Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise here today to address hon. members and all Canadians about the importance of ratifying the Paris agreement.
Today the world is at a turning point as the effects of climate change are already being felt. We know that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history and that before that, so was 2014. Scientists now tell us that 2016 is on track to shatter those records. Decade over decade we have seen increases in temperature. Climate change is real. We can already see and feel the impacts, from the heating oceans to rapid species extinction, to wildfires that rage longer and more harshly than ever before, and the list goes on.
With this great challenge of our time comes great opportunity.
In Paris, after intense and rigorous discussions, the world finally decided to act. For the first time in history almost 200 countries agreed that future generations deserve better.
The story of Paris was an overwhelmingly positive one, and we can be very proud of the role that Canada played. Our delegation included provincial and territorial premiers, mayors, indigenous leaders, and members of the opposition, who worked passionately to bring consensus. In Paris there was an understanding that by taking action now by reducing carbon pollution we would not only stave off the worst effects of climate change but also spark innovation and drive growth across our economy.
As I said, with this great challenge comes great opportunity.
Now here at home Canadians are demanding that we honour our commitment in Paris. Our MPs attended town halls across this country this summer. From Newfoundland to British Columbia, Canadians are calling for our country to lead. Thousands took the time to participate in our online consultations and in town halls in their communities. We have heard from Canadians, young and old, from businesses and labour organizations, from scientists, environmentalists, and indigenous peoples.
Canadians know that future generations deserve healthy cities, diverse economic opportunities, and pristine rivers and lakes. Ultimately, this is the legacy that we will all leave behind, and today, by ratifying the Paris agreement, Canada will become a leader in this new era.
The path forward will not always be easy, as there is much work to do. Years of inaction and indifference here in Canada and around the world have undermined our collective ability to protect our planet and protect our future. What should interest us now is doing something about it. That means ending the cycle in which federal governments have set targets without a corresponding plan. After years of inaction, today we are getting the work done.
During the election last year our party set forth a comprehensive plan to address climate change, and Canadians voted overwhelmingly in favour. We promised to invest in clean transportation systems, to upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st century, and to invest in renewable energy. In our very first budget we stayed true to our promises. We committed over $60 million for clean transportation, $2 billion to communities to improve their water infrastructure and make buildings more energy efficient, and over $1 billion to support clean technology projects.
Canadians wanted change and we are delivering.
Creating good jobs for middle-class Canadians is part of our commitment, as is our $120-billion investment in infrastructure over the next 10 years.
We will create jobs by updating our regulations in the construction and technology sectors. The new regulations will integrate scientific knowledge on climate change. We will create jobs in the area of new technologies and construction by investing in the infrastructure that supports alternative modes of transportation, such as electric vehicle charging stations and natural gas fuelling stations for hydrogen vehicles.
Throughout our history, as a nation, we have made investments to improve Canadians’ quality of life and to create opportunities, such as building our railroads and the Trans-Canada Highway.
We can learn from our predecessors, who had the courage to make tough decisions. We, too, can take this important step in the right direction and make the right decisions for future generations.
Canadians deserve a public transit system that relieves traffic congestion in our cities and reduces pollution. These may not be grandiose changes, but I can assure hon. members that these changes are essential.
We will continue to work with all levels of government to create an infrastructure plan that meets the real needs of Canadians, with a focus on sustainable communities and a clean economy.
Of course, there are cynics who say we should not try. They say that if we address climate change our economy will suffer. They could not be more wrong. The truth is that our economy suffers when we do not address climate change.
Earlier, I discussed the wildfires that burn each summer in our country, stoked by changes to our climate. The Insurance Bureau of Canada has estimated that the costs of recent fires could be $3.5 billion. Experts and insurance companies alike agree that the damage caused by the increased frequency of natural disasters will have a very heavy economic toll. This is a major reason to act.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Simply put, there are billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of good, well-paying jobs on the table for countries that get this right. Engineering and design jobs in the clean energy sector; manufacturing jobs, whether of solar panels or electric vehicles; and jobs researching and processing biofuels are just a few examples.
By pricing carbon pollution, by pricing what we do not want, we can also be proactive rather than reactive to the realities of climate change. Members do not have to take my word for it. This past summer, business leaders from across the country lent their support to pricing carbon pollution, including retail leaders such as Canadian Tire, Loblaws, IKEA, and Air Canada; energy producers such as Enbridge, Shell and Suncor; resource companies such as Barrick Gold, Resolute Forest Products, and Teck Resources; and financial institutions, including BMO, Desjardins, Royal Bank, Scotiabank, and TD.
Suncor CEO Steve Williams stated, “We think climate change is happening. We think a broad-based carbon price is the right answer”.
Cenovus Energy released a statement that, “Having a price on carbon is one of the fairest and best ways to stimulate innovation to reduce the emissions associated with oil”.
These companies understand that when we pressure industry, when we put the right incentives in place, we unleash the market potential of our inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs to innovate and create. These companies understand that as the world moves forward toward a low carbon economy, it is market pressure that will unlock Canadian innovation and allow us to stay competitive in the 21st century. We will continue to use older forms of energy, but we must take advantage of the staggering opportunities unfolding.
In 2015, there was a major global shift. Close to a third of a trillion dollars was invested globally in renewable power, almost double the amount invested in fossil fuels.
Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, recently said that renewable energy investments represent a future market in the trillions of dollars. As he reiterated in another speech in Berlin, "The more we invest with foresight, the less we will regret in hindsight".
It is now time to signal to investors that Canada will take an active part in a low carbon economy.
John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, who represents the largest economy in the world, has said, “The global energy market of the future is poised to be the largest market the world has ever known”.
There is no time for cynics. The business case is clear. Canada must lead, and we are.
Today the opportunities for Canadians are growing. Canada is blessed with bountiful resources. Our forebears hunted and fished in our forests. Coal and oil helped thrust our ships across the ocean, and propelled our trains from the Canadian Shield to the Pacific Ocean. Today, this legacy continues and at the same time has evolved.
Wind, solar, and geothermal energy sources are plentiful and now course through our electric grid. Our buildings are becoming more efficient and our transportation cleaner. Today, education and research in renewables is occurring across the country. Just this summer, the Edmonton Journal reported that students in Alberta are scrambling to take courses in solar panel installation at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. Other courses cannot keep up with demands. Many of those interested are electricians, and they see renewable energy as a natural progression for their trade. The same tools and knowledge that they use in one sector are transferring fluidly to the renewable energy sector. As one of the teachers in the article explained, the students know that this is the future and they are excited.
Since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times. Wind power doubled four times over the same period. Here in Canada, Alberta is committed to generating 30% of its energy from renewables by 2030. In Saskatchewan, the province-owned utility, SaskPower, decided to one-up its neighbour and committed to 50% renewable energy by 2030. The opportunity for renewable energy extends into our oceans. In Nova Scotia, the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy is leading Canada's efforts as a test centre of tidal energy technology. The latest research suggests that there are more than 7,000 megawatts of potential in Nova Scotia's Minas Passage alone, with a potential for 50,000 megawatts of energy through the Bay of Fundy.
The implementation of these technologies, and the research and know-how to create them, will require well-paying and skilled jobs from across our workforce.
Yesterday, I met in Montreal with environment ministers from every province and territory. First ministers stood together in March and committed to putting this country on a credible path to our Paris commitments. Since then, we have been working hard to do that. One of the topics on the agenda was how to price pollution. I will get to that, but first I want to say that carbon pricing was not the only subject on the table. Far from it.
Yesterday environment ministers came together and agreed on a framework for addressing climate change to send to premiers and to the Prime Minister. That framework included efforts to reduce emissions from our building stock, efforts to ramp up clean electricity across the country, plans for the collaboration of how we can adapt to the changes we are already facing, and ways to encourage innovation in clean technologies. Done right, this will create good middle-class jobs, grow our economy, and reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases. These are also essential pieces of a meaningful path forward on reducing climate pollution in this country. I want to thank all of my colleagues for the excellent work they have put into our discussions over the last six months.
Yesterday, we also spent two hours meeting with first nations, Métis, and Inuit leaders. In Canada, achieving the vision of the Paris agreement will require the inclusion and leadership of indigenous peoples. That is why the Canadian delegation played a key role in seeing that the agreement identified the need to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and consider traditional knowledge when taking climate action.
Our decision to include indigenous voices in Canada's official delegation demonstrates how seriously our government takes our commitments under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It reflects the deep commitment of our government to renew the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples. Ensuring indigenous voices are heard is the essence of meaningful collaboration, especially where issues are as complex as climate change. That is why indigenous peoples have been included in the working group process over the last six months and have submitted detailed proposals to ministers on their priorities for a Canadian framework on climate change. We will continue to bring indigenous peoples into the decision-making process, strengthening our relationship to create better outcomes for all Canadians.
We have invested in our future to upgrade our infrastructure and install clean technologies, but let us be clear, to advance our goals we must also price carbon pollution.
Let me just say that about 40 countries around the world are pricing carbon. Why? Carbon pricing is the most economically effective way to reduce emissions and stimulate clean innovation, which will all be critical to Canada's success in a changing global economy.
A rising carbon price is critical to putting Canada on a path to meeting its Paris climate commitments and to building the foundation for a cleaner and stronger economic future. A well-designed plan will secure Canadian competitiveness in jobs while buffering any disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations and sectors.
The idea is simple: let us put a price on what we do not want, pollution. Right now, polluters are not paying their fair share of the environmental damage they cause. Let us be clear: polluting is not free. The bill will always have to be paid. Right now, we are passing the true costs on to our kids and to our grandkids.
A price on carbon also sends a signal to Canadian innovators across all sectors that their ideas for reducing pollution are needed. This is a huge opportunity for Canada.
Over the last six months, we have worked with provinces and territories on a detailed examination of carbon pricing across Canada. Provinces have had months to come to the table with proposals and information about how carbon pricing can be done thoughtfully in this country. Our Canada-wide approach reflects this. It works with provinces and territories, building on their existing systems, and allows for regionally tailored paths towards a common goal.
By starting slowly and ramping up over five years, it gives businesses and households time to adjust and plan for lowering their carbon footprints. It allows provinces to keep and manage the revenues from carbon pricing as they see fit. Let me repeat: provinces will keep and manage the revenues from carbon pricing for themselves. Hyperbole and rhetoric aside, this is hardly a one-size-fits-all approach.
Canadians elected us on a clear mandate to implement carbon pricing, and reaction to our approach has been positive, from a wide variety of Canadians. John Stackhouse, senior vice-president, office of the CEO of RBC has said, “This climate policy makes economic and environmental sense. A rising Canada-wide carbon price is the most cost effective way to reduce emissions, spur private investment and simulate clean innovation across the economy.”
Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff: “Today's carbon pricing announcement is an important and necessary step for our government to take towards meeting our Paris commitments..”.
Guy Cormier, chair of the board, president and CEO, Desjardins Group:
Desjardins Group supports the federal government's decision to impose a price on carbon, in respect to the provinces' choice to either implement a similar cost or a cap-and-trade system. [Desjardins believes that] the time has come for all the sectors of the economy to include climate change considerations into their strategic plans, to take advantage of business opportunities, to reduce risks and to meet the needs of Canadians.
Shell Canada president, Michael Crothers: “balancing Canadian economic development while protecting the environment will be enabled by a reasonable price on carbon..”.
Insurance Bureau of Canada, Don Forgeron: “IBC congratulates the Government on today's carbon pricing announcement. Severe weather is already costing Canadian taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually. This is an ambitious approach that takes the first steps in limiting future damage.”
Let me go through the details of the plan. All Canadian jurisdictions must price carbon pollution by the end of 2018, and the price will be set to the national benchmark. To ensure that the plan will meet our targets, we will review it in five years, in 2022. We have been equally clear that the choices, a carbon levy or a carbon trading system, are both fair and flexible. Provinces that do not have a system are free to choose which one works best for them.
Furthermore, eight out of every ten Canadians already live in a province that prices carbon pollution. The provinces and territories have been early leaders in addressing climate change. Heeding the call of businesses and scientists, B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, have all implemented carbon pricing measures. B.C. and Alberta use a carbon levy, and either give money back to citizens through tax reductions or invest in energy efficient infrastructure and clean technology. Quebec and Ontario use a carbon trading system, where emissions are capped and industry must buy and sell credits when they want to emit.