Mr. Speaker, first, I thank the member for Honoré-Mercier for bringing this very important bill before the House. He has done an extraordinary job to bring the issue in clarity. He has argued in the House of the need for a royal recommendation. The member has amplified further on the ways in which we could meet our Kyoto commitments on the reduction of greenhouse gas levels, without the kind of spending the previous Conservative speaker seemed to indicate was absolutely necessary.
Let us have some background.
After millions of years of remaining constant, greenhouse gas levels, particularly CO2, started to climb sharply at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Greenhouses gas levels are now almost certainly higher than they have been in 20 million years. This is not a natural fluctuation. It is a side effect of the greenhouse gases being trapped in the atmosphere, much like a giant greenhouse. The heating is called global warming, and we are talking about that.
Global warming has already reduced the depth of the winter polar ice caps since the 1970s by 40%. Polar bears will become extinct if the ice retreat continues, and 90% of all glaciers on the planet have retreated significantly in the last 50 years. As the white reflective snow melts, which is even more efficient at absorbing solar energy, this causes acceleration of the heat effect.
“So what”, some people would say. “Who likes snow and ice?” Let us consider some facts.
The computer models show that up to a metre sea level rise over the next 100 years. More heat means more energy in the atmosphere. That means more turbulent weather. Have we seen more turbulent weather? Already I think we can agree. Super hurricanes will cause millions if not billions of dollars in property damage. Witness what happened in New Orleans.
More heat means a redistribution of rain patterns. We are now seeing freakish storms all over the world, which may dump many feet of water in a single day. We have seen many examples of that already. Does this have something to do with global warming? Probably.
This also means drought in places that previously had abundant rainfall. Does anyone realize what happened in B.C.? The province went for something like almost a month without rain in the Vancouver area. I was there for about a week and everything was dry. Stanley Park was dry. It has never been like that. Something is happening. We may deny the science, but we cannot deny the reality.
Because of these freakish storms, we have droughts in certain places. At a prime time in our history, Canada had to actually import grain because of droughts. For the first time in our history, rainy Vancouver's drinking water reservoirs are almost empty.
Would it not be nice to live in a warmer climate? What is wrong with that? There are at least three drawbacks.
First, we may find that we have to run our air conditioners all year round. We will be using all the extra electricity to run air conditioners. By the law of supply and demand, electricity prices will go through the roof and we may find ourselves unable to afford or run an air conditioner.
With higher temperatures, water evaporates more quickly. Global warming disrupts rainfall patterns, bringing extra rain to some places and drought in others. For those in the drought, tap water will have to be brought in. That means higher water bills. It also means skyrocketing food costs, since farmers need huge amounts of water for irrigation. Every degree rise in temperature requires 10% more water.
If people live in Alberta or Saskatchewan or if they live in the Ganges River valley, their tap water comes from glacier melt water. Those regions will experience summer water shortages. It is absolutely a fact.
The trees cannot pack up and move either to a cooler climate. We lost many of our grand fir trees in the summer of 2002 due to heat and drought. We pretty well had to cut them down and replant a new heat tolerant species to deal with it. It will take at least a generation for the newly planted forest to mature.
The Kyoto protocol is an agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to what we had in 1990. Note that compared to the emission levels that would be expected by 2010 without the Kyoto Protocol, this target represents a 29% cut. The goal is lower overall emissions of six greenhouse gases. They include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphurhexafloride, HFCs and PFCs calculated as an average over the five year period 2008 and 2012.
National targets range from 8% reductions for the European Union to permit increases of 8% in places like Australia. Not everybody has the same problem. Other countries like India and China, which have ratified the protocol, are not required to reduce carbon emissions under the present agreement for certain particular reasons, which I will not go into. However, the objective of the overall protocol is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with our climate system. It is all about that.
The treaty was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, opened for signature on March 16, 1998 and closed on March 15, 1999. The agreement came into force on February 16, 2005. As of April 2006, a total of 163 countries have ratified the agreement, representing over 61.6% of emissions.
On December 17, 2002, Canada ratified the treaty. While numerous polls have shown support for the Kyoto protocol, somewhere around 70%, there is still some opposition, and I know where it is. It is in the Conservative caucus.
If we think about it, there are some business groups and non-governmental clients with energy concerns using similar arguments to those being used in the United States, which has not signed on to the Kyoto protocol. I think it has something to do with its tremendous reliance on coal-fired plants, particularly in the Ohio Valley.
The United States is not prepared to make that commitment and it has not made any plans to deal with Kyoto. It seems to me that the American administration on the other side here feels it is better to go with George Bush than it is to deal with this matter in Canada.
In 2005 the result was limited to an ongoing war of words, primarily between the government and Alberta, which is Canada's primary oil and gas producer. I must admit that the Conservatives, in opposing Kyoto, talked about a made in Canada solution. However, we have to ask ourselves this. Can we find anywhere in the record any mention of how they will address the high emitters such as the petroleum gas industry and the oil sands? They have not mentioned it. This is where their key support is, and I understand it. That is politics.
However, we are the Parliament of Canada. This is the Government of Canada. It has to speak on behalf of the interests of all Canadians, not simply the supporters of the Conservatives, which is exactly what they did in terms of the funding cuts they just made.
We should look at it. When we look at it line by line, there is no question about it. It was who were unlikely to be Conservative supporters and they were zapped. It is all tied in with this whole meanspirited government that has no interest whatsoever in good policy. It is an ideological government that has absolutely no interest whatsoever in what makes good public policy on behalf of Canadians.
After the January election, the Conservative minority government expressed opposition to Kyoto and announced that Canada would have no chance of meeting its targets under it. However, when we signed this deal, we knew we were already behind. We signed it knowing that, because we still knew it was possible to meet our target under Kyoto.
I could go on in this matter, but the Kyoto protocol, which is supported by the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberals, is there. It has nothing to do with partisanship. It has to do with our serious concerns and our understanding of the science, that climate change is a risk to humanity and we must take action. The Conservative government has refused to do that and is dismantling everything that has been done so far in dealing with greenhouse gases. Shame on it.