environment, summed it up rather eloquently in one of his statements, when he said that he doesn't understand the Canadian position on the Kyoto Protocol and that someone will have to explain it to him. People come to see us, saying what happened to Canada — Canada led the battle with respect to the ozone layer and signed the Montreal Protocol which Ms. Donnelly referred to earlier. They are wondering what happened to the Canada that led the charge on landmines, and where is the Canada which, for all intents and purposes, created the concept of peacekeeping forces.
Our international reputation is suffering tremendously as a result of this about-face. I totally disagree with Mr. Alvarez, who says that recent events demonstrate that the Kyoto Protocol has no future. Unless I am mistaken, there are some 168 countries who, once again, agreed in Nairobi to continue to move forward with international negotiations on climate change. Those 168 countries ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Is it complex to negotiate an international agreement with almost 170 countries around the table? Of course it is, and we have been doing that for more than a decade now.
Indeed, of all the countries that have made Kyoto commitments, commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—in other words, all the Appendix I countries—the only one to have turned its back on Kyoto is Canada. And yet, whether it was in Bonn or Nairobi, I heard the Japanese Ambassador, Mr. Nishimura, saying that it would be very difficult for Japan to meet its Kyoto targets, but in spite of that, it remained committed. I heard Norvegian representatives—like Canada, Norway is a major energy exporter—say that it would be very difficult for them to meet their Kyoto targets, but that they, too, were committed to meeting them.
And, for us, Bill C-288 is very important, because it brings Canada back on track to meeting its Kyoto targets and, of course, moving into the future, given that Kyoto is only the beginning of the solution. I believe that the report issued by the Briton Nicholas Stern made it quite clear what the cost debate revolves around. Mr. Stern basically told us that we can show leadership and invest now to combat climate change, or that we can bury our heads in the sand and pay dearly for our inaction later on. I believe that Mr. Stern's study pretty aptly summarizes, in economic terms, what decision we have to make now.
On the more specific question of the provincial commitment, I was absolutely astounded to hear the Minister of the Environment say that the federal government would not support the Quebec plan to implement the Kyoto Protocol, because it focused on voluntary actions. I guess she must not have read the same action plan on climate change that I did. In fact, under Bill 52, tabled in the National Assembly three weeks ago, the Quebec plan that I read about provides for the creation of hydrocarbon charge of $200 million a year that will be used to finance public transit projects and projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Strangely enough, that is quite a contrast with what we heard this morning, particularly from our colleagues from the oil companies, since the CEO of Ultramar has publicly expressed his support for the Quebec plan to implement the Kyoto Protocol—a plan that imposes a partial levy of $200 million on its own industry. It is clear that this levy is anything but voluntary. Some statutes will have to be amended in order to implement that regulation.
Between now and 2008, the Quebec Building Code will be amended to improve the energy efficiency of all new construction in Quebec. There is nothing voluntary about that. As well, between now and 2010, we will be imposing new emission standards for light vehicles, taking our inspiration from the standards in place in California. Once again, there is nothing voluntary about any of this.
The only part of the Quebec Plan that relies on voluntary actions is, of course, the part relating to the large emitters. However, in Quebec—and this is not the case for all Canadian provinces—the problem with increased greenhouse gas emissions is not attributable to large emitters but, rather, to the transportation sector—something the Quebec plan directly tackles through funding projects for new infrastructure or improvements to existing service.
Indeed, an inventory review in Quebec shows that large emitters there have brought their greenhouse gas emissions down 7 per cent below 1990 levels. These are 2003 data, because we don't yet have 2004 data for Quebec. So, that is really not the sector the Quebec plan should be focussing on.
Quebec is the only province to have developed an action plan which, although it does not quite meet Kyoto targets, comes very close. Thanks to that plan, Quebec will move from about +8% to -1%, and the Quebec government is asking Ottawa for help to bridge the gap between the -1% and -6% called for in the Kyoto Protocol.
What kind of message are we sending that province by saying that its action plan doesn't meet the criteria and that we won't help it financially to meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol? In fact, we don't even know what the government's criteria are.
In terms of federal-provincial relations, if the goal is to develop partnerships—we talked earlier about the importance of working with the provinces—it seems to me this is an odd way to encourage the provinces and territories, and even the municipalities, to take steps to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
I would also like to talk about emissions trading, the carbon market, and flexibility mechanisms. I fully agree with those who say that the Kyoto Protocol is not an environmental agreement.
It is rather ironic to hear several organizations now denouncing the market-based mechanisms contained in the Kyoto Protocol, when they were the ones promoting them when the debate was taking place on developing the Protocol. People who have been following the debate for some time will remember that the discussion focussed on two possible avenues: the adoption of joint measures by all Schedule I countries to implement the Kyoto Protocol, or the establishment of market-based mechanisms.
European countries, in particular, were promoting what were called joint measures. They were proposing the introduction of a carbon tax which would be the same for all countries. Many organizations who appeared before this Committee at the time said that such a tax should not be introduced and that we should instead be moving towards market mechanisms. But now, these same organizations are saying that market-based mechanisms don't work and should be abandoned. There is a certain historical irony in all of that.
I am not a scientist; my background is in the social sciences. However, the scientists I have talked to say that is wrong to claim that the actual time when greenhouse gas emissions are lowered in the coming years—or in the coming decades—doesn't matter. In fact, the fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that will be released next year, will probably contain a lot of information on that. That is also what the Stern report says and what several other reports will say that are to be released in the coming months and years.
The longer we wait, the more we prejudice our ability to act on the global climate system, simply because at this point, we really don't know much about how sensitive our climate is to increased temperatures.
Let me explain. If our climate only reacts to significant temperature increases, then the temperature can rise without causing problems in terms of the global climate system. The system can withstand them.
On other hand, if the climate system is very sensitive to small variations in temperature, the longer we wait to lower greenhouse gas emissions, the more significant the impacts for our global climate system.
It is completely wrong to claim—there is no scientific basis for such a claim—that the moment in time when we reduce greenhouse gas emissions is unimportant. I haven't seen a single study that supports such a claim.
In cooperation with the Quebec Minister of the Environment, Mr. Claude Béchard, representatives of the financial sector, such as Desjardins, the Sustainable Development Investment Fund, Quebec unions, environmental groups, and industry stakeholders, I recently had the opportunity to launch a coalition in support of the Kyoto Protocol to try and force the federal government's hand.
When the coalition was launched, the Vice-President of Cascades, a well-know pulp and paper company in Canada, was in attendance to say how important it is to that company that it reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. He said that this year, his company will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3 or 4% inside its own operations, and that this represents a $12-million saving on its energy bill. He added that the pulp and paper industry really needs that money right now.