Madam Speaker, I rise today to reaffirm the government's commitment to ensuring a healthier environment and a stronger economy for our children and our grandchildren.
Canadians know that climate change is real. Every year thousands of people are impacted by floods, wildfires, and other events. Extreme weather events are occurring more frequently and with increasingly severe consequences, and we are unfortunately seeing this right now in several parts of the country.
The costs of climate change are as evident as the impacts felt by Canadians.
From 1983 to 2004, insurance claims as a result of extreme weather events totalled $400 million a year. This amount has tripled over the past decade to $1.2 billion a year, because of unspeakable damage done to buildings, businesses, and lives. By 2020, climate change is expected to cost Canada's economy $5 billion a year. By 2050, it will be $43 billion a year.
The time for inaction and political procrastination is over. It is time to take the actions required to address climate change and position Canada for the clean growth economy of the future. This is exactly what Canadians elected our government to do, and this is exactly what our government is delivering.
We have a plan to reduce pollution and to meet our climate targets while growing our economy and creating good middle-class jobs. Our approach includes historic investments in public transit, green infrastructure, and clean innovation. It includes phasing out coal, improving energy efficiency, and cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.
As published in December 2017 in Canada's third biennial report to the United Nations, Canada's GHG emissions are projected to be 232 megatonnes lower than expected in the report released in early 2016. This decline in projected emissions is the biggest improvement in Canada's emissions outlook since reporting began, and is directly a product of the pan-Canadian framework.
Moreover, this improvement is widespread across all economic sectors, reflecting the smart, practical outcomes that can be achieved by a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to protecting the environment and growing the economy.
Let us consider what our plan has achieved so far. Greenhouse gas emissions are falling. Over 600,000 jobs, most of them full time, have been created since this government was elected. Canada's unemployment rate is at its lowest level in nearly 40 years. Since 2016, Canada has led the G7 in economic growth. Lastly, the federal debt-to-GDP ratio, which is our national debt relative to our economy, is on a downward track and is set to reach its lowest level in nearly 40 years. In short, greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are falling , while the economy is booming.
We know that this approach, investing in growth that strengthens and grows the middle class and helps those working hard to join it, is exactly the right thing for Canadians.
A core element of our approach to lowering emissions and ensuring a healthier environment is the polluter pays principle. When pollution has a price, polluting less saves money. Individuals and companies make cleaner choices.
Experts around the world, including the vast majority of Canadian economists, agree that carbon pricing is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce emissions. It provides companies and individuals with the freedom to make their own decisions on how to best cut their emissions.
A price on carbon works because it creates a powerful incentive to cut pollution, encouraging people and businesses to make different choices that save them money, like better insulating their homes or upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment.
There are also long-term financial benefits of transitioning to a cleaner economy, and many benefits that may flow from new technologies and innovations that are driven by carbon pricing. As some of Canada's largest employers have pointed out, putting a price on carbon pollution is just good business. It is already helping to build a clean growth economy and make Canadian businesses more innovative and more competitive.
Canada's five major banks, along with many companies in the consumer goods, energy, and resource development sectors, support putting a price on carbon, as do members of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, which includes 32 national and subnational governments, 150 businesses, and 67 strategic partners working to support and accelerate carbon pricing around the world.
Canada is creating the business environment that will strengthen the growth of a clean economy. Canada already has many success stories of businesses that are innovating. For example, CarbonCure is a business that takes carbon dioxide that would otherwise pollute and adds it to concrete. The result is less climate pollution and stronger, greener concrete. It is a win-win. Solar Vision Inc. is a company based in Quebec that provides solar lighting technologies. Enerkem takes Edmonton non-recyclable waste and turns it into commonly used fuels and chemicals. Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. is a biotech firm based in Gatineau. It is expanding low-carbon options in the biofuel industry by turning seeds into jet fuel. These and other businesses like them see the opportunity for clean growth. They see that technology can be part of the climate solution and will also be profitable and a source of good jobs.
This is an area in which I have a reasonable amount of personal experience. Prior to running for office, I spent 20 years as a chief executive officer and an executive in the clean technology space in British Columbia.
In B.C., climate action that includes a price on pollution has never come at the expense of economic progress. In fact, just the opposite is true. Over the past decade, B.C.'s carbon tax has reduced emissions by between 5% and 15%. Meanwhile, provincial GDP grew by more than 17% in the same period. Further, B.C.'s price on carbon pollution has stimulated a robust, growing clean technology sector that now brings in an estimated $1.7 billion in annual revenue. The pricing of carbon pollution that was implemented through the leadership of former premier Gordon Campbell has resulted in B.C. having the largest and most robust clean tech hub in the country, and one of the most robust worldwide.
Similar results are being seen in California, where a cap-and-trade system has been reducing greenhouse gas emissions while fuelling one of the strongest economic growth rates in the United States. Sweden has one of the highest carbon prices in the world, and it is showing strong economic growth and falling emissions.
In 2017, B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec, the four provinces with carbon pollution pricing systems in place, were the top four performers in GDP growth across Canada. Obviously, that is the result of a number of factors, but pricing carbon is clearly one of them. Anyone who says carbon pricing hurts economies is not basing his or her argument on the evidence. Pricing pollution has a track record of success in Canada and all over the world. It helped us to tackle problems like acid rain while supporting clean growth and innovation. A price on carbon is already in effect in nearly half the world.
By giving businesses and households an incentive to innovate more and pollute less, we are fulfilling our commitment to invest in growth while respecting and helping to protect our environment. Even some members of the Conservative caucus agree. On B.C.'s price on pollution, the Conservative environment critic stated that British Columbia, “did the right thing”. On Manitoba's climate plan, which includes a price on pollution, the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa said, “I think it's a very, very smart plan.” The member for Wellington—Halton Hills said, “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to both lower income taxes and clean up our environment through the pricing of carbon.”
Last week, Environment and Climate Change Canada released a report that provided further evidence of the economic and environmental opportunities associated with putting a price on carbon. The study found that carbon pricing would reduce carbon pollution by up to 90 million tonnes across Canada in 2022. That is like shutting down more than 20 coal-fired power plants. Carbon pricing will make a substantial contribution to Canada's 2030 target.
Carbon pricing alone will not get us there, and that is why our climate plan was designed to include a variety of other measures that work together with carbon pricing to reduce pollution. Our forecasts show that taken together, these policies are putting us on the right track. The report also found that GDP growth would remain strong with a nationwide price on carbon pollution. Canada's GDP is expected to grow by approximately 2% a year between now and 2022, with or without carbon pricing, and this finding does not include the huge economic opportunity associated with clean innovation.
Carbon pricing will help Canadian companies compete successfully in the global shift to cleaner growth, an opportunity the World Bank estimates to be worth $23 trillion globally between now and 2030. Canadian companies that develop new technologies or approaches will be able to tap into that massive opportunity.
When it costs more to pollute, fuel switching, energy efficiency, and clean technologies become more desirable and more valuable. Putting a price on carbon tells investors in Canada that getting serious about climate change is about getting serious about the transition toward a clean growth economy.
Given the challenge that climate change presents and the opportunities that pollution pricing creates, we are pleased to see that nearly every province has adopted carbon pricing systems.
We recognize that circumstances vary between provinces and territories. That is why the pan-Canadian framework gives the provinces and territories the flexibility to chose the pollution pricing system that works best for them. They can adopt a carbon pricing system like British Columbia and Alberta or a cap-and-trade system like Ontario.
To ensure that a national pollution pricing system can be implemented across the country, the government promised to set a regulated federal floor price on carbon. This system will apply to any province or territory that requests it or that does not create its own pollution pricing system that meets federal criteria.
Provinces and territories have until September 1, 2018, to confirm their carbon pricing approach. Wherever the federal carbon pricing system applies, the Government of Canada will return all direct revenue from the carbon price to the jurisdiction of origin.
More than 80% of Canadians already live in jurisdictions with carbon pricing in place. Our approach recognizes the actions already taken by B.C., Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. These provinces use the revenues in a variety of ways. They can return money directly to households and businesses, cut taxes, or fund programs that reduce the costs of clean technology. It is no coincidence that those provinces had the strongest economic growth in the country last year.
Addressing climate change is the critical issue of our age. It is an environmental imperative from the perspective of ensuring the long-term health and strength of our natural ecosystems. It is an economic imperative from the perspective of creating an economy that can thrive and generate economic prosperity for Canadians as the world transitions to a lower carbon future. It is a moral imperative for all of us from the perspective of leaving a planet and a country in which our children and grandchildren can and will thrive.
With some good will, hard work, and co-operation, together we can ensure a safe and prosperous future for our children and grandchildren.