Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
It's a pleasure for me this morning to contribute to the committee's consideration of Bill C-311.
In opening my statement, I just want to emphasize two points. First, I want to talk about the situation with regard to the round table's mandate and the new obligations you wish from us; and second, I want to discuss some of the questions on the research and the perspective it gives on Canadian public policy and sustainable development.
As most of you are aware, I'm sure, the national round table is an arm's-length, independent federal public policy advisory agency, whose purpose is to play the role of catalyst in identifying and explaining to Canadian society and all regions of the country the principles and practices of sustainable development. We have a broad mandate to develop and promote and act as an advocate for policy ideas that advance sustainable development. We try to build useful consensus solutions for government on public policy questions.
Our role, therefore, is fundamentally an advisory one to government, not an audit or accountability one of government. Evaluating government policies and programs is not something that was ever really envisaged as part of the original act and the establishment of the round table. While it is not explicitly precluded under the 1993 National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act, such a role does not fit well within our governance structure and purpose. Three years ago, when we were assigned a similar obligation under Bill C-288, the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, we stated our first response under that act as cited in my deposition today. I won't read that whole section, but you can see it in my deposition.
Bill C-311 actually goes further in assigning new audit and evaluation roles for the round table. Section 13.2 appears to require us to perform even more stringent and extensive accountability oversights of government policies and programs. We respectfully submit this is typically a role for the Auditor General or the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and the Parliament itself. As an arm's-length public policy advisory organization, we have no desire to be perceived in a light that could in any way colour or compromise our core policy advisory role.
Furthermore, this bill will add significant new burdens on the national round table and its staff without any compensatory funding. While subsection 13(1) appears simply to replicate the additional obligations we were given under Bill C-288, it does in fact double the obligations because it does not supersede Bill C-288. We therefore perform two accountability and evaluation functions each year, one for the Kyoto targets, and one for these new targets, both of which would have to take place within the same timeframe. On top of that were added new and more extensive audit and evaluation functions under this bill.
We are certainly not seeking additional funding to carry out our policy agenda and work plan, which I don't believe is possible under this bill. However, meeting these new obligations under Bill C-311 would require the redirection of resources from current projects and would affect the timing and delivery of the ambitious policy agenda we have. I want to emphasize, however, that we will of course strive to fill any obligations given to us with the passage of this bill by Parliament.
The second issue I wish to address touches on our own climate change research and advice, especially as it relates to sustainable development. Over the past several years we have published extensive and well-researched advisory reports on climate change, which have contained original economic modelling and analysis and broad stakeholder consultation. I would just hold up to you our Achieving 2050 report, which came out last March and was circulated to your committee. It has detailed information on a variety of the comments I'm going to be making.
Our role has been to examine some of these top issues, like carbon pricing, from both an environmental and an economic perspective. In developing consensus solutions, we have acquired a certain expertise that we feel is useful to you when considering the core of this bill.
As the round table, we have consistently said that Canadian climate policy is most effectively approached as a long-term problem requiring long-term solutions, not short-term fixes or top-down target-setting.
As we wrote in Achieving 2050, climate change policy should be developed by the federal government in collaboration with the provinces and territories in order to move away from the current patchwork or fragmentation of climate policies across the country.
Greenhouse gas emission reduction targets also need to be underpinned by relevant and rigorous economic analysis and assessment to show whether the proposed targets can be achieved within the regulatory timeframes; to show whether the appropriate technology required to reduce emissions in the energy sector can be deployed quickly enough; and to establish the financial, sectoral, regional, and consumer impacts in so doing. This type of approach is essential to ensure economy-environmental integration so that Canadians understand the consequences of acts.
Our reports demonstrate the massive scale of the energy and technology transformation needed to meet the government's current targets of cutting greenhouse gas levels by 20% from 2006 levels by the year 2020. The NRTEE has shown that meeting this target will be quite challenging in itself for Canada. The target is equal to a 3% reduction from the 1990 baseline, which should be compared to your 25% cut from that 1990 baseline.
You are no doubt aware that this is a major change from existing policy that would likely require more difficult and expensive measures than currently contemplated, including a higher carbon price, which we've estimated to be, for the government's program, $100 per tonne to achieve its targets in 2020.
Finally, choosing our baselines and targets cannot, of course, be done in isolation from any future global agreements. Our research shows that acting in concert with the world is more cost-effective for Canada. Even though a post-Kyoto agreement is not yet in place and may be years away, nonetheless, we do not wish to see this used as a reason for delay in terms of action by Canada.
None of this should be interpreted, then, as an excuse for delay. The round table has been very clear on this. Rather, it means that we need to consider environmental and economic impacts and implications of emission reductions together, not separately, to achieve our joint environmental and economic goals.
We appreciate very much that the spirit of this bill is to improve the environment and help address climate change, but as the national round table's mandate explicitly provides, we need to do so while considering the environment and economy together in an integrated fashion. In our view, that is what lies behind the words “sustainable development”.
I'd be happy to answer any questions, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you again for inviting me to appear at this time.