Take you very much.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen
I'll be making my presentation in English but will be able to answer questions in French.
First of all, I would like to thank the committee and the committee members for this opportunity to address Bill C-12, which is probably one of the most important public policy initiatives to be undertaken by the Government of Canada in many years. I hope that my comments and the written brief that I provided earlier will be of some help in further refining the bill and will lead to its adoption and implementation.
I am an environmental scientist by training, but from 1990 until 2002 I was a Canadian foreign service officer. I served at Canadian embassies and consulates in the former Yugoslavia, India, Hong Kong, Seattle and Vienna, so I have some practical experience of how federal policies are acted upon once they're implemented.
I left government about 20 years ago and I have since been a researcher and a professor, specializing in the study of the human impacts of climate change. I was at the University of Ottawa before, and now I am at Wilfrid Laurier.
In particular, I specialize in studying how climate change affects human migration, displacement, and what is often referred to in the popular media as “environmental refugees”. I was nominated by the Government of Canada and am currently serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where I am a coordinating lead author for a team of 13 scientists from around the world who are currently assessing the impacts of climate change on human health, well-being, migration and conflict. What I am going to say now reflects that.
Decisions taken by governments today, including through this bill, will have a tremendous influence on both our well-being and our economic prosperity for decades to come, and failure to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 will have consequences for our children—including my own—and grandchildren—yet to come, I hope—which can truthfully be described as catastrophic. Just allow me to give a few brief examples.
We're currently entering into a drought spring in western Canada, with all the challenges that presents for farmers and for urban municipal watershed managers and so on. If we do nothing to control our greenhouse gas emissions, the current trajectory of what we will see in the second half of this century is an up to 500% increase in the frequency of those severe droughts that we've seen in the Prairies every 20 to 30 years—the big ones—in western North America.
For every degree Celsius that we warm the planet from today, we increase by about 50% the risk of severe or catastrophic flooding, which affects many of the constituencies represented in this group today. The World Bank has estimated that by the year 2050, a business's usual emission scenario could lead to as many as 140 million people displaced from their homes, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and South Asia. To give you some context, right now the annual number of people displaced worldwide is about 21 million people, so we're looking at a sevenfold increase by 2050.
Last year I was approached by the community of Tuktoyaktuk for advice and assistance on planning the relocation of that community, because by 2050 the town site will no longer be viable because of flooding, permafrost loss and erosion.
The point is that these are not hypothetical risks. These are things that are happening or that will happen. The good thing is that they are avoidable if we take action, such as through Bill C-12.
I wish to draw the committee's attention to three specific points in the brief I submitted.
First, with respect to clause 16 of the bill, there is no consequence for failure to achieve the emissions reductions targets that the minister sets. Essentially what happens is that the minister is told to formulate a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; if that plan fails, then the minister is instructed to make a new plan. That is how governments in this country have dealt with greenhouse gas emissions policies since we signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. We set targets; we make plans; we miss them; we come up with new plans, and the circle repeats itself. I think committee members will recognize that we need to avoid that situation in this bill.
Second, there are now specific milestones with respect to emissions reduction targets in the bill. It simply says, here are some years for which the minister shall set some milestones and move forward that way. We already have targets set by the Government of Canada. We already know what the final destination is. It's 100% reduction in current emissions by the year 2050, so I think it's quite simple at this point to put the targets right in the bill and proceed quickly to making the actual action plans.
Finally, just to wrap up my presentation, what is missing from Bill C-12 is a formal mechanism to ensure that the provincial governments and the territorial governments are actively involved in the formulation of plans and in the implementation and execution of those plans. Consultation is not enough. We've seen that. I am not naive. I recognize that simply getting the provincial governments and the federal government to agree to something, let alone act upon it, is a big task, but the fact that it's a big task doesn't mean to say that we should not be attempting it and insisting that it be done.
I also recognize that the challenges to reducing greenhouse gas emissions will fall more greatly on certain provinces and sectors than on others. At the same time, the benefits of a transition to a green economy in terms of the innovations, the technologies, the economic benefits and the general improvements in well-being will also fall disproportionately to those sectors and provinces that have the greatest accomplishments.
The reality is this: The world is transitioning to a low-carbon economy, and Canada is either going to be left behind or it's going to be a part of it, and I encourage us, through this bill, to be a part of it.