Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, or as it is known, the climate change accountability act.
This is issue is very important to me as a Nova Scotian, as a Canadian and as a citizen of the world. A desire to see meaningful action on climate change is one of the reasons I decided to run for election, and it is one of the reasons I decided to run for the New Democratic Party, the party that first raised this issue in the House over 20 years ago.
That spirited advocacy on behalf of our planet continues today with the bill. I am pleased to see the bill returning to the House, after the endurance test that it faced in the last Parliament.
In my work with the Halifax Ecology Action Centre, we watched from a distance as Conservative filibustering at committee kept the first version, Bill C-377, in limbo, from December 11, 2007 to April 28, 2008. When that bill finally passed, I joined with thousands of other Canadians to celebrate in this world first, a victory for climate change and for Canada.
Bill C-311 would mandate the government to live up to Canada's obligations under international climate change agreements. These agreements are not merely suggestions, and governments are expected to have policies in place to bring them into compliance.
While the failures of governments for the last 15 years to deal with climate change are well documented, it must not be used as an excuse to do the minimum when faced with a crisis of this magnitude.
At this point in our nation's history, we are past the debate about whether climate change is real. We are past the debate about what causes it. We are nearly past the point of debate about how we should address it. There is consensus among the world's leading scientists, environmentalists and ordinary Canadians. We know we need targets for reducing greenhouse gases. We know those targets need to be science based and enforced by binding caps. We also know these measures need to be organized through a national emission trading regime.
The government has failed to act on each of these areas, but I am happy to say the bill would provide some real direction on climate change policy in Canada. The reduction targets in the bill are specified for the short, medium and long term, but with built in flexibility to adjust over time. Most important, as others have pointed out during the course of this debate, the bill would introduce legal certainty, as well as government accountability, something we have heard the government aspire to on so many occasions.
With targets set into law, Canada can finally make progress on an international obligation and our already germinating green economy can flourish and bloom.
Our country is filled with great minds who have already been tackling the climate change issue with innovative solutions, many of which I have had the opportunity to see first-hand in Nova Scotia. Industry recognizes that it must adapt or it will vanish, and it is taking steps to get where it should be. All it lacks is a partner in the federal government and some certainty that emission regulations will be predictable and stable.
The climate change accountability act does just that. It sets out these regulations in five year increments until 2050. It is legislation that is the first of its kind in our country and it deserves the support of the House.
Opposition to the bill from the government side has unfortunately relied on that tired argument that we can choose either the environment or the economy, but not both. Previous governments have been trying that one for quite some time and the result is a world that is even closer to catastrophic climate change and an economy that are both in shambles.
Now is the time when we should be taking stock of where we have been and where we want to go. Our twin crises, economic and environmental, can both be addressed with smart public policy that measures sustainability and prosperity with the same yardstick.
Therefore, why the same rhetoric about the economic cost of a bill that would finally take on climate change? There is really no excuse. The economic costs are significantly greater if we do not act now. For every moment that we waste, the greater cost will pass on to our children and our neighbours' children.
It calls to mind a novelty mug that my partner was given as a gift. It has this map of the world on it. When hot water is added, the shorelines change based on rising sea levels, thanks to a warming earth. Suddenly, Brazil is gone. It is bye-bye Bangladesh and so long Indonesia. By the time my tea is cold enough to drink, Nova Scotia has all but disappeared. This mug can get a chuckle out of our guests, but the sad fact is it is an accurate description of what we can expect to happen if emissions are allowed to grow unchecked. It is not a joke. We are only a few years away from a projected 2° temperature rise, after which we may be too late to halt some of the worst effects of the crisis.
In a column in the Halifax ChronicleHerald, Professor Sheila Zurbrigg describes the realities in much more compelling terms. I will quote from her article. She says:
The ultimate irony is that those least responsible for global warming will bear by far the most catastrophic consequences. Most [greenhouse gas] emissions (over 80 per cent) added to the atmosphere are ours, not theirs, and continue to come from the rich industrialized countries.
Yet the gravest outcomes the IPCC scientists warn about are to a considerable extent preventable. The necessary technology and energy-efficiency methods already exist that would allow us to make major GHG reductions right away. But only if we act immediately, intelligently, and together.
Professor Zurbrigg is a medical historian whose area of expertise is the history of famines. The last time she and I spoke, we talked about climate change. She looked me in the eye with such fear in her eyes. She said that a 2° increase would mean widespread, devastating famines unlike we had ever seen in the course of human history. She told me that we needed to act now or we would be unable the world's citizens.
Another signal that the time is right for this bill is the change of administration in the United States. The new President was elected, in part, because of his dramatically different vision for environmental policy. This shift represents a unique opportunity for Canada to act in concert with our largest trading partner.
I acknowledge my hon. colleague from Wetaskiwin who earlier commented about our partnership with the United States. Let us go further. While some states and provinces have gone forward with emission trading markets between themselves, Canada as a country has not acted to promote this sector. It is just one of the ways the bill could help steer our country in the right direction.
We must, as parliamentarians, as Canadians and as global citizens, support the bill. We need to be visionary, bold and innovative and we must act now before it is too late.