Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise today to speak to the opposition motion. During my time I will talk about the consultations I have had with my constituents in the riding of Parkdale--High Park on this issue. The motion reads:
That, before the Kyoto Protocol is ratified by the House, there should be an implementation plan that Canadians understand, that sets out the benefits, how the targets are to be reached and its costs.
The motion almost assumes that Canadians do not understand and for some reason do not know the benefits. I can assure the House that in my riding of Parkdale--High Park, this is a very important issue.
The official opposition seems to imply that we as the government have done nothing. That is not true at all. A lot of work has been done. I would like to praise the work of the economic development committee which examined this issue and helped the members prepare a questionnaire on Canada and the Kyoto protocol.
I would like to share some of those questions that the committee put together. First: Should Canada work with other nations to fight climate change or should it act alone and, by acting alone, will we indeed be significantly able to cut greenhouse gas emissions?
We looked at the examples of some of the states in the United States. I believe 42 states have actually embarked on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Should Canada consider similar laws to tackle climate change?
We looked at what we as a government could do to minimize costs. How do we minimize the cost of climate change and will we suffer economically if we do not take similar types of investments? It was this survey and the basis of the survey that I used to go out to my constituents. It was posted on the website. There were direct mailings. I held round tables throughout the riding in the spring and I asked my constituents to come together and help us solve this problem.
I should also add that the same caucus committee, which was headed by the member of Parliament for Stoney Creek I believe, also came up with four options. They met with industry and environmental groups. They looked at whether we should act alone or together. From their report and the four options they came up with, it also then went forward to the sustainable development group.
We as a caucus have been working very hard on this issue with the minister, with the parliamentary secretary and with the committee. We on the government side are all very concerned about this issue.
I would like to review some of the comments made by my constituents but in doing so we must also look at the background.
Under the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the more economically developed countries agreed in 1997 to collectively reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases by at least 5% relative to their 1990 levels. Exact levels varied from country to country and in Canada's case the reduction level was 6%. The target period for achieving these reductions is 2008-2012. There was no one specified means for achieving the reductions and the protocol actually allows for measures such as emissions trading and the financing of emissions reduction projects in developing countries.
In addition, in 2001 Canada and 178 countries agreed to a political framework to indeed implement that protocol. Even before then we should look at the action that the government has taken. Let us look at what happened in October 2000. The Government of Canada at that time announced a $500 million action plan 2000 on climate change to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 65 megatonnes per year by the period 2008-2012, taking us one-third of the way to our Kyoto target.
Action plan 2000 took action on many fronts. It is expanding the use of low or non-emitting energy sources by four times current levels; increasing the use of ethanol in gasoline, as the member for Beaches--East York stated; investing in the refueling infrastructure for fuel cell vehicles; enhancing opportunities to store carbon in agricultural soils and forests; investigating the potential of geological storage of carbon dioxide; assessing impacts; identifying adaptation needs; and analyzing policy options such as emissions trading.
In the Speech from the Throne the government committed to introducing legislation on the ratification of the Kyoto protocol, which I must admit again was truly applauded by the constituents in my riding.
There are challenges but let us look at the challenges. If there are challenges and there are problems let us find the solutions to those problems.
Reducing emissions to Kyoto levels will not be easy and it would be trite to say that this is not a complex issue. They have already increased by approximately 13% since 1990 and a number of Canadians, elected officials, such as the official opposition, and industry voices are unconvinced of various aspects of the Kyoto protocol. For example, some question whether the climate is significantly changing over the longer term or if it is indeed changing whether that change can be materially attributed to greenhouse gases.
Others question whether a changing climate would have very harmful effects overall, or they believe that the economic costs involved in meeting the Kyoto targets would vastly outweigh the benefits gained. Some have argued that Canada would suffer disproportionate economic losses for little improvement in the environment should we implement the measures to achieve Kyoto targets while the United States does not.
What were the comments from my constituents? Virtually without exception, the constituents who contacted me on this issue were strongly in favour of ratifying the Kyoto protocol and introducing implementation measures to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions as soon as possible. They tended to believe there was sufficient scientific consensus that climate change was indeed occurring, that rising levels of greenhouse gases contributed to this change, that there were considerable economic and health costs to such change, that climate change would not reverse itself or settle in at some new equilibrium on its own, and that therefore people all over the world were well advised to take steps to reduce these gases.
Most of my constituents were unconvinced that the economic costs of implementation would be so severe as is sometimes claimed. It was argued that there are already many overlooked costs to business as usual approach of non-implementation. Specific examples included the costs of more severe weather swings as evidenced by floods, droughts and storms. Health care costs, such as lung disease and skin cancers, were also cited.
On the more positive side, some pointed out that early investment in non-polluting technologies could lead to export sales as anti-pollution measures were bound to be a growth industry for many years to come. Examples cited included wind and solar technologies and greater investments in all forms of rail transport.
I would also submit that the Kyoto protocol also provides Canadian industries access to international opportunities, such as making investments in other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially buying greenhouse gas emission credits from other countries to help reduce the costs of implementation.
Aside from a purely economic cost benefit view, some constituents felt that there was a straightforward moral imperative not to despoil our environment, even if this required some reduction in our own material well-being. Others believed that there was a spurious overemphasis on economic analysis as the costs of phenomena such as melting icecaps and rising sea levels were almost impossible to accurately quantify.
Still others contended that whatever the costs were now, they would be considerably greater if we waited another generation or two before attempting to meaningfully reduce emissions.
Prior to the Speech from the Throne, I, along with many of my colleagues in caucus, signed a letter to the Prime Minister asking that the protocol be ratified expeditiously.
Without doubt, how we proceed with its implementation will be a major issue for years, but the minister has already said that there will be a review process in place. We will continue to monitor the situation. Therefore I would ask all Canadians and urge my constituents to continue to address this issue and their concerns so that we can deal with these concerns and make sure the benefits are there for future generations to come.