Madam Speaker, today we are all seized with solutions when it comes to the issue of climate change. The debate on whether the science is valid and whether climate change is caused by human activity is now over and now we are looking for solutions. I am glad about that. There are still doubters out there who deny that there is credible science for climate change, and that is fine, we are in a democracy and people have different points of view, but I think the consensus is that climate change and what we see happening is the result of human activity and human behaviour.
What is incumbent upon us as legislators is to look at solutions. I will be supporting the bill. The essence of it is to have cap and trade as one of those solutions. It is no surprise that I and my party are supporting the bill. In fact, central to our platform in the last election was to set up a cap and trade system.
It is important to look around the globe right now. Often people talk about globalization and the need for more trade. I would say that we have fallen behind on the cap and trade issue. When we look at global markets and their approach to climate change, there is a consensus among many countries that a price needs to be put on carbon. However, there might be a debate about how to do it.
If we look at Europe, at what is happening in the United States and what is happening among provinces here in Canada, the consensus is that there should be a carbon market. We need to have a price on carbon that is dealt with through an exchange.
When we look back to the previous Parliament, Bill C-30, the clean air act, was brought forward by the government. The government at the time allowed it to go to a legislative committee to be amended. One of the things in that bill was to have a cap and trade system, among other changes to ensure we dealt with climate change. Sadly, in a most bizarre outcome, the bill was returned to the House amended but the government would not bring it forward again. That was a missed opportunity.
What is happening in Europe, in the United States and in the provinces in Canada is that people are establishing carbon markets and they are doing it through a cap and trade system.
For those who do not quite understand the essence of this, I would simply point to another environmental irritant that we had to deal with, a catastrophic environmental phenomena known as acid rain, which devastated producers in the fishing industry and the maple syrup industry back in the eighties.
At that time, many people, including myself, were pushing governments of the day to come up with a solution to solve the acid rain problem. It was dealt with through a similar kind of approach and that was to set limits on industry as to how much it could pollute and to put scrubbers on its factories to ensure the amount of sulphur and other irritants going into the air would be capped.
We were able to deal with acid rain by having a strong regulatory framework, by having what I call big sticks and good carrots. If companies did not comply, they would be fined and they did comply, they would be rewarded.
Cap and trade is similar. If members may recall, there actually was an agreement, which the Conservative government brought forward, to have an acid rain agreement with the United States. We need to do that now. We are losing time. The United States is now moving toward a cap and trade system.
We removed the phenomena of acid rain by bringing in a strong regulatory framework, by ensuring the big polluters paid and ensuring there were rewards for those making the transition.
That is exactly what cap and trade is. It is to ensure that there is a coherent market. Those who produce excess amounts of carbon have to pay a price. Those who reduce it are rewarded. There is a exchange for this and that is why there has to be a carbon market.
It is that simple, but it requires leadership and legislation. At the national level, it requires a government that believes in this and goes forward. I am very troubled by the fact that we are so far behind.
The foreign affairs committee was recently in Washington. The U.S. is moving ahead. Copenhagen will be in the fall and that will be a follow-up to Kyoto. Where is Canada when it comes to cap and trade? Are we going to be following behind? Are the Americans going to have the leg up? Are we going to come to the table too late to be able to take advantage of this emerging opportunity?
Some provinces have gone ahead with the cap and trade model, such as Ontario and Quebec. The western provinces are looking at getting together as well.
We need a coherent approach at the national level, a national voice for cap and trade to meet where the Americans are going, but we also we need to be coherent. As we know, greenhouse gas does not know borders. It does not have a passport. It is a shared interest with the Americans. In fact, if we go back to the acid rain treaty, it was Canadian leadership.
I recently talked to Joe Clark and I asked how that happened. He said that MPs pushed it and that they had some leadership. He was the external affairs minister of the day. He pushed it and he was allowed to do that. He was given the power to negotiate with the Americans.
Sadly, we are not seeing that with the government. We heard nice things when President Obama was here. We heard about an arrangement was made, but we have not seen the details.
We are about to find ourselves going into the summer without a coherent plan on cap and trade. If we pick up the paper any day, there is a debate about how the Americans will define their cap and trade system.
When we look south of the border, it is worthy to note President Obama's nomination of Steven Chu as his secretary of energy, which is no coincidence. If we look at his approach, he wants to push the cap and trade framework further ahead. That is why President Obama nominated him.
For those who think this is some left-wing conspiracy, there is a consensus on this. People from the business community and people who are entrepreneurial see this as the way to go because it puts a price on carbon that is determined by a market. The last time I checked, I thought the Conservatives were in favour of that. They claim to be, but we have not seen evidence of action.
Cap and trade, simply put, would finally get us to the point where we could start looking at changing and transitioning our economy from one that is based on carbon, which is having negative effects on our economy, and transitioning to an economy that will be based on new solutions that are viable and sustainable.
The first step in any journey is an important one. The first step in this journey to deal with catastrophic climate change is at the national level to have a cap and trade system. That is why we will support the motion.