Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to one of the most important issues facing Canadians in the coming months, whether or not Canada should ratify the Kyoto protocol.
Our decision in this regard should not be taken lightly. Billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of jobs and even the natural environment itself are at stake on this issue. Indeed, the very fabric of our society may be damaged irreparably if we yield to international and domestic pressure and ratify Kyoto without thoroughly examining the relevant economic, social and environmental implications.
For the sake of future generations of Canadians, we must take the time to carefully and publicly assess the treaty and its implications before making any decisions at all.
In November of last year I put forward in the House a private member's motion which stated:
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should renew discussions on climate change through the development of a new transparent, accountable consultation process, based on sound science and economic study, that results in realistic goals for carbon emissions reduction.
The government ignored that motion and it has led to the predicament that we find ourselves in today.
Provincial premiers, industry groups and all thinking Canadians are demanding that proper studies be done before the government decides whether or not to ratify Kyoto.
The Liberals waffle on the issue. The Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment tell us that their goal is to ratify the accord. The Minister of Natural Resources said that depending on the results of the current studies and promised consultations we may or may not ratify. The government's target dates for ratification also constantly change.
First, the government said that it wanted to ratify by the G-8 meeting in Kananaskis in June. Then it said no, that it would be September in time for the environmental conference in Johannesburg. Later it said that it wanted it ratified before the end of 2002. Now it says that it does not know. The natural resources minister even said last week that there was no deadline to meet at all. No wonder Canadians are confused about the government's intentions.
Today I would like to address several key points. First, I will discuss the dangers of ratifying before we have completed thorough consultations and developed a sensible implementation plan.
Second, I will describe how Kyoto is dangerous in that it takes our attention away from the way in which humans have always reacted to climate change, namely through adaptation.
Third, I will outline how extensive research and development into cleaner energy technologies will give Canada a far better bang for its buck than an enormously expensive climate change treaty.
Finally, I will describe how adherence to the Kyoto accord would actually damage Canada's environment.
First, the risks of premature ratification. If Kyoto is ratified without thorough and transparent studies and consultations, Canada runs some very serious risks indeed. The economic uncertainty would lead to new investment projects being cancelled. This is already happening and is something business analysts warned could be catastrophic for the future of Canada.
Without an understanding of the real costs and an informed agreement among Canadians that such a sacrifice is worthwhile, we would see significant divisions open up within our country: oil producing regions against central Canada, consumers against producers and ultimately Canada against the U.S.
It is also important to realize that if we ratify Kyoto, the protocol will legally bind Canada to reduce its emissions to 6% below 1990 levels. One has to wonder what will happen if after ratifying we then do not meet our treaty obligations. This will almost certainly happen if we have not agreed upon a realistic and comprehensive plan beforehand.
The international sanctions and penalties that could be imposed on Canada are yet unknown. However they would undoubtedly be far more serious than the political fallout of simply not ratifying in the first place. Even while promising proper consultation and studies before ratifying, the Minister of the Environment reminds Canadians that the government can simply go ahead and ratify without the support of the provinces.
He is right. The government does have the authority to ratify international treaties on its own. However, doing so would be a big mistake since the environmental and energy policies required to actually meet Kyoto fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces. Without provincial support, how could the government propose to implement Kyoto?
The government could introduce policies through the tax system or through transport policy. It could also go to court to seek authority to proceed under the peace, order and good governance clause if it can make a case that it is a critical issue of Canadian governments. Either way it is very messy.
Ratification is permissible even if the federal government does not have prior agreement from the provinces and an implementation plan, but actually implementing policy would be grounds for a lawsuit by the provinces. Alberta is already considering legal action.
There are so many important and unanswered economic questions about the impact of Kyoto that we would need several years to properly assess the treaty. The fact that the Liberals feel in a rush to ratify is unquestionably their own fault. After all they are the ones who have delayed, obstructed and denied proper debate on Kyoto throughout the four years since they signed the accord. The government cannot seriously expect Canadians to waive their right for a proper and public cost benefit analysis just because the Prime Minister wants to play hero on the international stage.
The government has apparently accepted the myth that we can magically stop the earth's climate variations by simply fiddling with our carbon dioxide emissions. In putting its faith in Kyoto to accomplish this impossible task, the government has diverted us from properly considering the ways humans have always coped with change, whatever its cause, speed or direction, and that is through adaptation and movement.
Regardless of what happens to greenhouse gas emissions, we will unquestionably have to develop new crops through biotechnology, new methods of irrigation and habitation and recognize that we cannot afford to defend all our human and natural habitats against change.
A good example of adaptation is illustrated by a NASA funded study that found that cotton yields are likely to increase in the southeastern United States if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise as projected. However benefits such as these will be realized only if farmers can adapt their agricultural practices to resulting climate change.
What is the government doing to encourage adaptation? Not much. It says it is worried about the prairie drought. How about an honest evaluation of the state of the prairie irrigation infrastructure. It says it is worried about the Saguenay floods. How about looking at flood management infrastructure? These are real responses that are needed regardless of the role, if any, of fossil fuels.
Money wasted on Kyoto is money that cannot be spent on valuable adaptation measures. Adopting policies that would force up the costs of energy for farmers will not help them with strategies to deal with their water shortage.
Internationally, the situation is even more ridiculous. If the funds that would be needed for the developed world to follow Kyoto were used to help those less fortunate than ourselves, we would pay off the public debt of the 49 poorest countries of the world. Alternatively, the money wasted on Kyoto could provide clean drinking water for everyone in the developing world. We have a responsibility to help these countries develop economically. The more developed they are, the better they can adapt.
If global warming is going to happen, Kyoto will not stop it or even slow it down by any measurable amount. Estimates are about six years.
However, by reducing real incomes and economic growth, Kyoto would make everyone less able to adapt to any climate changes that do occur, regardless of the cost.
Clearly, we need a new national and international strategy for constant technological adaptation to environmental change, remembering always that it is the poor who suffer most from these changes.
Part of our adaptation to the new world we are approaching would involve gradual movement away from fossil fuels toward renewable, relatively clean energy sources. I am not talking about pie in the sky approaches to quickly replace major nuclear or coal burning facilities with solar or wind power. That would require enormous land areas and produce significant amounts of pollution just in the building of such massive facilities.
I am speaking about the use of alternative energy to supply what will at first be modest amounts of localized power. Examples would include using solar energy to heat water and to provide space heating in residential and commercial facilities. I am also referring to the further development and implementation of fuel cell technology in automobiles and other forms of transportation. Already we see hydrogen fuel cells being used in buses in Vancouver. By 2004 we could be able to buy fuel cell powered automobiles directly from car dealerships. We need much more support for this industry to allow this to actually happen.
In the present climate of uncertainty and heightened security it also makes sense to support the continued development of other relatively clean domestic energy sources such as natural gas, ethanol and hydro. It is fitting that I am able to speak in the House immediately after attending the Globe 2002 conference in Vancouver last week. The future was unfolded in front of us as speaker after speaker demonstrated the new technologies that would help us solve our environmental problems. Yet one got the numb feeling that the government was not there to listen and could not understand the direction we must take. Instead, it hangs on to last century's Kyoto accord and its reliance on flawed concepts such as emissions trading.
Although alternative energy currently supplies only a tiny portion of Canada's base load, there are many ways that this situation may change significantly in the not too distant future. However to make this goal a reality, we need to dedicate more serious funding to research and development in the field. Last week the government announced $7 million for climate change technology programs. Such a small effort is hardly sufficient. The government says it has spent $1.4 billion on Kyoto and $7 million over three years on new technologies. That is disgraceful. If even a small fraction of the billions of dollars that Kyoto would cost Canada were devoted to alternate energy development, we would reap enormous benefits.
Let me use a few examples to emphasize the point.
I think one of the neat ones is where CO
is sequestered in the ground and pushed down to the coal beds that underlie the whole country. Those coal beds are rich in methane gas. When the CO
is pushed down, it pushes the methane gas out and it is then collected. Methane gas burns much cleaner than any fossil fuel we have today. That is how we can use our coal resources.
There will be some new advancements in clean coal technology. A new project using clean coal will be up and running by the year 2007. Everything that comes out of the stack will be captured and re-used. These are the technologies that the government should be involved in.
We could talk about some of the projects having to do with wind power. I had the opportunity to visit a wind farm in Germany to see how it operated. Ireland is installing a huge wind farm 50 kilometres out in the ocean. It will have huge generators producing up to five megawatts. These wind powered generators will provide enough energy for 1,000 homes. This is what is happening in the world and Canada is falling behind.
In Alberta a wind farm is being established by TransAlta . It has committed to reduce its CO
emissions to almost zero by 2020.
We have biomass where garbage and sewage is used to produce methane gas, which is then used to heat water, which is then used to heat homes and buildings. In Edmonton a recycling plant captures between 70% and 80% of garbage, which is then turned into compost and used to enrich poor soils.
A trial plant will be up and running in Toronto in two months which will digest garbage using bacteria. That garbage can then be used for compost. If it works, it will take care of all Toronto's garbage. These new technologies are happening but not because the government is dedicated to them.
There is a solar factory with a huge collector on top that rotates with the sun. The factory captures the solar energy and takes it into the plant. It splits the water molecule creating hydrogen which is captured in pressurized tanks. It can then be used as a fuel for factories, homes and cars. Oxygen is the end product that is given off to the environment.
This is happening and it is not happening because of Kyoto. It is happening because governments have a vision and know where they are going on this kind of technology. If we show leadership in the provision of tax incentives, public education, research and development, I believe that we will see a time when these alternatives will make a major contribution to Canada's energy mix. However, that will only happen if we are prepared to open our minds to these possibilities and excite the public about the clean energy future that would lie ahead for Canada. Industry is waiting for direction from the government.
We also need to invest in technologies that allow us to use energy far more efficiently. Here are just a few examples. We know what we could do for public transit. Railways are a far more efficient method of moving than trucks and cause less environmental damage. We need the infrastructure however.
We need to conserve far more energy than we do by turning down the heat, turning out the lights and using more efficient appliances. A good example is a 100 watt light bulb. It can produce light using 25% of the energy. Just imagine, if we changed all the light bulbs of the world we would save 75% of our electrical requirements. Instead of building new power plants, we could get equivalent benefits without any of the negative environmental effects by merely focusing on conservation.
I had my four year old grandson, Nicholas, with me for one session at the convention. It is his generation for whom we must act when we make decisions today. Those decisions must be based on the knowledge of what is possible, not the fearmongering we hear so often from the government.
Kyoto is bad for the environment. Many people believe that we should simply ratify Kyoto and get on with the business of meeting the treaty restrictions of greenhouse gas limitations no matter what the cost. After all, they say that protecting our environment is of paramount importance and we must do that for future generations. If I believed that, I could stand up here and support that as well. That is an out of date piece of contract that we are opting into that just will not work.
However most who support the Kyoto accord have yet to realize that the treaty would actually hurt our environment. Reaching Kyoto's greenhouse gas emission targets would lead to a recession in Canada and that recession would mean that existing environmental programs would be seriously compromised. Efforts to protect our rivers, lakes, soil, air and even endangered species would all have to be scaled back as the effects of Kyoto would devastate government finances.
It would also reduce our ability to help developing nations leapfrog the terrible industrial pollution levels that they will face in the coming decades. We would no longer have the resources to help them develop alternatives to the burning of dung or high polluting coal using 1950s technologies. They would be forced to continue massive damming projects and other environmentally damaging practices. It would also mean that our greenhouse gas emissions would not reduced but only omitted from other countries.
I do not have time to get into emissions trading, but obviously the damage that would cause could be tremendous.
In conclusion, I have been an environmentalist for most of my life. I have worked as a conservation biologist and have educated people about energy efficiency and resource conservation. If I believed that Kyoto would do any good for the environment, I would support it. However the treaty is an enormous mistake. It hurts Canada and indeed the whole world. All Canadians concerned about the future for themselves and their children should do everything they can to stop the Kyoto express before it runs over us all.
I look forward to the day's debate and the questions that will follow from many other speeches.