Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the members of the committee for inviting me here today.
The belief that there is a trade-off between the environment and the economy still exists in some quarters, but this belief is in steady decline. Instead, there is a growing realization that our economic prosperity is closely linked to the protection of the environment as well.
We live in a market economy, and whether we like it or not, more and more the economy also determines the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
For example, right now many goods that take a very heavy toll on the planet's climate are produced without any charge for the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the final product. Ultimately, the cost of these emissions is borne not so much by the polluters, but by all Canadians in the form of climate change impacts, including drought, severe weather events, pine beetle infestation, and West Nile virus.
Presently, the economy is often biased in a way that actually makes the environmentally responsible choice more expensive than the unsustainable choice. That's because the true environmental costs of most products are not reflected in the price we pay. This means that every day most of the millions of purchases that Canadians make end up actually harming the environment to a greater or a lesser extent.
No one sets out to harm the environment; no one wakes up in the morning and figures they're going to harm the environment. But people do so because of the limited choices they currently have.
These millions of environmentally harmful choices are driven right now by the market economy. The market is a powerful force.
So why, as an alternative, don't we harness the power of the market instead of trying to change it? It's easier to use the flow of the river than to redirect the river. That way, every time consumers make a choice, they will be making a positive environmental choice as well. We'll have millions of Canadians who feel like environmental champions every day.
One obvious way for us to use the market is to put a price on carbon to help rein in climate change. You and I have to pay $90 a tonne to dump waste at the municipal landfill, but anyone can dump thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without charge, because we have not put a price on carbon.
We hear that a carbon price will take a heavy toll on the Canadian economy. The David Suzuki Foundation recently conducted a study that shows that Canada's greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 20% below today's levels by 2020 with a carbon price of $75 a tonne. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy conducted a similar study for the government late this summer. Both studies found that the macroeconomic cost—in other words, the GDP impact—of the $75-a-tonne carbon price is that the GDP would be lower by only 1.1% by 2020 than it would be in the absence of a climate change policy.
I think this raises an important question. Is Canada going to forego making a real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions because of a difference of 1.1% in GDP by 2020?
Thank you. Those are my submissions.