Thank you. Good morning, everyone, Mr. Chair and committee members.
This is my first appearance before this committee, Mr. Chair, and I would like to start by saying how delighted I am to meet with you today.
Thank you for the invitation to appear here today to discuss the supplementary estimates (B) for fiscal year 2013–14 for Environment Canada, Parks Canada, and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
I will begin with a brief statement that will highlight our government's actions on and investments in the environment. After that, I will be pleased to answer any questions that honourable members may have.
As this is the first time I'm meeting with many of you, I would like to start with a little personal background and my goals going forward. As a northerner, I know first-hand how important the environment is for our livelihood, our culture, and our traditions. Our relationship with the land and the water is an important part of our identity and our everyday lives. We still rely on wildlife that feeds our families. We understand how essential it is to protect the quality of our air, water, and environment.
There are multiple jurisdictions, players, and partners, and the issues have broad implications for our quality of life, standards of living, and economy. The degree of collaboration required to tackle environmental issues is something I am quite aware of. It was also a major part of my previous role as Minister of Health.
In the north, it is not a choice between the environment and the economy. Sustainability and balance are a significant part of the approach towards the environment. It is also the approach the government is taking.
Environment Canada has a broad and important mandate. Our business is protecting the environment, conserving the country's natural heritage, and providing weather and meteorological information to keep Canadians informed and safe.
Sound science is central to our work, and that's why, since 2006, our government has invested over $4 billion in science at Environment Canada. These investments support scientists working in well-equipped labs on important environmental issues such as air and water quality. This record level of support has made Environment Canada a world leader in scientific research, and we are proud of this.
By having a strong science base to work from, we are able to manage and deliver policies that will actually make a difference and improve the lives of Canadians, their families, and their environment. It is my goal to make sure our actions at Environment Canada continue to be based on the best available science and information.
Since we formed government, we have continued to advocate for increased transparency and access to scientific data. The joint Canada–Alberta oil sands monitoring data portal that we launched with the Government of Alberta is a perfect example of these efforts. Earlier this fall, I travelled to Alberta and was fortunate to see, first-hand, the great research being done on the ground. We will continue to make great strides on this front and provide the public with access to the scientific data collected through the joint oil sands monitoring plan and the methodology used to produce it.
Mr. Chair, since I became Canada's Minister of the Environment, I've had an opportunity to meet with many of the Environment Canada employees and to see the important work they are doing. In August, I was lucky enough to visit Environment Canada's Ontario Storm Prediction Centre. Here, I got to meet Environment Canada's scientists who provide Canada with globally respected weather services and world-leading scientific expertise and technology.
Our government is making important advancements to protect the quality of our air and water, and we are also enhancing our ability to ensure that our natural environment is clean, safe, and sustainable. For example, when it comes to climate change, our government has introduced strict new rules on light-duty vehicles for the 2011–2016 model years. We also proposed more stringent emission regulations for light-duty vehicles for the 2017–2025 period, and we published the final regulations for heavy-duty trucks.
We also became a world leader when we introduced new, stringent, coal-fired electricity regulations. In fact, it is important for this committee to note that in the first 21 years, the regulations are expected to result in a cumulative reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of about 214 megatonnes, which is equivalent to removing some 2.6 million personal vehicles per year from the roads.
Moving forward, we will continue to play a leadership role by taking concrete actions to reduce carbon emissions. We will build on our actions to date by working with provinces to reduce emissions from the oil and gas sector while ensuring Canadian companies remain competitive.
On the international scene, Mr. Chair, I just returned from the UN climate change negotiations in Warsaw, Poland, where it was a privilege to represent Canada. I think this committee would be interested to know that Canada was very well received at this conference. Throughout the conference, several other countries personally thanked me or even made statements mentioning all of the support that Canada has provided.
During the conference, Canada played a constructive role and pressed for a global climate change agreement that includes all major emitters and supports meaningful global action. This has allowed us to come out of Warsaw with the momentum needed for achieving a new climate agreement in Paris in December 2015.
Canada's leadership was also instrumental in achieving a breakthrough in Warsaw on an important initiative to help developing countries reduce deforestation and forest degradation, which account for nearly 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As well, Canada is actively promoting a North American protocol to add HFCs to the Montreal protocol. HFCs are potent greenhouse gases that are used as substitutes for ozone-depleting chemicals, and addressing them will further our efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
Likewise, Canada is also an active player on other international bodies dealing with climate change. This September I travelled to Norway to take part in a high-level assembly of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce short-lived climate pollutants. These potent greenhouse gases and dangerous air pollutants are of particular concern to arctic countries like Canada. They are one of the reasons the north is warming faster than other parts of the planet. In fact, I think it's important to note that Canada is a founding member and a major financial contributor to the CCAC.
Through Canada's chairmanship of the Arctic Council, the overarching theme is development for the people of the north, with three sub-themes: responsible arctic resource development, safe arctic shipping, and sustainable circumpolar communities. Reflecting the importance of taking action on short-lived climate pollutants, Canada has focused work in this area through its chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
The Arctic Council has working groups on a number of environmental issues, such as monitoring and preventing pollutants in the Arctic, climate change, biodiversity, and sustainability. The council is working to ensure responsible arctic development and to protect the arctic marine environment. It is also continuing to pursue cooperation among arctic and non-arctic states to support the conservation of migratory birds on which northerners rely.
The government has also taken major actions to protect air quality. We are implementing the air quality management system, which is endorsed by the Canadian Lung Association. This comprehensive approach for improving air quality in Canada results from years of extensive collaboration with the provinces and the territories as well as stakeholders. Continuing this collaboration is essential to its success, as federal, provincial, and territorial governments all have a role and responsibility in its implementation.
Another important development I would like to highlight for the committee is that in October Canada signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury. This is a global agreement to reduce mercury emissions and releases to the environment. This agreement is important, as 95% of the mercury deposited in Canada from human activity comes from foreign sources.
We're also building on our achievement in conserving and restoring Canada's natural heritage through programs such as the ecological gift program, the habitat stewardship program, and the Species at Risk Act. For example, in budget 2013 our government committed $20 million to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to continue to conserve ecologically sensitive lands. This builds on the $225 million that Environment Canada has already invested in the Nature Conservancy of Canada.
Our eco-action community funding program continues to support grassroots conservation activities at the local and regional levels. In September I announced our intention to introduce an emergency protection order for the greater sage grouse.
This initiative again builds on the actions of our government that have increased the size of our protected areas by creating three national wildlife areas, three marine protected areas, two national parks, and two national marine conservation areas. The total of these protected lands is equal to an area larger than the size of Denmark.
Going forward, as promised in the throne speech, our government will build on its record of conservation and protect Canada's rich natural heritage by unveiling a new national conservation plan. The national conservation plan will further increase protected areas for focusing on stronger marine and coastal conservation.
As we move forward we will work with communities, non-profit organizations, and businesses to create and protect more green space in our urban and suburban areas.
I would now like to turn to the supplementary estimates (B) for 2013-14. This is the first budget adjustment for—