Mr. Speaker, first, allow me to say how pleased I am to have the opportunity to join in the debate on this important bill. Allow me also to thank my seconder, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, and all those who worked directly or indirectly on this important bill.
I have said from the start that this bill is about the future. Its purpose is to take concrete action immediately, action to improve the living conditions of future generations.
This bill is necessary for one simple reason: because the Conservatives refuse to take such action.
First they renounced Kyoto and then they introduced a bill on clean air, which clearly reflected their unspoken intentions to give up on combating climate change without even having the courage to try.
The government's bill, criticized by all the opposition parties, scientists, environmental groups and even by the media, did not contain and still does not contain a short-term schedule. There are no reduction targets for the short term. There is nothing in the bill. It includes no measure that would allow us to achieve our Kyoto objectives.
Seeing that Canadians are furious with the way the government has managed the environment and with government incompetence, especially with regard to climate change, the Prime Minister decided to fire his environment minister and tried to shine up his image on the environment. Canadians are no fools. They know that the government does not believe in what it is doing.
Canadians are not going to believe the Conservatives just because the Prime Minister appointed a new Minister of the Environment, or because the Minister of the Environment came in wearing a green tie the day Parliament resumed sitting or because they have decided to recycle old Liberal programs. Canadians will not believe them.
The Conservatives make a show of taking an interest in the environment, but they actually could not care less about it. They continue to reject Kyoto, and they do not comply with international law. They could not care less about what Canadians want.
When a government flouts international law and what its own citizens want, and when it does not shoulder its responsibilities in the face of one of the biggest challenges to our planet, Parliament has the ability and the moral duty to force the government to do so.
Over the last few weeks we have heard a lot of rhetoric in the House about climate change and the environment. I would like to take this opportunity to remind members and Canadians of what is really at stake here.
Earlier today—and my colleagues are no doubt aware of this—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report on the science of climate change. I would remind this House that this panel's mandate is to advise governments around the world on the scientific and economic aspects of climate change, as well as its impacts.
This report states unequivocally what we already know, at least on this side of the House: climate change is one of the main challenges, if not the main challenge, facing humanity, not only because of how it affects the environment, but also because of how it affects health, public health, food safety, quality of life and economic prosperity. This report clearly shows that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are at their highest levels in 650,000 years. This is bad news for the Conservative government, but it is true. The government will have to face facts.
By the way, if ever there was a plane ticket worth buying, it was the one that took the Minister of the Environment to Paris so that he could finally grasp that climate change is caused by human activity. The money that went for his plane ticket yesterday was money well spent.
The report also indicates that average Arctic temperatures are increasing at almost twice the global average rate. Scientists have also discovered that Arctic sea ice is melting faster than their models—which were already quite alarming—predicted. This indicates something we already knew: greenhouse gas concentrations are rising rapidly. Without a considerable reduction in the pollution caused by these gases, the world is headed for a climate-related catastrophe.
If we do not act together on a global scale, if countries fail to agree on ways to dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions, the planet's average temperature could rise by at least two degrees centigrade, which would be catastrophic.
Let us look at what we can do. We could try to be more positive, more optimistic; we could try to work together to make a difference. For example, we could heat our homes with renewable energy, sell our state-of-the-art green technology around the world and protect the natural heritage Canadians hold so dear. The purpose of this bill is to get us working together, to get us doing something tangible and positive for the future.
We must ensure that Canada chooses the right path for the good of our children and grandchildren, but also for our own good. We know, we are perfectly aware—and Canadians are too—that climate change is real. We can already see its effects. The Kyoto protocol is the tool the international community is using to begin fighting climate change. It may not be perfect, but at least it is getting over 160 countries involved and calling on their ingenuity and good intentions to fight climate change.
Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol after a majority vote in the House. It came into effect in 2005 and now it is international law. However, one of the Conservative government's first acts in office was to walk away from Kyoto. The Prime Minister said that Canada's Kyoto target was too tough, so he decided to abandon the target without even trying to meet it. That is a fact. A few green photo ops with his brand new environment minister will not change that.
The truth is that the Conservative government has embarrassed Canada at every international Kyoto meeting since taking office. That is the truth.
Why is the Kyoto protocol important? It is because no country can fight climate change alone. The pollution that is causing global warming is a worldwide phenomenon that affects each and every country. From a climate perspective, it matters little whether that pollution comes from Toronto or Nairobi.
Canada will not be able to avoid the consequences that I mentioned earlier, unless it agrees to cooperate with the rest of the planet, which it refuses to do. The only way to work together is through the Kyoto protocol.
My bill, namely Bill C-288, will ensure that Canada fulfills its Kyoto commitments. The protocol requires the government to achieve its objectives and to implement this plan through real environmental regulations.
The government can choose the means that it wants, and it can spend money or not. It can do it without spending any money, and it is very aware of that. That is the government's prerogative. Its bill provides options, and it is up to the government alone to choose which ones it wants to implement. The government alone will decide whether or not to spend money.
I will conclude with a message of hope, because we, on this side of the House, are optimistic. We believe in the future, and we want to work together. Bill C-288 reflects our hope that Canada will choose the right path, while listening to climate experts, playing a leadership role with the international community and transforming its economy to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
In fact, this is what all the polls are saying. Canadians across the country want to work together to act and do something about climate change. It is still time to follow that path, but we must act quickly, because the Kyoto target date is very close. Scientists are saying that we only have about 10 years left before all the damage caused to climate by humans' actions becomes irreversible.
I am urging all members of all parties to show courage and boldness so that, together, we can meet this challenge. Let us stand in solidarity with the rest of the world in the fight against climate change, through the Kyoto protocol. Let us work together for our future. More importantly, let us work together for the future of our children and grandchildren.