Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.
The announced program is a balanced and forward-looking program. It is a pleasure to be the Minister of the Environment within a government that understands that economic progress and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary.
I take great pride in the importance this government attaches to enhancing the role Canada plays in the world.
Critical to a nation's standing in the global community is for others to know that the nation in question will keep its word. The Speech from the Throne made it clear that Canada will be keeping its international commitments, and that this country will meet its obligations under the Kyoto protocol.
It is important to understand clearly why we ratified the Kyoto protocol some 14 months ago. Climate change, if left unchecked and unaddressed, will impact on virtually every aspect of our lives, here as well as elsewhere in the world, and this impact will be overwhelmingly negative.
We are already beginning to see those impacts. The mountain pine beetle infestation that is destroying timber worth hundreds of millions of dollars in my home province of British Columbia is one example. The increasing droughts and change in rainfall patterns in the great plains on the Canadian Prairies is another. The 5° Celsius temperature increase in Arctic regions, with the consequent loss of sea ice and damage to permafrost, is yet a third. Of course we have recently seen the extreme weather conditions, such as hurricane Juan, and they will become all too common in the future.
A study by the company Munich Re, which is the world's largest re-insurance company, has found that the frequency of extreme weather events around the world over the past decade was more than two and a half times that of the 1960s.
Insured losses due to extreme weather events in the past decade reached some $84.5 billion U.S., which is 14 times what they were only 30 years ago. That is the view of the private sector, on the private industry. A private company in the insurance industry telling us that climate change is real and climate change is here now.
As plants and animals cease to exist we lose important resources for pharmaceuticals. The flexibility to handle the impact of climate change in the future on crops is reduced.
Climate change is much more than an environmental issue. In the words of Sir David King, the chief scientific advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair, “In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today, more severe even than terrorism”. I agree with Sir David King.
What are our actions to address this threat? Kyoto is not in itself an end. It is a global international response to a global international problem. Without this response, the economic costs will be staggering. It is truly something that for economic reasons we simply cannot afford not to do.
As the standard of living improves in countries all over the world, as development spreads and as the rate of consumption of resources increases, pressure on the environment becomes greater and greater.
By developing and rapidly implementing new technologies and industrial processes that are cleaner, Canada can facilitate the transformation of the traditional structures of economic growth, improve the protection of human health and the global environment as well as consolidate quality.
This is not a mere matter of doing some good to achieve some abstract objective. Those nations that will show leadership in using existing environmentally friendly technologies and in developing new and innovative technologies will enjoy economic opportunities that can only be described as massive.
It is estimated that the world market for environmental technologies will exceed US$1 trillion over the next 10 years.
Real world examples of what can be accomplished with technologies that are now currently available are all around us. It is not rocket science or still to be developed. It is a matter of will, which many corporations in the private sector are, fortunately, demonstrating.
Royal Dutch/Shell, one of the biggest petroleum concerns in the world, has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below its 1990 levels. In the words of Sir Philip Watts, the chairman of Royal Dutch/Shell, “We cannot afford not to take action”.
There is a businessman who understands that when corporate responsibility is part of the corporate ethic the bottom line improves.
The senior management of BP, another petroleum company, understands this too. BP has invested $20 million in emission reduction initiatives, which have led to direct cost savings of some $550 million and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20%, while at the same time increasing its production.
Dupont, the chemical company, has reduced its total greenhouse gas emissions by more than 65% since 1990. Since that time it has kept its total energy use flat.
These corporations, and many others, show parliamentarians and people in government what can be accomplished with the technologies and processes that are available today.
Today we can save energy in homes, in vehicles and in industrial processes with existing technologies and existing design. In the near future we will be able to achieve even greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
This focus on research and development will lead to a steady increase in our ability to use energy cleanly and efficiently. Canada is already a leader in many of these areas, in that of fuel cells for instance.
We must, however, do more. We must take advantage of our innovative and entrepreneurial abilities to fuel a healthy and clean economy and provide a better quality of life for all Canadians.
This government will do more by following an integrated approach that will enable it to achieve its objective, which is to build, for Canada and for Canadians, a strong and growing 21st century economy based on the principles of sustainable development.
These principles transcend all facets of government. By incorporating into our approach issues such as trade, foreign affairs and international development, we will ensure that Canadian technologies and know-how contribute to environmental health and to the public health of other nations while helping us build a strong economy.
Actions by individual Canadians account for almost 25% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions of some 150 megatonnes a year. Through the one tonne challenge, Canadians are being encouraged to tackle climate change by reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions by some 20% through more efficient uses of energy and smarter consumer choices.
The Speech from the Throne's environment focus was not exclusively on climate change. Actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions also reduce emissions of other pollutants, contributing to cleaner air and to reduce water pollution, not to mention a reduction in health costs.
The Government of Canada will continue to work with the provinces, territories and our United States neighbours to ensure that it achieves improved air quality for all Canadians.
This value of the collaborative approach has already been proven with actions on cleaner fuels and cleaner vehicles, new source emission guidelines for thermal power plants, and dramatic reductions in the levels of lead and other pollutants in our air. It has taken place over the last few years, particularly the last decade.
Actions under the Canada-U.S. air quality agreement and the ozone annex agreement have already begun to reduce acid rain and ozone levels in both countries. We must enhance those initiatives.
We have an environmental debt and deficit in Canada and it must be paid off. We did not incur this debt overnight and we cannot pay it off tomorrow, but we will be accelerating our efforts with a 10 year, $3.5 billion program to clean up contaminated sites for which the Government of Canada is responsible.
In addition, another $500 million will go toward cleaning up other key sites of environmental contamination, including the Sydney tar ponds.