Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Catharines.
It is a rare event when the nations of the world put aside their national interests, economic concerns and trade disputes and join forces to tackle a global challenge. Climate change caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases threatens the world's industries as well as its people.
There is now legitimate concern that agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism will be impacted by changing weather patterns causing floods, droughts and other climate consequences over the decades to come. There could be few greater causes for the world to pull together.
When Canada signed the Kyoto protocol in April 1998, it was touted as a global solution to a global problem. Unfortunately, it is now obvious that Kyoto is neither global nor truly the solution we had hoped for.
The Kyoto accord is now an agreement between Europe, Japan and New Zealand. The largest polluters are not participating. Countries responsible for two-thirds of the world's emissions are not part of the deal or have no emissions reduction targets. The countries with the fastest growth in emissions, China, India and the United States, are not subject to any restrictions. Even if Kyoto participants meet their targets, the impact on global warming will be insignificant over the next 50 years at least. This is well known.
What is less well known is that those Kyoto countries which are subject to emissions targets are not required to reduce their emissions as a group. This strange reality is the basis for the agreement being signed in the first place. One might have thought that an agreement to which Canada signed in 1998 might seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1998 levels. This of course is not the case. 1990 was the base year. It is now obvious why that is. Between 1990 and 1998, many signatories had dramatic reductions in their own emissions.
Russia had 35% less emissions in 1998 than it did in 1990. Hence, its target of zero increase actually permits it to increase its emissions by 50% from the day it signed the treaty. The other former eastern bloc countries are in similar situations.
The European Union also had members that had dramatic reductions between 1990 and 1998. Germany's absorption of East Germany and the closure of coal-fired industries reduced its emissions by 15%. The widespread conversion from coal to natural gas in the U.K. reduced its emissions by over 8%. Overall, the European Union needs to reduce its emissions by only 4% to reach its target, not that challenging for a region with a very limited population growth.
The use of 1990 rather than 1998 as a base level was an effort to reduce commitments rather than reduce emissions. The absurd result is that when we take Canada, the United States and Australia out of the treaty, the remaining Kyoto participants as a group actually signed on to increase their emissions by 16% over 1998 levels. If they do better, they can sell credits to countries that have harder targets to meet.
While the United States and Australia want no part of that bargain, Canada will ratify the deal and will commit to reducing its greenhouse gases by 16% from the levels in 1998 when we signed on originally. That is the deal. Canada reduces its emissions by 16% from 1998; the rest of the Kyoto countries can collectively increase their emissions by curiously 16%.
Today Canada's target amounts to a 25% reduction from current levels. Our greenhouse gas emissions have risen because Canada has a growing population and because we have a growing oil and gas production industry.
Every year we take in over 200,000 immigrants. This requires some 80,000 more homes, homes that need to be heated, homes that use electricity. Our economy relies on this growth. We rely on growth in our oil patch. We watch auto sales and housing starts as key economic indicators. To restrain this growth will rob us of the economic strength we need to finance the transition to cleaner fuels and greater energy efficiency.
With the United States outside the deal, Canada is certain to suffer competitive consequences of any Kyoto measures that result in higher costs to producers or manufacturers.
The government has published a plan with some ideas as to how we might hope to meet our national targets. The total cost to Canadians of this revolutionary reduction in carbon emissions is predicted to be a rounding error in our GDP. We need a parliamentary review of our implementation plan to fully assess what this program will cost Canadians as consumers and taxpayers, something which our former finance minister has advocated religiously and which the Leader of the Opposition has failed to remember in his listing of what the finance minister has or has not said.
We need to determine whether the predicted economic benefits of energy efficiency can make a measurable difference nationwide. We need to identify all the industry sectors which may be most impacted. Most important, we have to let Canadians understand what we are committing to on their behalf. That has always been the role of Parliament and its committees: to guard the public purse and inform Canadians about what their government is doing.
Last Monday the Minister of Industry leapt before the cameras to lash out against the prudence of parliamentary committees studying government plans. He said:
I don't think that we can approach public life by saying every time there is a difficult decision to make, we'll send it to a committee. Sometimes you have to decide and sometimes everybody won't like it, but that's just too bad. You've got to make up your mind.
So said the minister. It is poetic justice that the very next day the Auditor General reported on a previous occasion when the minister voiced such an opinion.
The minister had promised Canadians that the gun registry would cost some $2 million net to taxpayers. Sheila Fraser reported that in fact it burned an $860 million hole in taxpayers' pockets, an error of some 40,000%. Yes, sometimes we just have to decide, but sometimes we should also make the right decisions, decisions that do not result in the worst cost overrun that the Auditor General has seen in her professional life.
One has to wonder what might have happened had there been a more careful review of cost assumptions. Had we known the true costs, we might have had the choice of whether we wanted to spend $100 million a year on a database or, for about the same amount of money, invest in 1,000 more police officers to target organized crime, parole violators or illegal guns. Canadians should have had that choice.
We did learn that legislating platitudes without a well studied plan can be devastating to taxpayers who are left with the bill. Only an independent and thorough assessment of our Kyoto plan can give us the confidence in the cost estimates. Only by knowing the costs can we determine what else we might have been able to achieve for Canadians with the same amount of money.
Canada must do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We should invest in our future environment. We should invest in cleaner fuels and innovative ways to improve energy efficiency. We should aim to reach our Kyoto targets whether we are part of a treaty or not. We have a responsibility to ensure that Canadian inaction is in no way responsible for the future consequences of global warming.
We also have a responsibility to be honest with Canadians about the costs. We should know how many dollars will be sent to Russia to buy credits and how many jobs will be lost in the United States where emissions targets will not be a burden on industry. In essence, we need a fully detailed plan that would survive the scrutiny of a parliamentary committee and stand the test of time.
Kyoto is both a noble path and a blind alley. A parliamentary committee should be asked to light the way for Canadians.