To be honest, Mr. Chair, it's probably going to be more like 12 minutes.
Thanks for inviting me here today. I'm sure you all know that I am Bruce Hyer. I'm a biologist, I'm a terrestrial ecologist, I'm a forester, I'm a businessperson with three companies, and I'm a conservationist. We're all here for the same reason, and that is to foster a better Canada and a fairer and more sustainable planet.
I tabled Bill C-311, the Copenhagen bill, in the House in early February. It received the support of a majority of members in the House of Commons, not just once but three times, because as you know, it's the same bill as was passed by this committee and the House last year, when it was called Bill C-377. Because it's the only legislation currently being considered that tackles climate change by setting firm targets to reduce our greenhouse gas pollutants, many believe it's the most important legislation we are tasked with passing in this session.
Bill C-377 passed three readings, but then the 2008 election was called. That meant another year was lost when we could have been taking action.
Developments in the past year make it even more urgent that we take immediate steps to deal with the greenhouse gas emissions. In March of this year, IPCC scientists in Copenhagen, in the lead-up to the global climate change talks there this December, declared that the targets we have in Bill C-311 are the minimum we can do to prevent dangerous climate change.
This bill is meant to stop such global average temperatures from rising more than 2° Celsius in order to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. To achieve this, the bill targets an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050, versus the IPCC recommendations of 80% to 95% reductions by 2050.
But we can't get there without a plan, so the bill mandates some interim target plans at five-year intervals, leading up to 2050. To have a hope of success and survival, we have to get started immediately. The environment minister will have to present a plan within six months of the adoption of this bill.
This bill will set firm targets to reduce Canadian emissions. It will set clear objectives to meet on fixed dates. It will help safeguard future generations from the dangerous effects of climate change. And it will make Canada credible again in the eyes of the world.
Last month, in a joint statement called “The Copenhagen Call”, global business leaders at the World Business Summit on Climate Change called on political leaders to limit the global average temperature increase to a maximum of 2° Celsius and asked for firm emissions reduction targets for 2020 and 2050.
They also noted that “a predictable framework for companies to plan and invest” would “provide a stimulus for renewed prosperity and a more secure climate system.” They stated, “Economic recovery and urgent action to tackle climate change are complementary--boosting the economy and jobs through investment in the new infrastructure needed to reduce emissions.”
I know that in the past we have worked in a cooperative way with others on this legislation. We have supported the good ideas of other parties, and amendments proposed by both the Liberals and the Bloc are already incorporated into this bill. I hope to continue to use a constructive and non-partisan approach to see this bill through again. I hope we can work together to ensure it's done quickly when the House resumes in the autumn.
There is no time to waste. Dangerous climate change is not some distant prospect that won't affect us in our lifetimes. It is already happening.
In Canada, the Maritimes have experienced more intense storms. There are more frequent and extreme floods. The prairies are drying, and that means our farmers will have their crops and their livelihoods threatened. Spreading pine beetle infestations have devastated our western forests and provided fuel for more intense and frequent fires.
Northern Canada has seen dramatic changes. The summer of 2007 was the summer that the Arctic melted. Sea ice was 22% less than ever recorded previously. This was 30 years ahead of predictions, redefining the phrase “glacial pace”. Polar bears and traditional Inuit culture are threatened now and might both be headed for extinction. Last year, Pangnirtung on Baffin Island was nearly swept away by a wall of melt water. Melting permafrost has destroyed many homes and forestry locations.
We are in danger of helping to create our own humanitarian crisis in this country, but melting permafrost also holds another danger. It holds frozen a great deal of dead plant and animal matter, all carbon rich, in frozen stasis where bacteria cannot work on it. When it melts, billions of tonnes of carbon will be released by bacteria into the atmosphere, creating a global greenhouse feedback loop.
But it's even worse for the least advantaged elsewhere. Developing countries bear the brunt of the climate change burden. They suffer 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters now, and more than 90% of global economic losses--all this when the 50 least-developed countries contribute less than 1% to global carbon emissions. This is a looming international humanitarian disaster.
What's happening to the 12,000 people of the island nation of Tuvalu is an indication of what will happen to coastal peoples everywhere. People have lived on those islands for over 2,000 years, but they must abandon their country soon and forever because it will soon cease to exist. Citizens of the Maldives and Kiribati know that their countries will soon disappear beneath the rising seas as well. These people are among the first of the environmental refugees, but many will be following.
The Red Cross now says there are millions more environmental refugees than people displaced by wars, and their ranks are likely to double within 20 years, as seas inundate fertile farming deltas and desertification dries up entire nations. This will be the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time.
The human impact report on climate change is a document that was launched by Kofi Annan at the Global Humanitarian Forum in London last month. It reports that every year dangerous climate change effects already kill 300,000 people and cause at least $125 billion U.S. in economic losses. Global losses from extreme weather have increased tenfold. Insurance companies in Canada and abroad are facing fiscal and management crises. Just over the past five years, the annual global cost of weather-related disasters has gone as high as $230 billion.
I am not here to argue the evidence, which now seems unequivocal. This committee heard from many experts on this bill last year, including experts on the science behind it. It was considered in this committee for 15 meetings and has already been agreed to. I am asking you to move to pass Bill C-311 quickly, because there are compelling scientific and moral reasons to do so. Science can give us the facts, but people don't usually act on science alone. Most of us do what we think is ethical, and we take responsibility seriously. We do what we think is right whenever we can. You can't find the answers to a moral question in an ice core.
Canada can take action on climate change right now. We have the room to make deep reductions, the technological know-how, and the economic capacity to get it done. All we need is the leadership. I'm very confident that despite our late start we can achieve these targets and, in the process, provide the world with green solutions and green jobs if we start soon. But more than that, we have the capacity to do something about climate change effects that cause untold human suffering. If doing nothing is wrong, particularly when one is well placed to help, then we are doing something wrong by delaying action, especially given our capacity to do the right thing.
Canada has fallen far in our reputation on the environment. We used to be a leader. We have descended from being the nation that helped tackle acid rain and ozone-depleting CFCs a generation ago to being the second worst country on the climate change performance index this year. Only Saudi Arabia performs worse. We get fossil of the year awards at international conferences. We now rank in the top 10 of world emitters, but we have only 0.5% of the world's population.
Most Canadians know this and they're not happy. Polls consistently show that a clear majority of people we represent want action and solid targets like those in this bill. But there are also important business reasons for moving right away.
Speaking at the World Business Summit on Climate Change this May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called climate change “the defining challenge of our time”. He told the world's business leaders that if we tackle climate change early and effectively, we could look forward to “sustained growth and prosperity”. If we don't, “we face catastrophic damage to people, to the planet--and to the global marketplace”.
He's right. Taking action now makes good business sense, because we know that the cost of delaying will be much more in the future.
Jim Rogers is the CEO of Duke Energy in the United States. His company has one of the largest carbon footprints in North America. He has called for the same targets as are in this bill. In fact, he's expanding his business while implementing these same targets in his own company. He said that “the probability that we'll get good solutions to climate change--solutions that benefit both the planet and industry--is higher if we face the problem now”, and if you're constantly trying to define the problem or dispute it, “it gets increasingly difficult and costly to develop a good solution”.
Former World Bank economist Nicholas Stern has become even more concerned about our collective economic future since his famous Stern Review. He recently noted that climate change effects are occurring faster than predicted, and he re-emphasized that strong early action on climate change far outweighs the costs. He has clearly stated that the economic costs of inaction will be far greater than the more modest costs of achieving targeted reductions.
The climate crisis is also an economic opportunity. C.D. Howe represented my riding years ago. During World War II, he transformed the Canadian economy from Depression to one making armaments and ammunition in months. It resulted in the greatest economic expansion in the history of Canada.
It seems to me that we again face a crisis worthy of the most promising stimulus for our limping economy. It has to be done right here at home. No one is going to put your house on a boat to China to get insulated. Solar panels mean guys with hammers on our roofs. Carbon sequestration means implementing it right here.
It also makes sense from a competitiveness standpoint. Setting out a path to spark green solutions now is more profitable than spending more later to try to catch up with our foreign competitors. Most of them are already pulling ahead of us. We cannot lose any more time.
We certainly can't lose more time if we're to have credibility when we go to Copenhagen for global climate change treaty negotiations this December. Some have said that we should wait even more than we have already, until Copenhagen is actually signed. Others have said we shouldn't do anything until China, and India, and other developing countries adopt similar targets. Still others say we can't do anything until the U.S. does.
None of this is leadership. We have already waited too long. We don't need Washington to write our climate change targets for us. If we don't step up and adopt our own firm targets, how can we have any credibility to ask other developing countries to do the same?
This act will help to re-establish our credibility at the bargaining tables and, just as important, increase the chances of persuading major developing countries to take on commitments too.
We only have six months left before Copenhagen. We must work across party lines, in a non-partisan way, to pass this bill through Parliament in time.
I look forward to working with you individually and collectively to make sure this important bill gets passed as quickly as possible.
Thank you very much.