Mr. Speaker, a federal bill that paves the way for real government accountability in the fight against climate change is very urgently needed.
I would be shocked if there were still elected members in this 43rd Parliament who would deny that the climate crisis will affect the entire planet in this century if governments do not legislate appropriately.
We are already feeling the effects of climate change, as evidenced by the increase in such extreme weather events as floods, forest fires, heat waves and so on.
Bill C-12 must not be taken lightly, and the provisions that must be included in it will require painstaking work in order to secure the future of the next generations.
We are being asked to lay the foundation for the common good. Our work must be done in a spirit of collaboration and willingness to listen. Legislating climate accountability is probably the most important challenge of the 21st century.
After Bill C-12 was introduced, we were able to identify the problems with it and rightfully raise red flags. We also had the time to compare this bill to other countries' legislation, gather information, share research, consult experts and reflect on what amendments would be required for such a bill to emerge and, above all, what it would need to come to fruition.
First, Bill C-12 does not include mandatory reduction targets. Instead, it requires the minister to set the targets. Therefore it is false to say that Bill C-12 would force the government to take action that would meet greenhouse gas reduction targets. It is a bit difficult to follow. The member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie stated that his government was ready to set targets and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change stated that he could perhaps include them in the bill. This is a reason for studying the bill in committee. However, at present, there is nothing in the bill to that effect and it is crucial.
Furthermore, the bill does not require the minister to fulfill his commitments. It requires him to prepare a progress report. If Canada does not meet its target, which, again, is not identified in the current version of the bill, then the minister is asked to include in his report the reasons Canada did not meet its target. That is it. Federal government officials confirmed that the bill does not provide for any binding measures or penalties for failing to meet targets.
The Prime Minister of Canada's defence against this criticism is that it is up to the voters to penalize the government if it fails. He said:We live in a democracy, and ultimately it is up to Canadians to continue to choose governments that are serious about fighting climate change and that will be accountable to the public every five years.
Even though it is true that voters ultimately have the power to punish politicians, this statement primarily shows that the Prime Minister is opposed to making the greenhouse gas reduction targets binding. This means that he is opposed to requiring that Canada fulfill its international commitments, even though he just increased his targets in front of the many countries attending the U.S. President's summit.
The government cannot say that Bill C-12 contains restrictive measures while at the same time saying that the only real restriction is the election result. I remind the government that the climate crisis, the global risks associated with this crisis and its immeasurable consequences have nothing to do with election strategies. The government has a role and a responsibility as a legislator, and in my opinion, it is irresponsible and unconscionable for it to cheapen this legislation by shifting them to future governments.
In this version of Bill C-12, the action plan, the minister's reports and the method of calculating emissions are not subject to review by an independent authority. An essential component of this type of legislation depends on the diligent efforts of what Bill C-12 refers to as an advisory body. I mention this because Canada cannot achieve its ambitions or optimal progress on climate change until the government clarifies certain details about this body.
We will have to be vigilant with respect to the key aspects of this proposed advisory body. Its duties must be spelled out in the legislation, it must be composed of experts in relevant fields who have no conflicts of interest, and it must be completely independent. In our view, the people on this advisory body should not represent Canadians. There are 338 MPs in this place to do that. What we need are scientists.
Let us look at other countries with this type of body. In the United Kingdom, scientists represent 67% of the members; in France, 85%; in New Zealand, 33%; in Quebec, 75%; and in Canada, 7%.
Expert Corinne Le Quéré, who Quebec can be proud to count among those trained in its universities, has an incredible amount of experience preparing legislation combatting climate change.
She has spoken extensively about the absolute need to include specific targets in the act. There is no doubt that she has knowledge and advice to share regarding good governance because she contributed to the success of the U.K. climate change committee and she chairs France's high council on climate.
Corinne Le Quéré, the scientific community and environmental groups agree on the following essential elements: The committee's mandate and powers must be set out in the act; the act must specify that the committee must have access to all of the climate-related scientific knowledge, including indigenous knowledge; the committee must be properly funded; the committee must be able to provide its expertise in an independent manner, whether of its own initiative or at the request of parliamentarians; and the committee must be officially involved in establishing greenhouse gas reduction targets, monitoring progress and preparing related reports.
The hon. Minister of Environment and Climate Change has repeatedly stated that he is open to working with opposition parties to improve Bill C-12. As we know, people are becoming more and more aware of how the decisions we are making now will affect the future of the planet.
The Bloc Québécois has taken a firm stance on environmental issues in Canada, and we want to collaborate on this bill because, as we all know, this is a whole-of-government issue that transcends borders.
The only way we can achieve any progress is by viewing the climate crisis through that lens. Still, there are undeniable facts we must face. The first is that the clock is ticking. We have to get to net zero as fast as we can, before 2050 if possible. If we acknowledge that premise, this climate change act has to include all the right tools to ensure we get there as fast as possible.
We are calling on the government to be ambitious and courageous enough to put an end to the cycle that has resulted in Canada consistently missing its targets and failing to achieve its goals in recent decades.
The international community expects better. Lord Deben, chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change, explained to the parliamentarians present at the preparatory meeting for COP 26, which I attended, that Canada must fully grasp how its behaviour and climate inaction affect other countries around the world and realize that every country counts. He concluded with some words of wisdom: Humankind has not learned to live with respect for biodiversity, the environment and the health of our oceans. Humanity's very existence is weakened by what could happen in the future, and that is why we must fully grasp what is happening and avoid repeating the mistakes that brought us to where we are now.
We must protect biodiversity and preserve natural habitats for future generations. The areas that are supposedly protected by federal legislation must be truly protected. They must not be compromised, as when the government authorizes drilling off the coast of Newfoundland to cater to the oil industry.
I do not want the shores of the St. Lawrence River to erode or Quebec's native wildlife to disappear. I do not want to hear that thousands of people are dying because of pollution. Health Canada estimates that 15,300 premature deaths per year in Canada can be linked to pollution. I no longer want to witness the despair of people around the globe who are overwhelmed by the effects of our inaction. If their habitats are destroyed, they are forced to leave their islands and their homes, becoming climate refugees, while the sums promised by rich countries to help them adapt fall short of what is needed to address the real climate catastrophes.
Now is the time to get our priorities straight. Together we can still change the trajectory. Never before have we been in a situation where the earth is warming so fast, with the global temperature expected to rise by two degrees centigrade by 2043, which is not far off. We are running out of time, and small steps are no longer good enough. We need to take a giant leap forward.