Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this morning to speak to the Bloc Québecois motion tabled today. I am hoping it will lead to a very fulsome and honest debate. I am not overly encouraged by some of the things I am hearing from the government, but I am pleased, as I said, to rise to speak to this motion put forward by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Let me preface my comments today by saying that I was very disappointed by the environment minister's remarks last week before a Senate committee examining Bill C-288, the Kyoto implementation act. The minister's remarks dealt with the subject we are debating today: the need to meet the objectives of the Kyoto protocol.
Bill C-288 restates Canada's commitment to the Kyoto process. The government signed the treaty. Parliament ratified it.
Now that Bill C-288 has passed through the House of Commons, the democratically elected House of Commons has shown twice and for all time that we are fully committed to this goal.
The minister's comments were defeatist. His confused rhetoric talked about a “more realistic” way forward. What he meant was that he is not willing to show any leadership whatsoever. He could not get the job done and neither could his predecessor who was summarily dispatched for failure for doing anything in the first year of this government's short life.
The new minister tabled a dishonest economic analysis that refuted a plan to meet Kyoto that no one is proposing anywhere in the world.
If the government were serious about analyzing economic possibilities, it would not have done it on the back of a napkin. The Department of Finance would have been engaged and would have done the job, or at least would have been involved in some small way. But that was not the case at all. Its analysis would have included benefits, as well as costs, to come up with a reasonable conclusion and we would have seen that Kyoto is not only feasible but economically sound.
We should not overlook the fact that the Conservatives have been trying for years to prevent the implementation of concrete measures to fight climate change. We are asking the Prime Minister to ensure that Canada joins the rest of the world in significantly reducing carbon emissions. Let us remember that, when the Prime Minister was the leader of the official opposition, he wrote a letter to his supporters to raise money and to “block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord”. In his letter, the Prime Minister makes his views on the Kyoto protocol perfectly clear: “Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations”.
Yes, the Prime Minister described Kyoto, the protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed by 168 nation states, as a socialist plot. It is hard to believe. It is actually outrageous, ludicrous and ridiculous.
There has been some very serious scientific and economic work done only recently. Scientists have established that global warming is real and caused in large part by human activity. Economists have worked to demonstrate what strategies we can take to fight climate change.
In keeping with past behaviour among those who would deny climate change and drag their feet, it is interesting how, when we look back at the familiar pattern of conduct over the years, those who would have us not respond to such environmental challenges rallied first around the case of acid rain when Inco in Canada was the largest single source of acid rain, causing emissions in North America. Inco, once regulated, went on to become one of the most efficient companies in North America, leading the way and taking credit now for significant environmental achievement.
Then it was followed with the United States clean air act and the example there, where U.S. electrical utilities denied the need to take action and hollered and shouted to the sky that the atmosphere itself would collapse if they had to put a price on their emissions. We now know that industry's estimates, in terms of the costs per tonne of acid rain causing emissions, were $1,500. The United States Environmental Protection Agency was predicting $750. Only several years later, when these tonnes of pollution were being traded in a domestic emissions trading system in the United States under the U.S. clean air act, the real cost was about $100 per tonne.
Finally, the third example of a familiar pattern of conduct is the Montreal protocol and our global efforts to eliminate CFCs. This engaged one major company, DuPont, that went on to eliminate the lion's share of the problem and became a significant environmental player in the industrial world around the world. It went on to reduce its greenhouse gases.
What is interesting were the comments made by the Prime Minister himself on March 22, less than a month ago. I quote the Prime Minister when he said:
In 1990 my predecessor, Brian Mulroney, convinced the US government to sign a treaty requiring industry to drastically cut sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions.
The alarmists said this would bring about a terrible recession.
Quite the contrary, the North American economy thrived, posting one of the longest and strongest periods of growth in history.
That was said by the Prime Minister of Canada four short weeks ago, just before he dispatched his Minister of the Environment to use shock and awe communications tactics to try to frighten Canadians into believing we could not achieve our Kyoto protocol targets.
The House will recall, and so will Canadians, the Stern report, which was conducted by the esteemed former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern, the man now teaching at the London School of Economics, my alma mater. In his time at the World Bank, Sir Nicholas Stern was hardly ever conceived of or seen as a socialist economist who would pursue a socialist plot to strip the north and the industrialized countries of their wealth.
Sir Stern's widely accepted report concluded that 10% of global output could be lost if we allowed our actions to raise temperatures by 5° over the coming century. In other words, if I can paraphrase the 681 page report of Sir Nicholas Stern, we are looking at the mother and the father of all market corrections if we wait until we are forced to take real substantive climate action.
I have long said that we must stop the fiction, that we can continue to expect our biosphere to assimilate unlimited amounts of waste without consequence. Much of our economic activity is financed by the DNA bank of nature, where the accumulated capital of 500 million years of evolution is on deposit. We need a new economics that values and in many cases gives a dollar value to our natural capital.
We measure our financial capital. We measure our social capital. We even measure our human capital. How well educated we are. It is time for us now to move, take the final step and start to assign a value to our natural capital, and Kyoto is essential to this evolution.
The World Bank reports that carbon markets were worth $10 billion in 2005 and slated to triple in value this past year. We are looking at a market of hundreds of billions of dollars at the very least. According to Deutsche Bank, one of the largest investment banks in the world ranked by revenues and profits, a fully operational international carbon market would surpass in size every single stock exchange on the planet today.
This is why the Minister of the Environment received a pointed letter from the president of the Toronto Exchange, Richard Nesbitt, on December 21, four months ago, in which he made it clear that Canada must be involved in an international emissions trading system.
We must not turn our back on free market mechanisms. Free markets are well known for encouraging behaviour in the most cost efficient way possible. I can say that the opposition has been in favour of this approach every step of the way, provided of course that emissions reductions can be properly verified.
However, the minister has made it clear as recently as yesterday, once again, that Canadian businesses will remain on the outside looking in as long as the Conservatives have their way. The government by denying that there is a problem will ensure that Canadian businesses and average citizens end up paying much more than they have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
In short, we will become, under the present government, policy and price takers, not policy and price makers, something heretofore reserved almost exclusively for the governments of Australia and the United States of America. Is it only coincidence that the only country not to sign the G-8+5 memorandum, just three short weeks ago, was the United States, trying not to participate in the multilateral and emerging Kyoto based international emissions trading systems?
Every family understands the importance of a budget. Income and expenditures must be balanced. If we save, we can invest in our future. It is time to adopt such a strategy in order to reduce carbon emissions.
A balanced carbon budget is an innovative and bold plan enabling large industrial emitters to reduce, in a tangible and significant way, their carbon emissions. Our plan provides a concrete and effective strategy for significant reductions in carbon emissions. It will also serve to stimulate the development of green technologies here in Canada. We know that our businesses will seize the opportunity to promote environmental technologies and that Canada will seize the opportunity to become a green superpower.
Our companies are aching to take advantage of a new green economy, but only if they have certainty and clarity. They need to know in which direction our country is moving, especially those that have moved so aggressively to reduce their emissions of those greenhouse gases since 1990, like the pulp and paper sector in our country, which is already 44% below its 1990 collective greenhouse gas emissions, using 1990 as the baseline.
It has been three and a half weeks since Liberal, Bloc Québécois and NDP amendments to the clean air act were passed to set tough but realistic targets for absolute emissions reductions.
Yesterday the minister was saying that he still had not made up his mind about whether we would ever see the clean air and climate change act again. However, he certainly made up his mind to spend millions of dollars hiring economists to mount a case to frighten Canadians to the greatest extent possible, telling us again what we could not do, rather then what we could do.
Meanwhile, behind closed doors this last weekend, he was saying that the clean air act was dead. Then yesterday, in the national media, he denied having said so. That is no way to provide certainty. That is no way to provide clarity. That is no way to provide leadership.
The retrofitted clean air and climate change act has so much to offer. Cast in the form of a national carbon budget, our commitment to the Kyoto process will allow us to create a green economy, an economy that profits from the move, the shift to sustainability.
We have already achieved substantial reductions in emissions on an intensity basis, something the government continues to pursue and refuses to acknowledge that if we adjust for growth in the economy, that is, if we look at greenhouse gas emissions on an intensity basis, our emissions fell over 10% from 1993 to 2004. Now we know the reductions have to be in absolute terms. It is non-negotiable. We are not addressing climate change unless we are reducing the amount of CO2 and CO2 equivalent gases that we pump into the atmosphere.
We must act now. We cannot fight climate change with a strategy that deliberately plans for an increase, rather than a decrease, in pollution.
This government wants to make Canadians believe that it is doing what is required to combat climate change, but it is incapable of making the necessary decisions.
It is time to give industry a carbon budget and to develop a policy that establishes the financial incentives required for this budget to work. That is exactly what we did with our amendments to Bill C-30.
Yesterday in the House the Prime Minister almost had me in guffaws of laughter when he actually said that if the opposition had a plan to meet Kyoto it should table it. Members can check Hansard. He actually said that.
The plan that we have delivered for the country, a positive, workable strategy to fight greenhouse gases in a cost effective way, is in the government's own clean air and climate change act. The government asked for a solution. It referred the bill to a special, powerful legislative committee to have it completely reworked.
It was reworked. The Conservatives got a plan, a real made in Canada plan, from the opposition parties. It makes real reductions, absolute ones, not intensity based. It puts a price on carbon. It sets short term, mid term and long term targets for the country.
It does everything that the government should have been working to do from day one, and it goes further, because for months the government has been trying to frighten Canadians, misleading them into believing that this involves somehow transferring billions of dollars to purchase hot air. The bill was fixed again. Hot air purchases from any jurisdiction have been expressly ruled out.
Instead, we have had delays, we have had distractions and we have had excuses. I do not think it is a coincidence that the only speech the current Minister of the Environment has posted on the Environment Canada website in three months, actually four months now, is all about what we cannot do. It exaggerates the costs. It ignores the benefits. It is a vision that wants to fail. It is a defeatist speech.
This week, the government has once again promised us action, but I can tell members that we do not need regulation that ignores the principles of innovation and refuses to cooperate with 168 partners around the world. We need to buy into a system that leverages Canada's intellectual powerhouses: our research and development institutes, our universities, and our federal, provincial and municipal R and D.
There are massive billions of dollars of research, development and innovation in these intellectual powerhouses. We need to harness these powerhouses to move forward.
We know that we Canadians led the world as the driving force behind the Brundtland commission and the earth summit. Both of these were, of course, the foundations of the Kyoto protocol. It is time for us to take the reins of leadership again. We can become the clean energy superpower. We need to be able to deliver our know-how to the other 98% of the world. The opportunity is clearly there.
Thanks to Kyoto, markets elsewhere now price carbon. This integrates economic and environmental imperatives for the first time. Pricing carbon enhances measurement and management of a product that ought to be scarce: our emissions. As well, it allows private operations to efficiently invest to reduce emissions. However, it will not happen here with a fearmongering government that does not believe we need to act and get out in front of the issue.
I am here and my Liberal colleagues are on board because we will not accept defeatism. There will be costs, but there will also be great opportunities. We cannot afford to keep our foot off the pedal any longer.
Finally, let me say this for those who mischaracterize multilateral action as an unjustified transfer of billions of dollars offshore: they need to go back to biology 101. There is only one atmosphere, something I am regularly reminding the government of so that it can actually make the right choices.
Those are my comments. I look forward to the debate.