Madam Speaker, the climate change challenge has often been compared to the moon shot of the 1960s. The moon shot involved a redoubling of resolve after a difficult and halting start to the space race in the United States. The moon shot was very much about targeting a seemingly out-of-reach objective on a seemingly impossible timeline: namely, reaching the moon before the end of the decade of the 1960s.
By all accounts, the scientists and engineers who came together to achieve this astounding historic feat that was the moon landing came up against tremendous technological challenges, brick walls that no doubt appeared insurmountable, especially on a tight timeline. NASA scientists were up against a target for which they were held to account by a president who created a public expectation of success with American national security and American pride on the line.
The key words here are “public expectation of success”. That is what the net-zero emissions accountability act is all about: a public expectation of success backed by a legal mechanism aimed at holding successive federal governments to account for fulfilling that expectation.
In the same way NASA scientists followed a critical path informed by experts for reaching their target, Bill C-12 will require the government to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets informed by experts, plans for achieving those targets informed by experts, regular reporting by the government on its progress in achieving its targets, regular assessments by the government on the effectiveness of its measures for achieving its targets, and regular independent analysis by the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development of the government's measures aimed at mitigating climate change, including those undertaken to achieve its most recent greenhouse gas emissions target as identified in the relevant assessment report.
More specifically, the government's progress report must provide an update on the progress it has made toward achieving its relevant milestone GHG target and an update on the implementation of its climate plan: that is, the federal measures, sectoral strategies and federal government operations strategies aimed at reaching the relevant milestone target. These progress reports must be prepared no later than two years before the beginning of the relevant milestone year so that adjustments can be made to these measures and strategies.
For its part, the assessment report must contain a summary of Canada's GHG emissions inventory, a statement on whether Canada has achieved its national GHG target for the milestone year and an assessment of how federal measures, sectoral strategies and federal government operations strategies described in the relevant emissions reduction plan contributed to Canada's efforts to achieve the national GHG target for that year.
The strength of this framework is that it does not rely solely on the government's own assessment of its progress and the effectiveness of its climate action plan. It allows for multiple expert voices to weigh in, in a sense to write the government's report card on climate change. In other words, the government will not be grading itself.
Incidentally, the space race achieved more than a target. It achieved a government-driven acceleration of technological progress and economic growth. Similarly, Bill C-12 is not only about meeting a life-saving target for the planet. It is ultimately about driving technological innovation and economic growth associated with the proliferation of the green products and services the world increasingly wants and needs.
There is, however, one difference that I see between the moon shot and the present task at hand. In a sense, the moon shot was a closed system involving a singular locus of scientific activity and a well-defined technological focus, all within the purview of a dedicated government program that obviously involved numerous partnerships.
The quest to meet targets around greenhouse gas emissions reductions in Canada is, in a sense, organizationally more complex, with more moving parts. Achieving net-zero emissions involves technological progress in many areas and simultaneous co-operative actions by many orders of government, where the degree of commitment to the goal of fighting climate change is not always shared equally across jurisdictions.
Added to this is the fact that the federal government lacks exclusive jurisdiction and power in the matter. We are a federation, not a unitary state. Nonetheless, our government has been able to exercise meaningful leadership on climate change.
We have been a government of firsts. Our government was the first federal government to put a national price on carbon and fight for the constitutional right to do so all the way to the Supreme Court. Our government was the first to develop a clean fuel standard.
Our government was the first to have the courage to attempt to negotiate a pan-Canadian framework on climate change with the provinces and territories, and we were successful, thanks to the Prime Minister's political will and capital and the can-do determination of the member for Ottawa Centre, who was the Minister of Environment and Climate Change at the time, but, governments change and can renege, and we have seen this happen.
Our government was the first to provide financial incentives for the purchase of a zero-emission vehicle. Our government was also the first to require environmental assessments of large energy projects to factor in their GHG emissions. Our government was the first to set a net-zero emissions target, and our government is now the first to create a legal accountability framework for setting and achieving interim GHG targets on the way to net-zero emissions.