Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for the beautiful riding of Kootenay—Columbia.
I am happy to rise today to talk about government business no. 29. This is the third time we have debated climate emergency in the House since October. I share the feelings of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands that if this is an emergency, we should actually be doing something instead of just talking about it.
The motion begins by asking, “That the House recognize that: (a) climate change is a real and urgent crisis, driven by human activity, that impacts the environment, biodiversity, Canadians' health, and the Canadian economy; (b) Canadians are feeling the impacts of climate change today, from flooding, wildfires, heat waves and other extreme weather events which are projected to intensify in the future”.
Right off the top, I want to comment on the fact that Canadians are really feeling the effects of climate change. This year, B.C. is experiencing a very hot and dry June. Usually, it is the wettest month of the year in my region, but this year the hot, dry weather we normally experience in late July and August has come a month early.
Yesterday morning, I was awoken at 1 a.m. by a loud banging on my door in Penticton. I threw on my robe and stumbled to the door to find my neighbour there, who was shouting that there was a big fire across the fence and I should get ready to leave. I grabbed the big box of important papers and photos that we keep on hand in case of sudden evacuation, as do many British Columbians now, because of all the evacuations that have been happening. I threw on some clothes and headed out the door.
I live on the edge of a big area of grassland, sagebrush and pines, and there was a big fire only 200 metres away, with towering flames headed uphill toward my house. Fortunately, there was no wind and three fire halls responded quickly. Over the next hour, we were relieved the see the flames shrink and the crackling roar of the full-tilt forest fire change to the hissing sound of fire hoses and steam. This fire was not lit by climate change, but its rapid spread was fuelled by the grasses and dry brush, dried by weeks of unseasonably hot weather.
We are seeing this all across the country and around the world. Canada is warming faster than the rest of the world, and the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the country.
This year, the Bering Sea was virtually ice-free in March. That is a time of year when the Bering Sea is supposed to be gaining ice, not losing it all. This loss continues, particularly in the western Arctic waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. It is quite possible, and even likely, that 2019 will represent another year of record loss of Arctic sea ice, topping the record set in 2012. This loss of ice will disrupt weather systems across the northern parts of the world, and once that white ice is gone, ice that reflects heat and light, it is replaced by dark water that absorbs heat. Wind patterns change, delaying the freezing of the oceans in autumn. Ocean currents that mediate the climate of continents can dramatically fail or intensify.
Rick Thoman of the University of Alaska recently stated, “The Arctic is a regulator of Northern Hemisphere climate, and while the ice that is melting now isn't going to affect whether you get a thunderstorm tomorrow, in the long term, these are going to have profound effects on your weather and climate down the road”. We are heading for a cliff with our foot on the accelerator.
I would point out that this motion appeared magically the day after we debated an NDP motion on exactly the same subject, and the Liberals and the Conservatives voted against that motion. Why? It actually called for meaningful action, like taking our foot off the accelerator.
The motion before us today implies that current targets set out by the Liberal government are adequate. Climate scientists around the world tell us that they are not adequate. Not only that, the government's action will not allow us to meet even those inadequate targets.
On the Climate Action Tracker website, which assesses all countries of the world, Canada's actions and commitments are listed as “highly insufficient”, on par with China and behind India. Scientists tell us that we have already added 1°C to the world's mean temperature and we must keep that increase below 1.5°C. Based on Canada's progress to date, we are headed for more than a 4°C rise. If members think that forest fires and floods are catastrophic at 1°C increase, we can imagine what we are going to face at 4°C.
The NDP motion called for an accountability office to keep track of the government's actions toward its international commitments. Jack Layton called for this years ago in his climate accountability private member's bill. Other countries, such as the U.K., have legislated accountability as a central part of their climate action and have actually shown meaningful improvements because of it. The Liberals and Conservatives voted against this accountability. The Liberals did not include it in their motion, so I can only assume that they do not like it.
The NDP motion also called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies. This is a promise Canada made to the G20 years ago under the Harper government, and it still has not happened. We give billions of dollars to the fossil fuel sector every year, $10 billion through Export Development Canada alone. We should be spending that money on renewable energy and the electrification of the energy sector, including infrastructure and incentives for the shift to electric vehicles, which are meaningful incentives and meaningful investments. Instead, we bought an old pipeline, and tomorrow, the government will officially okay the permits for the Trans Mountain expansion, despite the fact that the oil sands expansion, which the pipeline depends on, is anathema to reducing our carbon emissions.
If we are serious about reducing our emissions and the world is serious about reducing its emissions, then adding long-term, multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel infrastructure is an exercise in abject failure. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report tells us that we are at a critical moment. We must act now, and we must act boldly. Again, we debated this when that report came out in October. Here we are talking about it again.
We cannot talk about a generations-long period of transition. We have to cut our emissions by 40% in the next decade. We have to cut them to zero by 2050, which is in 30 years. The good news is that we can do this while creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs. The NDP's plan, power to change, would meet the climate targets set out by the IPCC. It would promote indigenous reconciliation, and it would create 300,000 jobs over the next four years.
There are already more people working in good jobs in the clean-tech sector than there are working in the fossil fuel sector. I was just at a Clean Energy BC conference in Trail, British Columbia, and part of that conference dealt with the good jobs a clean energy plan would produce, such as battery recycling.
Retriev Technologies, in Trail, is the only company in the world that will recycle any kind of battery, and it is the only one that recycles large pure lithium batteries. If we hear complaints that the nickel hydride batteries used in hybrid cars or the lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles will pollute the planet, look no further than Trail, B.C., for how we can create jobs, reduce pollution and help the world reduce carbon emissions at the same time. Also located in Trail is Fenix Advanced Materials, world leaders in the purification of rare metals used in solar panels and other modern electronics.
The electrification of our energy systems would mean an increased demand for copper, so there would be good jobs created in our mining sector, thanks to the plentiful deposits of copper across this country.
We can do this together. However, it is disappointing when the government's answer to our reasonable motion for meaningful action in the face of a climate emergency is to vote against our motion and present this one, which praises the status quo. This is no time for the status quo. It is a time when we all have to face the climate crisis for what it is, a crisis, and work together across party lines and across provincial borders to ensure that Canada does its share of the hard work the world must do to tackle this issue. It is the issue of our time.
It is getting close to midnight for action on climate change. Climate scientists, like good neighbours, are banging on our door. We should wake up and take action right now before it is too late.