Thank you very much.
At the outset, let me say that I'm joined today by the Associate Deputy Minister of the Environment, Ian Shugart; and the Assistant Deputy Minister for International Affairs, David McGovern. I thank them for coming.
Good afternoon, colleagues. It is of course a great pleasure for me to be here with you today.
Thank you for the kind invitation. As always, I look forward to working with the members of the House of Commons environment committee.
As you know, next week the world will convene in Indonesia for the thirteenth United Nations climate change conference. It's obvious that in the lead-up to those meetings, Canadians too should be informed on where their government stands on what the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls the defining challenge of our age. It's also the reason I find myself before this committee today ready to discuss Canada's position in Indonesia and what our government hopes to accomplish.
But first, let me remind the committee of the current context in which Canada—and indeed the world—find themselves.
Mr. Chairman, the world is at a turning point. The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the previous reports issued earlier this year make that point abundantly clear.
The simple fact that of the matter is this. Failure to fight climate change is not an option. As Canadians, we have a responsibility not only at home but to the world to take action. And the world also needs to do its part together in the fight.
Otherwise, we face an uncertain future in a changing climate.
The picture may look bleak to some, but I believe strongly that humanity and human ingenuity must face this challenge head-on. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly visible, including right here at home in Canada. For example, we've lost large areas of our majestic boreal forest because hotter and dryer summer weather has created conditions that are perfect for forest fires. In the British Columbia interior, destructive pine beetles that thrive in the mild conditions of recent years are expected to have ravaged 50% of the province's mature pine trees by next year. In the north, we see real evidence of climate change: buckled roads, schools falling off foundations, and significant infrastructure crumbling, all because of the rapidly melting permafrost. In urban areas, our most vulnerable citizens—children, the elderly, and those with respiratory problems in particular—are fighting through more and more smog days.
This is just the Canadian perspective. Elsewhere in the world, climate change is just as aggressive, with consequences just as serious as those we're seeing here in Canada.
The scientific evidence is there, and I believe it's real, but what's encouraging in all of this is that the world is finally taking the science seriously. More countries than ever before are signing on to the fight against climate change, and Canada is certainly one of them.
This government is unwilling to stand on the sidelines limiting ourselves to playing a cheerleading role like the previous government. In fact, we've already been active on the global stage in shaping the post-2012 climate change regime. At this spring's meeting of the G8 leaders in Germany, Canada was a critical bridge-builder in helping countries find common ground between those in the European Union and the United States.
In Germany, we were able to come up with a language that calls for setting a long-term global goal for emission reductions involving all major emitters. This is a big step forward, particularly when considering that this is the first time the United States has shown any flexibility in agreeing to a long-term goal.
For its part, Canada's government counts itself proud and privileged to have played a leading role in the negotiations. Our approach at the G8 was founded on our domestic commitment to reduce emissions by 60% to 70% by 2050, a plan that was welcomed by other G8 nations.
We made similar progress during meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum earlier this fall. APEC members account for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And they include two of the largest emitters: the United States and China. In Sydney, APEC leaders reaffirmed their shared commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and they aligned a set of principles to underpin an effective post-2012 climate change regime that would include real action by all emitters to achieve shared global goals.
Mr. Chair, the post-2012 climate change regime must include all major emitters, for a variety of reasons. I'll go to chart 2. If you look at this chart, you will see that by 2050, if the developed world reduces its emissions by 100%, greenhouse gases will continue to skyrocket because of the enormous growth of emissions in the developing world. That's why we need to get countries like China and India on board to accept their responsibilities and to reduce emissions. The fact is that those developed countries that accepted greenhouse gas reductions under the Kyoto Protocol will be responsible for only 18% of emissions.
In 2004, Canada represented only about 2% of the world's emissions. Go to chart 4 for that one. This number is expected to decline based on our government's actions and on actions throughout the country. But emissions in India and China, for example, are on the upswing, and the Chinese are expected to account for nearly 23% of all global emissions by 2050. Even if Canada were to eliminate all its greenhouse gas emissions, China would replace every last ounce of them within 18 months. Even if we eliminate only 10% of our emissions, it would take China only 60 days to replace them.
Mr. Chair, based on the evidence, we can draw one simple conclusion: where greenhouse gas emissions are concerned, the status quo does not equal progress. If we expect to succeed in protecting the environment, all major emitters must be ready, like Canada, to act and to act now. This is the message that Canada's delegation will be bringing to Indonesia next week. We are optimistic that the world will heed our call that any post-2012 agreement must include all major emitters.
But we're also realistic. Let us be clear about what the world should expect from the UN climate change conference. Many agree, including the United Nations, that the conference represents the best start towards negotiations on the post-2012 agreement—the start, not the end. The members of the opposition environmental groups would have Canadians believe that a post-Kyoto deal will be hammered out and that Canada will be a holdout. This is simply false.
The truth is simple, and it's clear. The Indonesian meeting will build the foundation for a process and a timeline to negotiate a post-2012 deal. Canada will work very hard to define a process for a post-2012 agreement that requires greenhouse gas emissions cuts by all major emitters, no matter if they are in the developed or the developing world. Greenhouse gases know no borders and affect everyone on this planet, and that's why a deal must apply to all nations.
Progress comes in steps when we're dealing with treaties that bring together various degrees of international opinion. Canada will work towards a successful conclusion in Indonesia. Our country's broad position going into the conference is clear and is based upon three points: the world must come together to agree to launch negotiations on a post-2012 agreement; there must be an agreement on what the building blocks of a future agreement would be; and finally, there must be an agreement on an end date for negotiations. Canada will be pushing for 2009.
Let me repeat that in French. Canada will work toward a successful conclusion in Indonesia. Our country's broad position going into the conference is clear and based upon three key points: the world must come together and agree to launch negotiations on a post-2012 agreement; there must be an agreement on what the building blocks of a future agreement would be; and there must be an agreement on an end date for negotiations. Canada will be pushing for an end date of 2009.
These goals are outlined and shared by Yvo de Boer, the executive director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These are his goals, and Canada accepts them.
These are fair, balanced, and reasonable goals to achieve in Indonesia. We must remember that the Kyoto Protocol was launched a full five years after the 1992 Rio earth summit. Today we just don't have that kind of time, and that is why Canada is seeking a speedier timeline.
Mr. Chair, let me just say again that Canada will participate in any process to fight climate change that leads to an agreement that includes all the major emitters. We believe that this is critical. Failure to include major emitters in any post-2012 agreement will set the world down a path that leads absolutely nowhere.
Canada's position on what any post-2012 agreement should look like has been clear and concise. The Prime Minister has made this clear at the G8, at the APEC summit, at the United Nations, and at the recent Commonwealth summit. Any long-term post-2012 agreement must include the major emitting countries, such as China, India, and the United States.
Let me go to slide 6. As you know, a prime minister once said:
I've always indicated that when it comes to the future, we have to get developing countries onboard, and for the second commitment period...to ensure that developing countries also accept commitments. That's what we believe is necessary, because we need to have both the major emitters from the developed world onboard as well as the developing countries....
That's of course the Australian Prime Minister-elect, who will become Prime Minister on Monday.
He is not the only one. Let me go to slide 7: “It makes no sense for Canada--which emits two per cent of the world's greenhouse gases--to ratify a treaty forcing deep cuts unless the largest nations sign.” That was in 1997, just before the Kyoto summit.
Mr. Chairman, as my colleague Line Beauchamp, Quebec's Minister for Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks said—we believe that targets have to be imposed on everyone, and that all countries have to take part in the fight against climate change, including the United States and emerging economies like China and India.
Mr. Chair, our Prime Minister has been clear that any post-2012 agreement must be fair and realistic, without placing unfair burdens on any one country. It must be long-term and flexible, and it must have a balanced approach that preserves economic growth and protects our environment.
So in Indonesia, Canada's delegation will be actively engaging with the international community. We will work to ensure that negotiations will produce an agreement to satisfy these principles.
I'm pleased to say today that our delegation will be joined by a team of eminent advisers from Canada to provide advice and assistance to the delegation and to me personally as Minister of the Environment. These advisers will be announced in the coming days and will bring a great deal of experience and expertise across many issues, including the environment, health, industry, first nations, and the north.
The advisers will attend many of the conference sessions and advise me on a wide range of issues, including the most appropriate framework for negotiating a post-2012 agreement, the implementation and promotion of green technology and how Canada can contribute, the role of developed and developing nations in any post-2012 agreement, the impact of climate change on the north, and the role of adaptation in responding to climate change.
In addition, the Canadian delegation will have significant representation from a number of provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and others who have an interest in the outcome of this conference. I am pleased that many of my provincial colleagues will be joining me in Indonesia.
And, Mr. Chairman, when we are in Indonesia, we will take every opportunity to discuss our Turning the Corner Action Plan to cut greenhouse gases by an absolute 20% by 2020, and by up to 60% to 70% by 2050, as well as cutting air pollution by up to 50% by 2015. No other country in the world is doing more in such a short time to tackle greenhouse gases and air pollution.
We feel very comfortable in taking this role, particularly in light of the leadership position we've assumed within the international community. We also feel that our domestic record gives us the credibility that Canada, under the previous government, lacked for far too long.
The fact is that in 2005, our greenhouse gas emissions were 33% above our Kyoto targets under the leadership of the previous government. As you know, I can expect to hear some criticism from some, as I have in the past. The fact is that those feelings know no bounds when it comes to fighting climate change. For many years, we've had far too many people in this country talk, and talk, and talk, at the same time doing nothing. I can count a good number of plans that came forward, but very little action. Four different plans were discussed by the previous government, and what was the result? A massive rise in greenhouse gases to the point where we have blown our Kyoto targets by 33%. I believe the C.D. Howe Institute called this strategy “burning our money to warm the planet”.
The point is that the previous government went to too many United Nations climate change conferences for years and preached to the world while all along, at home, the previous government deliberately undermined real action on climate change. This government will not sit here today and listen to lectures from people who have no credibility on this file. And if you look at some of my predecessors on this issue--if you go to slide 11--the Minister of Finance could never find money for Kyoto, which was a terrible disappointment to me.
Slide 12 shows another one of my predecessors. I remember very well when Prime Minister Chrétien actually endorsed Kyoto. He called me before he went to South Africa, because he was getting tremendous push-back from the bureaucracy, the Department of Finance, the former Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, and all of those attached to the natural resources, including Mr. Goodale and Anne McLellan. They were viciously against Kyoto.
The fact is that this government is taking real action on cleaning up the environmental mess left behind by members of our own Parliament. Mr. Chair, I won't take responsibility for the previous government's horrible record on climate change and the way it has embarrassed Canada on the world stage. I can't turn the hands of time back and meet our Kyoto targets, which start in just 33 days, but we are prepared to take action and move aggressively in the coming years.
Our plan will put Canada on the path towards real greenhouse gas reductions. For the first time ever, Canada's federal government is requiring industry to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution by putting in place strict mandatory targets. This is an unprecedented step in Canada, and I think the voluntary approach, simply put, has not worked.
When we talk about climate change in Canada, we need to recognize that we are in a unique position when it comes to fighting climate change, perhaps unique in the world. We are the second largest country in the world. Our towns and cities are spread out across thousands of kilometres. Our climate is essentially a cold climate. The fact is it takes energy for Canadians to carry out their daily tasks: to go to work, to take their kids to hockey and piano lessons, to keep the economy moving. And yes, we are blessed with precious natural resources, which make Canada an emerging energy superpower.
We also want to make sure that Canadian jobs in a variety of industries stay right here in Canada. The government doesn't want to see companies shut down operations. We don't want to see jobs move out of Canada because of our tough regulations and move to China, where there would be no regulations.
Unlike many other countries, we don't have a burden-sharing option or a collapsing economy...to rely on, and I think that's a good thing. We saw last week at the Commonwealth the tactics of some countries that would prefer to engage in political posturing rather than getting serious on fighting climate change with an agreement that gets the major emitters on board. We will actually have to cut greenhouse gases to achieve our targets. The fact is that our actions are tough, but they are also balanced. They will lead to absolute reductions in Canada's greenhouse gas emissions and immediate benefits for the health of our citizens.
In response to our action plan, we have heard from supporters and detractors alike. Their opinions from either side tell me we've struck the right balance between the perfection that some environmentalists are seeking and the status quo that others in the industry are seeking to protect.
Believe it or not, Mr. Chair, it is possible to simultaneously grow the economy and drastically cut down on harmful greenhouse gases and air pollutants. It's possible provided that the rules are directed and enforced evenly upon all major emitters and as long as all parts of our economy, from transportation to oil and gas, to smelting and mining, are required to reduce their emissions and the air pollution that they create. We have developed a plan, one that sets stringent rules and regulations, but one that also opens the window for more creative development on the part of various companies that power our economy.
Here I want to make it clear that when we put together these stringent regulations, we didn't do so blindly. In fact, still today we're working with industry and environmental groups to get the regulations right.
Next is slide 15. Groups like the Sierra Club, the Pembina Institute, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Climate Action Network, as well as some industry groups, wrote to the Prime Minister this summer and said, “The Regulatory Framework for Air Emissions recently announced by your government is a regulatory initiative of a scale and complexity that may be unprecedented in federal history.” I was happy to meet with representatives from these groups and from industry together this summer, and we're working together on a way forward to cut emissions.
This government also recognizes the significant actions that provinces and territories are taking to promote clean air and address climate change. To assist them in their efforts, we have set up a $1.5 billion trust fund to support provincial and territorial governments. It is intended to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution.
We believe that Canada can be a clean energy superpower and we want to develop that green technology right here at home--unlike the previous administration, which wanted to ship billions of Canadians' tax dollars to buy hot air credits from Russia. Just what was that money going for?
For example, British Columbia will be getting $200 million to help support the construction of a hydrogen highway. Alberta and Saskatchewan are getting about $200 million to focus on carbon capture and storage. The Province of Ontario is getting $586 million to help close down the coal-fired plants in the province of Ontario. The maritime provinces are getting about $92 million to focus on tidal and wave power.
Quebec is getting $350 million to help it fight climate change. That is $25 million more than Premier Charest requested.
But green technology isn't enough. We've also acknowledged that we will have the responsibility to clean up a legacy of contaminated federal sites, with $214 million to clean up 279 high-priority sites.
This government also believes that conservation plays a key role in preventing climate change by preserving our natural heritage. Just last week we announced we were setting aside possibly the largest amount of land set aside in Canadian history: the east arm of Great Slave Lake, and the Ramparts River and wetlands. Mr. Chair, this is an area about twice the size of your home province of Nova Scotia.
We also took action by announcing a massive expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, the creation of Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area, and $30 million in federal funding to protect the Great Bear Rainforest in northern British Columbia, right in the riding of our colleague Nathan Cullen.
Mr. Chair, I only mention these accomplishments among so many others to underscore how committed this government is to the environment and to conservation. I mention them as well to re-emphasize that what we have done at home has gained us credibility abroad--enough credibility, I might add, to feel confident in asking the international community to accept our position that any post-2012 framework on climate change must include major emitters.
The road toward reaching this agreement will obviously be long and bumpy. In fact, I harbour no illusions that we will sign a new treaty quickly or without heated debate and discussions, but I will say this: 20 years ago, in September 1987, the world united to confront what was arguably the greatest environmental challenge of that era, CFCs and the devastating toll they were taking on our ozone layer. Up until then, not all had agreed with the science, nor had everyone believed that the collective will of the international community could solve that problem. But once people understood what was at stake, once they understood even back then that actions could resonate 10, 20, and 30 years down the road, they were ready to talk and willing to agree that a consensus was possible.
The result, as we now know, was the signing of the Montreal Protocol, which former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called “perhaps the single most successful international...agreement to date”. And 20 years later, again in Montreal, this past September the world came together again to speed up the phase-out of HCFCs, another group of harmful ozone-depleting substances.
I was very proud of the leadership Canada helped play in Montreal, but there was also great leadership played by the United States and significant engagement from China throughout that entire process. They deserve a significant amount of the credit, as well as the United Nations team in Montreal.
The same can happen again as this generation confronts climate change, the greatest environmental challenge of its era. Canada was a leader in 1987 when the original Montreal Protocol was signed, and again this past September, when it challenged and convinced the international community to speed up by 10 years the phase-out of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer and also by chance contribute to climate change.
Canada was a leader when the Prime Minister brought consensus at the G8, at APEC, at the United Nations, and at the Commonwealth, but all major emitters need to be on board to fight climate change. Mr. Chair, Canada will be a leader once again next week in Indonesia and well beyond, as the world unites to define a post-2012 agreement on climate change. When Canada speaks on the world stage, it now speaks with legitimacy.
Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.