Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-12, such an important piece of legislation we are considering this evening. It is a bill that would create a framework for real climate accountability in Canada at long last.
We are debating this closure motion because we are running out of time in this place to deal with a bill that concerns the climate crisis, incidentally an issue on which we are also very much running out of time on. The springtime temperatures above the Arctic circle broke records last month, rising to over 30 degrees.
As we debate this bill, the American west is experiencing an unprecedented heat wave and mega draught, and NASA has just alarmingly reported that the earth is now trapping twice as much heat as it did in 2005. Across the globe, the climate emergency is already having serious impacts on human health and our economies, and it is time we take serious measures to at long last make a difference on this issue.
The purpose of accountability legislation is to keep our country on track toward its major emissions milestones, most notably those for 2030 and 2050. This is a tall order because, as a country, we have been dismal in living up to our climate commitments. In fact, we have not met any of the targets we have set as a country, and we have the shameful distinction of being the only G8 country whose emissions have risen since the Paris Agreement was signed.
It is unfortunate that the Liberal government, in crafting this bill, did not look around the world to the gold standards of climate accountability. We have heard a lot about the U.K. example in debate on this bill. Of course the U.K. example uses something called carbon budgets, and in that country it has led to the U.K. meeting and exceeding every single aspirational carbon budget it has set.
Instead, the minister took a different tact with this bill, and he never really clearly explained why that is, but as a result we have this bill in front of us.
A carbon budget is much easier to understand after all because it mirrors our financial budgeting framework. There would be a certain amount of emissions that, as a country, we could emit in a certain amount of time, and if we were to emit more than that, we go into deficit. It is something that is transparent and easy for citizens to understand. I still do not understand, even at this late date in debate, why the minister chose not to use that structure for this bill in front of us.
The Liberals introduced the bill they did, and we had some choices. We could obviously reject it outright and know it is going to be at least a year, if not two years, before we have another shot at a climate accountability bill, or we could work as hard as possible to strengthen the bill and make the most of this opportunity. That is the option we chose. That is because during the election we heard from thousands of Canadians who called on us to collaborate across party lines with other parties to ensure Canada had some semblance of climate accountability coming out of this Parliament.
In a minority Parliament, that is just not an opportunity. I believe it is a responsibility, and one we in the NDP took to heart. We brought our ideas to the government and we pushed hard for changes that would strengthen Bill C-12. Of all the changes we pushed for, the most significant one, as we heard so much about this evening, was the setting of an interim emissions objective between now and 2030.
The scientists tell us that this is the most important decade if we are going to turn around catastrophic climate change. So many of the witnesses we heard at committee told us that we needed accountability before 2030, and that, given the government's track record over past decades, it was not enough to simply say to trust us and wait until the end of the decade.
We are very pleased we were able to leverage a commitment to a 2026 objective for emissions. While it is procedurally different than the other major milestones in the legislation, we believe it plays the basic role of providing transparency and accountability and showing to Canadians whether or not, as a country, we are on track to meet that critical 2030 milestone.
There were other changes we pushed for as well, and we heard about those this evening. We wanted the bill to lay out the specific requirements of the emissions reduction plans. We wanted the advisory body to have certain expertise on it, so that Canadians could trust that the advice the minister was getting was adequate. The third thing I would mention is that we wanted indigenous knowledge, which we know is so important to have reflected in our legislation. We wanted that to be defined and built into the bill in a much more substantive way.
The minister agreed with many of our proposals. There were other proposals he pushed back on. That, after all, is how negotiation works, but let us be clear that this bill in front of us is much stronger today than it was when it was first drafted. With the passing of the Bloc Québécois amendment calling for a five-year legislative review, Bill C-12 now includes amendments from the government and two of the three opposition parties. It is not the bill we would have written, but it is a bill we can accept.
Canada's major environmental organizations agree Bill C-12 should pass, and six of these groups wrote us a letter back on June 7. They said that we cannot afford another decade of ad hoc, incoherent Canadian climate action. Climate legislation is essential to help drive the necessary changes and Bill C-12, as amended, provides a foundation we can build on to ensure Canada develops the robust accountability framework we need.
We have heard in previous speeches that the Bloc and the Conservatives are frustrated with the process, and that is fair enough. If the Liberals had given Bill C-12 greater priority in this parliamentary session, introduced it earlier and given it more hours of debate, we could have seen a more exhaustive, deliberative process. Why this did not occur is a fair question for the government.
As for the Conservatives, it is difficult to know how to take their amendments. They voted against pretty much every aspect of this bill. At second reading, they voted against the very principle of the bill, and the amendments they put forward at committee did not seem to me intended to strengthen the bill, but rather to blunt its impact.
Regardless, we now have a bill in front of us that is both less than perfect and much better than it was. The essence of this bill is transparency. Its value lies in the idea that a concerned and informed electorate, if properly and regularly updated, will not tolerate a government that refuses to take the actions necessary to drive down emissions. It would achieve this by requiring frequent reports, empowering an advisory body, requiring the minister to rationalize her or his decisions when it comes to deviations from the advice that body provides, and requiring ever more ambitious targets.
This bill cannot likely withstand a climate-recalcitrant, insincere government nor one that explicitly rejects our climate reality. By the same token, there is nothing in this bill that would hinder a truly progressive NDP government from tackling the climate emergency with the urgency that it deserves.
We have a choice, and I wanted to end in this way. Fifteen years years ago, our former leader, the late Jack Layton, put forward Canada’s first climate accountability framework with Bill C-377. I found the speech that Jack gave in this place at second reading, and I would like to read a passage from it in conclusion. Jack said:
Canadians have been seeing these changes and are calling for action. I think we have to say that they have been disappointed to date, but they are hopeful that perhaps for this House, in this time, in this place, when we have a wave of public opinion urging us on, when we have every political party suggesting that it wants to be seen to take action and, let us hope, actually wants to take action, there is a moment in time here that is unique in Canadian history when action can be taken. It is going to require us to put aside some of what we normally do here, and we have to understand the need for speed....
Our commitment to the House and to all Canadians is to do everything that we can to produce results from the House in the very short period of time before we find ourselves having to go back to Canadians. I do not want to go back and tell them we were not able to get it done. I want to go back and tell them that we all got together and we got it done.
Amen, Jack. Let us get moving at long last.