Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Bill C-12, the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act. This bill fulfills an important commitment made by the government to put in place legally binding requirements for this government, and future governments, to set climate targets and publish plans to meet those targets in consultation with the public and interested stakeholders.
It includes important transparency and accountability mechanisms, including the requirement to publish milestone plans to achieve the targets we set, progress reports to assess whether we are on track to meet our targets, and assessment reports to determine whether targets have been met. If a target is not met, the minister must outline the reasons Canada failed to meet its target and give a description of actions the government will take to meet the target, as well as any other information the minister deems appropriate.
Bill C-12 also includes a role for the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, requiring the commissioner to examine and report on the government’s implementation of measures to mitigate climate change every five years.
Our government recognizes that we are faced with a climate emergency and we must act now. The overwhelming evidence behind climate change compels us to take action. That is why in December we released our strengthened climate plan, which contains over 64 measures and $15 billion in investments. Recently, budget 2021 included additional measures that will enable us to go even further, reflecting the government’s ambition and the seriousness of the challenge before us.
Science is the foundation of the Government of Canada’s action on climate change. We ended the war on science when a Liberal government was elected in 2015. Our government relies on evidence-based policy-making and depends on our scientists to provide information that helps us protect the environment. Canada has a strong science and knowledge base to draw on. This scientific foundation not only enables targeted action, but also allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our actions and to adjust as needed.
Climate change is a global issue, and we cannot tackle it alone. That is why governments around the world rely on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a valuable, credible and independent source of scientific information, to inform their actions on climate change.
The IPCC “Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C”, released in fall 2018, tells us that limiting future warming to 1.5°C instead of 2°C would reduce the negative impacts of climate change and allow most terrestrial and marine species to keep up with the pace of climate change, preserve coral reefs, increase the chance of keeping sea level rise below one metre this century, allow some Arctic sea ice to remain in the summer and allow more scope for adaptation, particularly in the agricultural sector.
The objective of the ECCC-led “Canada’s Changing Climate Report”, released in 2019, was to understand how and why Canada’s climate is changing and will continue to change in the future. This report is a comprehensive science assessment to help Canadians and policy-makers understand Canada’s changing climate so we can strengthen our resilience to climate change through adaptation and mitigation actions. The assessment confirms Canada’s climate has warmed mainly in response to global emissions of carbon dioxide from human activity. The effects of widespread warming are already evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the near future.
The following conclusions, based on the report’s headline statements, tell a story about Canada’s changing climate. Canada’s climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human activity, and this warming is effectively irreversible. Both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global average temperature increases. Changing temperature and precipitation, and changes in snow and ice, have important implications for freshwater supply, and the seasonal availability of fresh water is changing with an increased risk of water supply shortages in summer. A warmer climate will intensify weather extremes in the future: extreme hot temperatures will become more frequent and more intense, which will increase the severity of heat waves; there will be increased drought and wildfire risks, since projected increases in precipitation are not sufficient to offset the effects of projected warming; and the projected increase in heavy precipitation, a main cause of urban and rural floods, will increase future flood risks that are now costing us billions. We have seen those kinds of floods up close and personal in my home province of Manitoba.
Achieving a future with limited warming requires Canada and the rest of the world to reduce emissions to net zero around mid-century. This is why we are embarking on a pathway of rapid emission reductions. We recently announced an ambitious target of 40% to 45% reductions by 2030, putting us on a path to net zero by 2050.
The science is clear that urgent action to reduce greenhouse gases is needed if this future, which is consistent with achieving the long-term temperature goals of the Paris agreement, is to be achieved. The evolving science continues to support an increased need for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate action must continue in parallel with research efforts, drawing on existing knowledge and incorporating new insights as they become available.
The cycle of setting targets, establishing reduction plans and reporting on progress set out in the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act provides key opportunities for state-of-the-science information to be integrated into the government’s efforts to achieve net zero by 2050.
I hope all members in the House will join the government in recognizing the urgency of climate change and support sending this important legislation to committee. The government has expressed its willingness to consider constructive amendments and hopes to work with all parties to strengthen and pass the legislation.