Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House to support the motion moved by the hon. member for Halifax on Canada's recognition of the need to make an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and manage climate change, which has very far-reaching repercussions.
Today's debate centres on the biggest environmental and economic crisis of all time. In response to this crisis, each of us can act according to his or her own conscience or we can ignore the facts, as the Conservatives are doing. Unfortunately, this government chose the second option. The government has the right to make that choice, but this will affect the entire population, since we will all have to live with the consequences of this irresponsible decision.
The planet's temperature is rising. This is an undeniable reality that is hitting Canada hard. Since 1948, the average annual temperature in Canada has risen by 1.3oC, a rate of warming that is much higher than in most other parts of the world. Heavy precipitation and flooding has increased in most Canadian cities. In Quebec alone, the compensation paid by insurance companies as a result of storms and flooding has increased by 25% since 2001.
The most dramatic effects are being seen in our country's north. The permafrost—a subsurface layer of frozen Arctic soil that affects how sound buildings are—is thawing, glaciers are melting, sea ice is shrinking, and habitat loss is affecting marine mammals and polar bears. As a result of those events, there is less fresh water and the habitats of many species, including caribou, migrating birds and fish, are in decline. Then there is the impact on the health, diet and day-to-day lives of the Inuit and those living in the far north.
The southern part of our country is also affected. Researchers with the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, have noted an increased number of heat waves in every major Canadian city as well as more droughts, particularly in the west, Canada's bread basket. There have also been more forest fires.
Instead of recognizing that reality, the Conservative government prefers to ignore it and pull out of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. That is shameful. Agriculture is being hit very hard, and weather patterns are more unstable. Long periods of drought are followed by torrential downpours or hail storms.
Last summer, in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry, a storm wreaked havoc on farmers' fields, destroying cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, corn and onions. The hail was as big as golf balls. Insurance cannot handle those types of situations. Moreover, the lack of water is affecting productivity, and that will only get worse as time goes on.
Climate change is also leading to a proliferation of parasites, which is reducing yields for our farmers. The number of family farms has declined by 8,000 under the Conservatives, just since 2007.
The effects are being felt across the country. However, that is nothing compared to what our lives will be like if temperatures rise by two degrees Celsius. If the global climate warms by more than two degrees, the consequences will be even more serious and the effects will be irreversible. As part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which our country signed, the international community committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent us from going over the two-degree threshold.
The vast majority of governments recognize the validity of the scientific climate data—data from the IPCC, which is made up of the world's best scientists, and from the World Bank and the International Energy Agency. According to one of the International Energy Agency's latest reports, we can expect to see a 20% increase in CO2 emissions by 2035. That is just 20 years away.
Why is this two-degree threshold so important? Most experts believe that if we go beyond that threshold, the consequences will be very serious and probably irreversible.
For example, waterfront areas will be flooded. The Canadian prairies, our bread basket, will see droughts that are twice as bad. Polar ice and glaciers will disappear. Lakes and oceans will be more acidic and water levels in lakes will drop. There will be fewer marine species because of the acidity in the lakes. We can expect to see an increase in respiratory and infectious diseases and an increase in mortality as a result of extreme heat.
To avoid going beyond that two-degree threshold, the entire world must work together. This will require developed countries, like Canada, and emerging countries to work together. Unfortunately, that is not at all what is happening, because of Canada's backwards attitude. Today, our government is blaming China and other developing countries for their greenhouse gas emissions. It is telling them that if they do not do anything, neither will we.
However, although it is true that China is now the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, we must also acknowledge that China invests the most in renewable energies. Industrialized countries like Canada cannot back out of their obligations. That is completely irresponsible and reckless.
How can this government preach to others when it has reneged on all of its international commitments? It withdrew from the Kyoto protocol. What message is Canada sending to other nations, to countries that have made commitments and honoured them? We have a historic responsibility. Industrialized nations pursued development without considering its impact on climate, and now we have to show leadership. Unfortunately, this government continues to deny the facts.
For example, the Minister of Natural Resources recently said:
People are not as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees. ...Scientists have recently told us that our fears [about climate change] are exaggerated.
Frankly, that is utterly ridiculous, and that is not all. The Minister of Natural Resources also dismissed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criticism of the Keystone pipeline proposal. As recently as this morning, he flatly rejected all criticisms and continued to say that Canada's efforts were sufficient. Then there is Canada's Minister of the Environment, who also failed to act. He has still not regulated the oil and gas sector, the sector that emits the most greenhouse gases and is the most polluting in Canada.
It turns out that Canada will miss its greenhouse gas reduction targets by 50%. That is serious. That number comes from reports by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and the Commissioner of the Environment.
This will cost us dearly. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy says that if nothing is done, climate change will cost $5 billion per year by 2020. Weather-related disasters, lack of investment in new technologies and job losses in sectors affected by global warming, such as agriculture, fisheries, water, forestry and more will cost us $5 billion. We, the taxpayers, will have to pay for that. Climate change gives us an opportunity to invest in knowledge, green technology and sustainable development and to create jobs. That is the smart thing to do. When will the government listen to reason? Perhaps it never will.
The Conservative government must stop blindly forging ahead. It must stop denying the facts and act now, because we are already beginning to feel the effects of climate change. The Minister of Natural Resources insists that there is no need for urgent action. That is irresponsible. Our greenhouse gas emissions have risen to 702 million tonnes, which is 1 million tonnes more than in 2011, and we are getting farther away from the 2020 emissions reduction target of 607 million tonnes.
I repeat, the Commissioner of the Environment and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy say that the government will in no way be able to meet its targets. However, the Conservatives would rather withdraw from the Kyoto protocol, make cuts to scientific programs and accuse NGOs of money laundering and being formidable terrorists. They have also eliminated 99% of the country's environmental assessments. Who are the radicals here? What is wrong with this picture?
On the other hand, the NDP proposes taking very real steps immediately. Let me give you an overview. First of all, the NDP proposes putting a price on carbon. That would enable us to take a step toward honouring our international commitments.
Among other things, we asked to have accountability legislation enacted, to have the eco-energy program reinstated, to have the oil subsidies of $1.3 billion a year cancelled and to have that money reinvested in renewable energy.
I hope that the motion moved by my colleague from Halifax will find unanimous support and that we can then move forward in the fight against climate change.