Mr. Chairman, honourable colleagues, thank you for inviting me. I am very glad to be here. I am very interested in your work. I have already attended some of your hearings.
I'm here to present Bill C-377, the Climate Change Accountability Act, which I introduced into the House, as you know, in October 2006. This bill proposes science-based medium and long-term targets for Canada for avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.
It is in the nature of private members' business that these things take a long time to move their way through the process. So here we are at this point able to discuss the bill. If anything, in this case, I would say the passage of time and the events of the past year have really made it an even more ideal time to be discussing this bill. Since October last year we've had more science reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We've had two plans presented by the government. Legislation has been written by a special committee. A G-8 summit has been held on the issue, and of course we had the UN conference in Nairobi as well. As we're discussing this matter here, the world is gathered in Bali, kicking off negotiations for the second phase, the post-2012 phase, of the Kyoto Protocol, which is precisely what this bill is designed to address.
Of course, today, December 11, is the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol itself. It's a chance really for us to look forward at what needs to be done. There's been a lot of finger-pointing. We all know how that goes in politics. A lot of partisan games and so on have been played. It would be good if we could turn the page on that and look to the future. Canada's record is clear. The world knows about our record. Based on the last national inventory report numbers, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are 33% above where they were set by the target for Canada through Kyoto.
I think everybody on this committee is in agreement that we have to deal with climate change. It's a fundamental issue. How fundamental? Well, the UN Secretary General has called climate change the biggest challenge to humanity in the 21st century. I think he's right. The global environmental outlook by the United Nations environmental program has stated:
Biophysical and social systems can reach tipping points, beyond which there are abrupt, accelerating, or potentially irreversible changes.
We must do our share to prevent the planet from reaching the point of no return. This should be our starting point, and it is the starting point for Bill C-377.
There is broad agreement among scientific experts that an increase of two degrees in the surface temperature of the earth, as compared to the pre-industrial era temperature, would be a dangerous climate change that would impact the entire planet. Even the government's Minister of Foreign Affairs accepts this two-degree threshold.
To obtain results efficiently, we must first have a clear orientation. Everything must be planned in advance. We must set benchmarks to ensure that we are on the right path and, to be absolutely sure, we need expert and objective monitoring of our progress. This is what we are doing with this bill.
We've marked out the destination, which is to avoid a two-degree Celsius increase. We've set out well in advance what the objective should be: an 80% reduction by 2050. We've identified some benchmarks along the way: a 25% reduction by 2020 and interim targets at five-year intervals, which are spelled out. And we're providing for accountability through reporting and monitoring requirements in the bill.
It's a pretty straightforward bill. Its purpose, as stated in clause 3, is
to ensure that Canada contributes fully to the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
In terms of Canada's contribution to stalling a two-degree temperature increase, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions will have to be reduced by 80% by 2050. That target is set out in clause 5.
This is based on The Case For Deep Reductions, the report by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation, which I believe you're familiar with. Also, I know that Matthew Bramley will be your next witness, coming in over the phone, and he will be describing his research and this report.
Clause 5 also sets a medium target of a 25% reduction by 2020, also based on that report.
Clause 6 provides that these targets and all the other five-year interim targets will be published in a comprehensive greenhouse gas emissions target plan. The first plan would have to be tabled within six months of this act receiving royal assent.
Regarding accountability, this bill proposes, under section 10, that the minister should regularly make statements to explain the measures taken by the government in order to meet the targets and the precise reductions that they entail.
Section 13 provides for a review of the statements and for hearing the objective opinion of experts. The current draft assigns this role to the Commissioner of the Environment. However, according to another bill, this role would be inappropriate. Therefore, we are ready to accept that the bill be amended. For instance, it could give this role to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.
The targets set out in Bill C-377 match the targets set by the world's most progressive jurisdictions. The European Union is committed to a 60% to 80% reduction compared to 1990 levels by 2050. France is targeting a 75% to 80% reduction, and the United Kingdom is committed to a reduction of a least 60% below the 1990 levels. Norway is committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
In North America, these kinds of targets are also becoming quite a bit more common. California, as you know, has a 2050 reduction target of 80%. The New England states have signed on to a target reduction of 75% to 85%. The Government of Ontario has set a reduction target of 80%. U.S. Democrats are getting on board. Candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards have all pledged a commitment to a cut of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 in their programs.
Backing the kinds of targets that Bill C-377 would bring into Canada would put Canada in good company with the leaders, not the laggards. Being with the leaders means that we'll be better positioned to transform our economy into the new energy economy of the future. This is where the real opportunities are.
These are the targets required by science. They are the targets set by responsible nations that understand their role in the world and their responsibility to future generations.
I might add that they are a major improvement over the targets we've seen in the government's “Turning the Corner” plan. The government says it will cut greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, but that's 20% below 2006 levels, meaning it's approximately 2% above 1990 levels. Its 2050 target works out to between 49% and 62% below the 1990 levels.
We don't know where these targets came from. They seem to have an element of arbitrariness to them. They don't seem to be linked to any particular calculus of the temperature impact on the planet. In fact, the government, unlike the EU, has refused so far to even take a position on the two-degree Celsius limit on global warming.
Thanks to access to information, we now know that Foreign Affairs is aware of the need to heed this limit, but the government has so far chosen to ignore that awareness or that advice.
In conclusion, I want to thank you once again for inviting me to table this bill. I am glad to know that you will be hearing witnesses. We are open to improving the legislation, to making it better. Above all, it is important that we strive to improve matters. The stakes are high, and we are pressed for time. We can already see the impact of climate change.
In the summer of 2006, just before introducing this bill, I was in the forests of British Columbia. I was shocked to see the devastation. I flew with some of the local people, including the owner of the mill, and I saw all the red and brown leaves of the forest. Then I flew at 30,000 feet, between the two great mountain ranges of the Rockies, and it was red as far as I could see. That was an absolutely shocking thing, to realize the devastation, the catastrophic change that has already happened.
Then this past summer I was at the Arctic Circle, up in Pangnirtung, in an Inuit community. I asked the elder what changes he was noticing. As we looked down the valley, he said, “Well, the change is in the colour. We've never seen green here before.” As far as we could see, there was a green kind of moss going up the 500-foot embankments, with the glaciers just visible beyond that. I said, “You mean the elders told you there was never any green here before?” He said, “No, I mean within the last 10 years. The glaciers used to come right down, and it was all rock and ice. But now there's a huge transformation. Now we can't get access to our protein sources, the migrating animals, because their patterns have changed.”
We're seeing the results. They're very dramatic. They're impacting on our planet. But we've only begun to see the changes.
On the other hand, we have so many opportunities to exploit if we could set a new direction for ourselves. I'm very, very confident that Canada could be in the forefront of some of the changes that are needed to get us to that new energy economy. I'm hoping this bill will help.
Thank you all very much.