I appreciate that. The Conservative leader has said that at least you get some points for honesty.
Canadians want to see honesty in this debate. Canadians want to see integrity in this debate. What they want to see is a federal government that is willing to tell the truth to Canadians. Yes, we have a lot of work to do to catch up. No, we have not made any significant progress whatsoever in the direction of meeting our commitments.
We talk in terms of meeting our commitments in Rio in 1992. What we need to be very clear about is that in 1992 nations around the world began to face up to the fact that it was going to take a global effort to begin to address what is a growing crisis with respect to climate change.
It is a matter of weeks before the government goes to the international conference in Kyoto to represent the interests of Canadians. We do not have a clue what the position of the Government of Canada will be on our behalf. It is absolutely humiliating.
Surely the Prime Minister of Canada must have felt some sense of embarrassment that before leaving Canada, the Prime Minister of Japan joined the chorus of concerned Canadians in pleading for the Prime Minister of Canada to finally make his position known with respect to the upcoming conference in Kyoto. I am sure that is not what the Prime Minister had in mind when he invited the Prime Minister of Japan to participate in the APEC conference.
I would suggest that it is darn well time that the Prime Minister started to understand that the very government which is responsible to provide leadership on this issue is far behind the Canadian public, and that is an embarrassment. It certainly gives a very different notion of this government's idea of what leadership is all about.
So far the position of the Canadian government is a sort of half-hearted commitment that we will do a little better than the United States at Kyoto. The government argues that the reason for not being more specific about it is because it needs some flexibility at Kyoto.
Given the record of this government on climate change and its failure to provide any meaningful leadership on greenhouse gas emission reductions, Canadians generally are nervous that the kind of flexibility which the Government of Canada wants is flexibility that will allow it to drop below whatever commitment the U.S. makes with respect to climate change. Why else would we have the government arguing that it needs flexibility instead of setting its sights higher and talking about developing the kind of strategy which is necessary to ensure that we achieve those targets?
It is absolutely critical that the Government of Canada go to Kyoto and stake out a strong position. If we continue to ignore the signs and the damaging effects of a changing climate, then we have acted extremely irresponsibly with respect to future generations of Canadians.
Despite the hysteria of the Reform Party on this issue, the science is clear. Yes, of course there are some scientists who will say they are not completely convinced by the evidence they see that the problem is of the magnitude that the overwhelming consensus of scientists have assessed it to be.
We have heard scientist after scientist after scientist provide evidence that I think has to be taken seriously. As I say, there is an international consensus that this is a problem that we have a responsibility to face up to as a family of nations.
I do not know what is the most accurate prediction, but when one hears large numbers of respected scientific bodies predicting, for example, that by the year 2100 the average global temperature will increase by 3.5° Celsius, we know that we have a very serious problem on our hands and that the full impact of changes that will result from those kinds of climate changes, those kinds of temperature increases, would be absolutely devastating.
There would be more frequent and severe hurricanes and storms, widespread drought in some areas. In other areas there would be flooding, the extinction of many plant and animal species, widespread coastal flooding and erosion and even the disappearance of low-lying islands. We are talking about islands of human beings that could literally disappear into the ocean if we do not face up to this problem and take some leadership. There would be massive economic losses in forestry, agriculture and fisheries for example.
We have heard a lot of arguments in this House in recent weeks, particularly from Reform but also from the regressive wing of the Liberal Party that seems to prevail in this debate, that we need to know the costs associated with meeting our commitments at Rio and any commitments that we make at Kyoto.
Let me say that I absolutely agree with that. Of course we need to know the cost. What I think a lot of Canadians find objectionable and what my colleagues and I find absolutely profoundly ignorant is the viewpoint that keeps getting put forward again and again that somehow there are no real costs associated with not doing anything about dealing with the impending crisis in climate change.
Make no mistake about it, there are significant costs. There are economic costs, environmental costs and health costs associated with the do-nothing approach that this Liberal government has taken to date with respect to climate change.
What scientists, doctors, economists, environmentalists all understand and what the government and my colleagues on the far right steadfastly refuse to understand is that doing something to reduce greenhouse gases, to taking up this challenge of dealing with the crisis of climate change can actually be a powerful job creator. The economy can and should benefit from addressing this problem if it is addressed responsibly, if it is addressed comprehensively and if it is addressed in an innovative way.
Preventing global warming means investing in people and in businesses who are developing clean technologies. It means investing in new technologies like solar and wind power that create jobs.
What Canada needs is a comprehensive plan that includes building retrofits, that includes electricity reform, that includes more fuel efficient vehicles, greater access to public transit and greater industrial innovation, all of which can be powerful job creators.
Let me give one example. The climate action network and the Sierra Club have developed a rational energy program, a program that calculates measures to reduce greenhouse gases and create jobs. Their proposal, which has been analysed by respected economists, would indicate that over a five year period the measures that they have proposed are capable of creating over 500,000 jobs, over half a million jobs.
The tragedy about how little this government has done to get on with this task is that it is not only important to do for environmentally sound reasons, it is not only important to do for energy conservation reasons, it is also important to do in a country that continues to have close to a million and a half people unemployed.
Surely any government worth its salt, any government that is prepared to call itself a leader has to understand that there can only be a win-win situation in environmental and economic terms resulting from our taking hold of this problem and getting on with it.
Let me just cite a couple of examples of the kind of job creation outcomes and the kind of job creation programs that are proposed by those who have taken a serious look and carefully analysed what it is we need to do.
Building retrofit programs that conserve energy. Some members scoff at that and say it sounds like Mickey Mouse stuff. The reality is that thousands and thousands of jobs can be created in comprehensive retrofitting programs and they can be paid for in the savings effected in energy consumption.
Urban transit and other transportation initiatives. It is not rocket science. It is not as if we were waiting for some kind of invention to know what to do. But the tragedy is that this government has virtually gutted some of the programs that had us on the right course with respect to a bigger commitment to public transit for example.
There are other jobs created through supporting research and development that are capable of greater energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
There are additional economic benefits to reducing the effects of global warming. Direct savings in energy costs are a direct benefit. For those who insist on talking only about the costs associated with our tackling this problem, it is time to look at what some of the real benefits can be.
There is the growth of energy efficient and renewable energy technologies and the avoidance of environmental damage and health costs associated with pollutants such as sulphur dioxide that accompany greenhouse gases.
We heard earlier this week scientific evidence and some of it coming directly from the environment department about how worrisome it is to see the increasing health problems associated with greenhouse gas emissions and how much more severe that problem is going to be if we do not very quickly get on with addressing it in an urgent way. The fact is that our global environment simply cannot absorb our ever increasing pollution.
At the same time here in Canada and even more desperately in developing countries like China and India, people need jobs so that they can feed their families and they can achieve a decent standard of living. The people and the businesses that can develop clean and efficient technologies, that can take up this challenge will address those two fundamental needs, the need for jobs and the need to ensure a clean environment for future generations.
We already see evidence that innovative businesses that can accomplish this twin objective are going to be in great demand around the world. They will be the employers of the future who can provide competitive and exciting jobs and opportunities for our young people. Surely we need no reminder that this must be a very high priority since we live in a country where some 25% of our young people are unemployed and their first experience with a job is no job at all.
If we act now to prevent global warming, we can win on both counts. We can win in respect to jobs and we can win in respect to a cleaner environment. If we get on with it, we can lay the cornerstone for a new dynamic and a cleaner economy.
It is on that basis that my colleagues and I embraced a policy to commit to the reduction of greenhouse gases by 20% from 1990 levels by the year 2005. Some will say that surely that goal is no longer realistic. It certainly is true that this government has provided so little leadership and there has been so little progress in getting on with the kind of comprehensive measures that are needed that it does seem very difficult to imagine how we can attain those objectives. I have heard no argument as to why we should not get on urgently with beginning to tackle the job.
In case government members need a reminder, these targets were not pulled out of thin air. These targets could not be described as totally irresponsible and irrational. We remind the Liberal members that in their own red book in the 1993 election, they stated very clearly that that goal was attainable.
I believe the finance minister in his bid for the leadership of the Liberal Party said that we could do better than those reduction levels. The Liberals came to office in 1993 and the previous environment minister committed herself to those levels. She did so in writing. Surely it cannot be said that these are completely irresponsible, irrational targets to put forward.
The problem is that this government is going to Kyoto virtually empty handed without being able to demonstrate any progress toward these objectives because it has failed to put in place the kind of comprehensive strategies that are needed to ensure we make progress toward those objectives.
As important as it is for us to go to Kyoto and enter into an agreement to achieve some reasonable progressive levels of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the real work begins when the delegation returns from Kyoto. We must ensure that we put in place the kind of plan of action that was not put in place after Rio. We need a plan that can get us on a path both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to enhance our economy and our environment.
Some would say that surely this is all just a pipe dream, that it is not realistic, that it is just a lot of talk, that we do not really have at hand the concrete measures that are needed. That is simply not true. We talked briefly about Germany. The German government has actually implemented 109 different measures to tackle the problem of climate change. That means making a real commitment that goes far beyond the kind of token measures that the Government of Canada holds up and says “No, no, we are doing something”. It means going far beyond the voluntary programs and putting in place solid regulatory regimes and putting in place the kind of incentive programs that will produce real results.
Comprehensive programs to assist companies to become more environmentally sound and more energy efficient. Measures to assist the construction and expansion of public transit in its many different forms. Measures with the benefit of federal funding to put in place more energy efficient forms of housing and public buildings. What we have seen in the last couple of years is the Liberal government pulling the plug on its commitment to social housing for example, at a time when there is a job to be done here that would help us move in the direction of greater energy efficiency.
In conclusion, I simply want to once again reiterate the plea to the Prime Minister, to the Minister of the Environment and to the entire Liberal government to begin taking this seriously, to begin to understand and tell Canadians the truth, that we can only win, it can be a win-win scenario for Canadians in terms of both jobs and the environment if we get on with the task. Let me say that the failure to do so is a failure to protect the interests, the health and the livelihood of future generations of Canadians.