Madam Speaker, it is an honour and privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-12 on behalf of Green Party members across Canada and the constituents in Nanaimo—Ladysmith, which is on the unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw, Snaw-Naw-As, Stz'uminus and Lyackson First Nations. I would like to thank the voters in Nanaimo—Ladysmith for putting their confidence in me.
People in my riding see the impacts of climate change and are deeply concerned about the future of our children and grandchildren. I was born and raised on Vancouver Island. I also see the impacts. I see the changes to our local ecosystem. The drought months stretch into winter. Trees more than 100 years old are dying from lack of moisture. August in southern B.C. is now commonly referred to as “Smogust” because of the thick smoke from wildfires that blankets the province. I do not ever remember being unable to go outdoors because of the smoke when I was younger, except for the year Mount Saint Helens erupted. The climate is changing and we are not doing enough to mitigate it and prepare for it.
Two years ago, on June 18, 2019, this House voted to declare that we were in a climate emergency. Eighteen months after that emergency declaration, the government tabled Bill C-12, a bill so hollow it appeared to be an attempt to fool the Canadian public into believing that real action was going to be taken on the climate crisis. Where is the accountability in this act, a series of reports that show progress or lack of progress toward targets? If the electorate do not like the progress that is being made or the lack thereof, it can vote the government out. As Greta Thunberg said, “net zero by 2050 is surrender”. Without tough near-term targets, we're abandoning our children and grandchildren to an unlivable world.
The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands offered to connect the environment minister with the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. It could have helped ensure this was a meaningful bill, comparable to the U.K.'s climate budget law. She offered to connect the minister with James Shaw, the climate change minister in New Zealand, who just implemented a series of comprehensive plans to combat climate change. She suggested climate scientists who could testify at the committee. The minister did not want advice from any of these experts.
Why was the advisory body appointed before this bill went to committee? Perhaps because the advisory body is one of the great weaknesses of this bill. It should be an expert body made up of climate scientists, but it is not.
Bill C-12 has been mishandled. It was introduced in November, languished until March without debate and then languished again until May. Much of the expert feedback on Bill C-12 was provided to MPs when it was too late to bring forward amendments. This made a mockery of the process. There was no testimony from climate scientists, no youth spoke to the committee and not a single indigenous witness was heard. How often can the Liberals say they did not have time to consult indigenous peoples while also claiming that Bill C-12 respects UNDRIP?
Bill C-12 lacks a 2025 milestone, which was established in the COP decision document Canada signed in Paris. All the experts agree that 2030 is too late. The NDP-Liberal amendment for a 2026 interim GHG emissions goal is not a milestone year; it only provides a window to review progress or the lack of progress.
Why did the government reject the Green Party amendment for the plans and targets to be based on the best available science? The Liberals and NDP were so determined to block Green Party amendments that they voted down one that had the same language as the next government amendment, which meant that amendment was also defeated. After an hour of wasting time scrambling around for a solution to get that wording back into the bill, the government came up with this. It states:
The Minister must set each subsequent national greenhouse gas emissions target at least 9 years 366 days before the beginning of the milestone year to which it relates.
It does not say 10 years, as the Green Party amendment stated, but 10 years plus one day. This incident was one example of partisan posturing at its worst. The Liberals are trying to blame the Greens for slowing down the bill, but let us be clear. The delays were due to the scheduling of the bill by the Liberals.
As the end of the session approached, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands asked for nine of her amendments to be withdrawn to assist the committee with completing clause-by-clause. The Conservatives did the same. They were going to get voted against anyway. Throughout this process the Greens put climate first. The Liberals and NDP cannot say the same.
Bill C-12, the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act, will not hold the current government, the next government or the government after that to account for emissions reductions.
The so-called accountability in the act is no different from the accountability that exists today: If Canadians do not like the government's actions, they can vote the government out in the next election. The climate emergency demands the kind of accountability that is enduring and not subject to the whims of politics.
Canada needs to follow the example of the U.K., which established a carbon budget law that binds successive governments to emissions targets and holds them accountable, eliminating politics from climate action. The U.K. has reduced emissions by 42% over 1990 levels. Collectively, the 27 countries of the European Union have reduced their emissions by 25% since 1990. Shamefully, Canada's current emission levels are 21% higher than they were in 1990.
Canada has not met the targets of any of the nine international climate agreements it has signed. The last target Canada was supposed to meet, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, was set by the Harper Conservative government in 2009. While there were real attempts by the majority of provinces and territories to meet the target, the oil and gas industry in Canada increased emissions so much that those efforts were in vain.
The priorities of the current government demonstrate that it is not serious enough about the existential threat of climate change. The government is spending $17 billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Trans Mountain is not just a climate loser, but a money loser. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, the only way that TMX will not result in billions of dollars in losses is if the government abandons climate action and increases oil sands production.
The Alberta NDP government's idea of climate action was to cap emissions at 100 megatonnes. That represents an almost 40% increase from 2014 levels. The B.C. government's idea of climate action is to ramp up gas fracking and build new pipelines to export liquefied fracked gas, providing $6 billion worth of subsidies to five foreign multinationals. On top of that, the B.C. government is allowing carbon-sequestering endangered old-growth forests to be clear-cut.
How is it the federal government cannot ensure that the provinces work together to meet our international climate commitments? Why should we believe that Bill C-12 would change that?
These are just some of the reasons that Canada needs a carbon budget law. We need to take politics out of climate action and follow the science. We need a just transition for fossil fuel workers and an end to all subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
The real obstacle is not the climate deniers. It is the politicians who recognize the science but lack the courage to remove politics from climate action. Bill C-12 does not meet the challenge before us. It provides a false sense of security and pushes long overdue action and accountability down the road for another decade. That is not just irresponsible: It is immoral.
Every civilization in history that came before ours ended in collapse. History tells us that in every case right up until the beginning of the period of collapse, people thought everything was going fine. Historic collapses were isolated to particular regions. When the Roman Empire collapsed, it had no impact on the people of Turtle Island or on the southern part of Africa.
For the first time in human history, we have an interconnected global civilization. This is also the first time in history that technological and environmental threats could destroy the planet's ability to sustain life. Humanity is facing something unprecedented. We could lose the capacity to survive on our planet. The next collapse could be our last.
Accepting this threat and addressing it requires a shift. The magnitude of the challenge of the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis demands that we mature. We must choose to be long-term thinkers, collaborative and committed to mutual benefit. That is not a radical idea. It is a way of existing in harmony with our environment that has been the foundation of indigenous culture since time immemorial. Anything less amounts to a continued commitment to a self-terminating civilization.
Young people across the country are demanding better from us. They, and our children and grandchildren, deserve much more than this weak piece of legislation. I will be voting for this bill because it is better than nothing, but better than nothing is a very low bar.