Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise in the House and talk about the environment and climate change. I was eager to see this bill tabled. We waited a long time for it.
At the Bloc Québécois, we even took the initiative and tabled our own climate accountability bill, Bill C-215, which we debated here in the House a few weeks ago and which seems to have a few more teeth than Bill C-12, an act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.
Let us talk about Bill C-12. There are several interesting terms in it, like “transparency”, “accountability” and “net-zero emissions”. I have to admit, it is certainly a good first step. The government is taking this further than probably any other government before it. However, the reality is that, when you read the bill, you soon realize that it is nowhere near sufficient to address the climate emergency.
I will say it right out of the gate: Bill C-12 is dishearteningly tame. It needs to be more binding. If the Liberals are serious in their desire to protect the environment, ensure a green future for the next generation, implement a fair, green economic recovery plan, put an end to the cycle of broken promises and missed targets on greenhouse gas reductions and respect their commitment made around the Paris Agreement, they will surely be open to amending and enhancing the bill to make it more binding.
The emergency is real, and the health and financial crisis we are experiencing should not be an excuse for setting aside the climate crisis and the measures required to address it. Canada’s performance in reducing greenhouse gases leaves much to be desired. I would even say that it is embarrassing. Canada has never met its targets. It had to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol and will likely not meet the Paris Agreement targets. If it could, the government would have put that in the bill and shown more boldness and ambition. It would perhaps have been a little less concerned about 2050 and a little more about 2030. It would certainly be more concerned about the importance of meeting our international commitments than honouring its own election promises.
Climate change should not be a partisan issue. Unfortunately, that is what we are seeing with this bill. During the 2019 election campaign, the Liberals promised to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and they are repeating that promise with this bill, without telling us how they are going to do it.
I want to act in good faith, but Bill C-12 is so easy to criticize, even for the government. According to Environment Canada’s most optimistic projections, we will miss the 2030 target. We must stop burying our heads in the sand; Canada will not achieve its emission reduction target of 30% by 2030. We are a whopping 77 megatonnes short, even if we take into account the impact of the reduction measures that have been announced.
When you are about to miss a target, your logical priority should be to do everything in your power to quickly rectify the situation, reverse course and preach by example. The Bloc Québécois is not the only one to say this; environmental groups are saying the same thing. The Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique says that the bill is extremely vague and not particularly binding, and that it shows that the Government of Canada has not done the work since 2015. Like us, they are still waiting for a serious and responsible commitment on the part of the Liberal government.
We are hearing the same thing from the Climate Action Network, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence Canada, the West Coast Environmental Law Association and Équiterre, although I am not naming any names.
I will say it again: Canada failed to meet any of its international climate targets. In its current form, Bill C-12 provides very little guarantee that this trend will change.
We know that we want to move toward a net-zero economy and way of life, but we still do not know how to get there. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to realize that it will take more than one or two somewhat stringent measures to get there. For now, we have no idea whether the most polluting industries will have targets to meet, which is regrettable, whether we are moving toward the electrification of transportation or whether we will support some form of circular economy. We do not know any of this because there is no plan.
With Bill C-12, the Liberals are asking us to vote on a plan we have not seen yet. For now, what we know is that we will probably achieve net-zero emissions in 2050, even if we do not really know what that looks like.
Now is the time for concrete measures that will actually help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
The bill must ensure real accountability, not only for meeting the targets that are already on the table, but for aligning Canada with the Paris Agreement and its ultimate goal of limiting average global warming to 1.5°C.
It is crucial that Canada have a five-year accountability cycle, that it start in 2025, not 2030 or 2050, and that it align with the Paris Agreement’s five-year inventory cycle and its goal of raising the stakes. That is the demand of every environmental group worth its salt and every individual who believes in the need for energy transition to ensure our survival on this planet.
I have trouble understanding the government’s lack of ambition and initiative with respect to Bill C-12. We should be past the point where we need to plan for an energy transition. In fact, we should be making the transition now, because 2050 is in the future.
We have to be realistic; the solution to the economic, health and climate emergencies does not lie in the perpetuation of an oil-based economy. We need to invest in natural resource processing, research and innovation in our institutions and the production of our own clean, renewable energy.
We must admit that Quebec has a lot to offer in this area. That is where our wealth lies; Canada’s wealth lies elsewhere. That is why, we in the Bloc Québécois think that the government should provide substantial assistance for the energy and economic transition of certain provinces toward a sustainable wealth creation model.
Economic development based on green technologies, such as biomass, wind and solar energy, hydroelectricity and geothermal energy can sustainably fuel progress and it can certainly be used as a model.
The Bloc Québécois can propose a number of concrete measures. In this bill, we would have liked to see a plan outlining concrete measures for achieving our goals.
I want to get back to the Climate Action Network. I could not agree more with their desire to decarbonize the economy. It is an interesting concept that is now more relevant than ever. People often say that the environment should go hand in hand with the economy; you cannot have one without the other.
I had an interesting conversation recently with Paul Fauteux, an environmental lawyer who was the director general of Environment Canada’s Climate Change Bureau and co-head of the Canadian delegation to the international negotiations on the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. He is an optimist, but he is disappointed with the government’s inaction. We were discussing the fact that we should not be afraid of the energy transition and that we should not see it as bad for the economy or as a destroyer of high-paying jobs.
The opposite is true. Moving away from fossil fuels will result in net gains in employment. Whether for installing solar panels or renovating homes to adapt them to climate change and make them more energy efficient, the potential is huge.
However, decarbonizing the economy does not only mean that we are trading oil industry jobs for jobs in the solar and wind energy industry. We can build a low-carbon caring economy.
Some members may be wondering what a caring economy is. It is an economy where we care for the planet as much as we care for each other. The lowest-carbon jobs are the ones that do not extract anything from the land, that do not create any new waste and that have a limited impact on the environment. These jobs, often performed by women, need to be more highly valued. This work of caring for the most vulnerable members of our communities must be better understood. As part of our economic transition, care work needs to be become a good job, with union benefits, fair pay and safety protections.
Last Sunday, Laure Waridel, an associate professor with the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the Université du Québec à Montréal, said that it will take profound change, binding measures, systematic measures, because we are at the point where we have to completely transform the economy.
We are driven by development. This development brings in money, of course, but it is costly in terms of greenhouse gases. There is a cost, not just an environmental one, but also a social one, and that is fundamental.
The problem is that we are individualistic and think only of ourselves. The government is certainly not setting a good example. We need to stop working in isolation. We need to join forces. That is how we will build a society that is a bit greener and a bit fairer. In fact, I hope it will be a lot greener and fairer.
For that to happen, we need a government that can put partisanship aside and stop with the hypocrisy. It needs to walk the talk, as we say. A government cannot claim it wants to achieve net-zero emissions and in the same breath say that it will make the Keystone XL pipeline a priority in its relations with the United States. That makes no sense. It is literally an example of saying one thing but doing another. The government needs to choose between investing in the future and driving straight into a wall. I am sure members would agree that the right choice is to invest in the future. However, this cannot happen without real measures to reduce our carbon footprint.
Even the Canada Energy Regulator has projected that if Canada strengthens its climate policies to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions, neither the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion nor the new Keystone XL pipeline will be necessary. That is interesting.
Why does the government stubbornly support projects that are harmful to the environment? These projects are not even embraced by the new U.S. administration. These projects are not sustainable in the long term, as current events constantly remind us.
A group of over 100 economists and natural resources experts from all across Canada recently urged the government to abandon Trans Mountain before sinking any more of taxpayers' money into it. As I was saying earlier, this money should instead be used to accelerate the transition to a greener economy, particularly in Alberta, Canada's leading oil producer. We need to be far more aggressive in immediately transitioning away from oil and gas.
The International Energy Agency recently calculated that the demand for oil should drop by 30% over the next two decades if the countries that signed the Paris Agreement on climate change respect their commitments. The oil-based economy is no longer viable in the long term, and experts are doing all they can to remind us of that.
On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization published a report showing that, despite the brief decline in greenhouse gas emissions because of the COVID-19 crisis, concentrations of these same gases have reached record highs. Once again, these data show that urgent action must be taken because, as greenhouse gases continue to rise, the social and economic costs of inaction rise with them.
This could not be any clearer. We have to rework Bill C-12 to give it more teeth because the way this bill is currently worded, it does not measure up. The government has to work with the opposition to improve its bill by adding a target for 2025, a more ambitious goal for 2030, and a requirement to meet the targets instead of simply preparing to present reports that will outline yet another failure.
Again, the mandatory target for 2030, in other words Canada's commitment under the Paris Agreement, should be enshrined in law, and unfortunately, that is not currently the case.
I will come back to the particularly important words that the bill puts forward: “transparency”, “accountability”. The one that seems to be missing is responsibility. Instead of making the government responsible to Parliament, this bill wants to make the Minister of Environment and Climate Change the one who sets the interim targets. Clause 11 even gives him the right to amend the targets and emissions reduction plan.
If the minister and the government think that they will not be able to meet their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, all they have to do is amend the targets and once again become fake climate champions. The government could change its targets to suit lobby and industry groups. That is not a serious approach.
The only limits that Bill C-12 imposes on the government, if it decides to amend the established targets somewhere along the way, is that it must consult its own federal ministers and provide an opportunity for comment to the public, the provinces and territories, indigenous groups, and advisory bodies created by the government itself.
Consulting an advisory body is good, but it is not the same thing as evaluating the measures and the progress towards the goal. Can these really be called limits? No. In addition, the minister reserves the right to choose which comments to share with civil society. The advisory bodies are window dressing, just like the role of the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development in the bill. The bill does not even have the commissioner assess the minister's action plan based on progress towards the Paris targets. Once again, with no independent authority to assess the targets, tools and progress, this is not a serious approach.
We need a climate bill in which achievement of targets no longer depends solely on the will of the government of the day. The government must be accountable for its climate action. It must answer to the thousands of people who are counting on it simply to ensure healthy living conditions on Earth in a future that is nearer than we think.
I will give another example of the government's lack of seriousness when it comes to accountability. According to clause 16, the minister himself will state, in his own report, the reasons for failing to meet the target and the actions taken to address the failure. That means that the minister will be assessing his own performance. Self-assessment: is that what the Liberals' commitment to transparency comes to?
According to Bill C-12, the reports on the targets, whether or not they are achieved, must be submitted to Parliament and made public. That is fine. However, once again, there is a big loophole, because nothing in this bill requires that the content of the reports be assessed by an independent authority.
We have a lot of work to do, and I sincerely hope that every party in the House will collaborate to improve this bill and make it a truly binding text that will make all of our constituents proud. I am thinking of the mothers who are fighting on the front lines for their children's future, and the young people who are taking to the streets and to our courtrooms to demand that we fulfill our commitments. They are the people to whom the government should be accountable.
That is why I introduced my bill, Bill C-215. We need a transparent, accountable government. We need to measure progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions based on targets. Let's talk about my bill, because I hope that the government and the other parties will be inspired to set stronger limits on the governments that take office between now and 2050, no matter their political stripe. I believe that is the approach we must take. Once and for all, we must pass climate legislation that does not change with the political party in power. The climate emergency demands it.
With Bill C-215, we are proposing to require that the government announce the suite of measures that it plans to take to reach its targets. The government would thus be accountable as soon as the bill is passed, and it would have to respond publicly if it failed.
With Bill C-215, we would entrench in Canadian law our international commitments under the Paris Agreement and make them mandatory in Canada. It is essential that we do so. Bill C-215 also requires the government to establish additional measures to ensure that its action plan meets the requirements of this act. If not, the government must inform and explain to the House why it failed to do so.
Under Bill C-215, the minister's action plan must include interim targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to be achieved by 2025, 2030, 2035 and 2040, measures to be taken to achieve these targets, the method for calculating Canadian greenhouse gas emissions, tools or instruments for measuring the progress made and tools for assessing the impact of emission reductions. Those are what I call real constraints.
Of course my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I support climate legislation, but we think it must have truly binding measures so that future governments have the legislative tools they need to stay on course for a healthy and hopefully carbon-neutral future, a future in which, most importantly, greenhouse gas emissions will be significantly lower, not just compensated for by bogus measures.
Regardless of whether we are in government or in opposition, as parliamentarians, we must do better. As I said, the climate crisis must not be a partisan issue. That said, I am very much looking forward to studying this bill in committee. I do have reservations, but climate legislation is crucial. I am impressed with the minister's involvement on this file. I know he wants to ensure a healthy future for the next generation.
The legislative process presents a perfect opportunity to establish the robust accountability framework we need to ensure that Canada meets its international commitments and to support the aggressive action needed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Let's work together towards that goal.