Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion, as the climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our time.
We recognize it as an emergency and accept that we have an imperative to act. The most recent report by the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we have about 11 years to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption or face catastrophic climate change.
A recent report commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada found that Canada is warming at twice the global average. Another recent report found that one million species of plants and animals around the world are at risk, and one of the reasons is climate change. We heard from some excellent witnesses this afternoon at the environment committee on this really important but distressing topic.
It is clear that we are facing an urgent ecological crisis. For too long, governments and corporations have delayed taking meaningful action on climate change, and now we find ourselves with the floods and fires at our door. We have a moral responsibility to take rapid, ambitious action that will set us down the path to a more sustainable and equitable future.
This spring, many students in my riding of Kootenay—Columbia participated in school strikes as part of a global movement started by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. At the World Economic Forum, Ms. Thunberg said:
I often hear adults say: ‘We need to give the next generation hope’. But I don’t want your hope. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I do. Every day. And want you to act. I want you to behave like our house is on fire. Because it is.
I know that in my riding, many young people share this fear for the future. I have received passionate letters from grades 5 and 6 Ktunaxa students worried about polar bears and the environment. My granddaughter, Lalita, who is graduating from high school this month, at times worries about whether her generation will have a future at all.
In addition to these fears, I have also heard from young people that they are confused and frustrated by the lack of action to address climate change. They feel let down by adults who have ignored the problem for decades. I recently attended a panel on climate change at Salmo Elementary School, where two students played an original song, part of which goes like this:
Why can't we just do it right, change the way we live our lives?
People always say we're fine. Why can't they just see the signs?
It is not just young people who are recognizing that there is an urgent need to act. Local governments are on the front lines and recognize the need to make our communities more resilient to a changing climate. Many local governments have already had discussions on the climate emergency, but we need all levels of government to recognize the scale of the problem and to commit to acting collaboratively.
ln my riding of Kootenay-Columbia, Nelson city councillor Rik Logtenberg established the Climate Leadership Caucus to join local councillors and mayors across the country together to advance climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts at the municipal level.
While there are many solutions that can be implemented by local governments, from waste to transportation, municipalities often lack adequate funding to do so. It is critical that the federal government work with municipal partners so that they have the capacity to be climate leaders. I want to thank Rik for his leadership. He is truly making a difference in convincing mayors and councillors across the country that everyone must play a part in fighting the climate change war.
Also in my riding of Kootenay-Columbia, the Regional District of Central Kootenay has recognized the urgent need for action and collaboration on climate change. The RDCK is a collection of mayors and rural representatives who come together on important issues. Recently, they put forward a motion recognizing that climate change is “an urgent reality requiring rapid decarbonisation of energy” and that “[p]reparing for increased resilience and adaptability is critical.” They went on to say that the RDCK “recognizes that the world is in a global state of climate crisis” and requires an imperative that all orders of government undertake “rapid and far-reaching' changes to building construction, energy systems, land use, and transportation.”
While the Liberals have brought this motion to recognize climate change as an emergency, over the course of this Parliament, they have failed to treat it as such. The Liberal climate change plan shelters the biggest polluters and fails to meet even Stephen Harper's weak targets. Earlier this month, the Liberal member for Beaches—East York tabled a private member's bill that acknowledges that the Liberal's targets are not enough. The member stated, “greater ambition is now required to meet our national, intergenerational and our moral obligations. Science demands greater action”.
Recent media reports suggest that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has said that the upcoming election is a chance to toughen Canada's climate change targets. While I welcome more ambitious GHG targets, the government has had the chance for nearly four years to adopt them. Further, the government has taken actions over the course of this Parliament that actively hinder effective climate action, such as the continued subsidization of the fossil fuel industry.
This spring, the commissioner of the environment and sustainable development found that the government failed to do a fulsome inventory of fossil fuel subsidies and did not consider long-term environmental and social impacts on an equal basis with economic factors in evaluating subsidies. The NDP is calling to immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies, so we can focus investment on renewable energy, public transit and energy efficiency, as well as ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities.
While today we are debating the Liberals' motion to declare climate change an emergency, tomorrow the government will quite likely announce its approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite the National Energy Board's failure to consider the project's climate change impacts. This is not climate leadership. Quite frankly, it is climate hypocrisy. It is unconscionable that the Liberal government spent $4.5 billion of taxpayers' money on an old pipeline, with plans for expansion, at a time when we need to get serious about a rapid transition off of fossil fuels.
This bailout was a bad investment for Canadians, and the government should not pour more money into this project. Earlier this month, the hon. David Anderson, a former federal Liberal minister of the environment, wrote to members of cabinet, arguing that there is no economic justification for the project. He said that building a new pipeline will not change the market.
Instead of spending taxpayers' money on a pipeline expansion in the face of a climate emergency, we need a bold plan that reduces emissions while creating sustainable jobs for workers. The NDP's “Power to Change: A New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs” is a plan to do just that, by investing in priorities like renewable energy, public transit, energy efficiency and research and development. The United Steelworkers has said that this plan protects the planet and jobs, and I encourage all parties to have a close look at it.
As a vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, I am also pleased that the committee tabled two reports this spring, one entitled “Clean Growth and Climate Change: How Canada Can Lead Internationally”, along with a second report on forestry, agriculture and waste, with a total of 34 recommendations on how the government can and must do better in addressing climate change. Instead of partisan bickering over carbon pricing, we need all parties to agree to work together on implementing comprehensive solutions.
I look forward to reviewing the Conservatives' environment plan this week, and I hope it will acknowledge the serious imperative we have to act on climate change. One of the largest motivators I had to becoming a member of this House was the gutting of environmental regulations by the Harper government and its inaction on climate change. I sincerely hope that the Conservatives realize it is time for a new path forward. It is critical that fighting climate change becomes a non-political, non-partisan issue.
With increasingly urgent warnings from experts and more frequent and severe extreme weather events, it is clear that climate change is no longer a distant threat and that the cost of inaction is too great. I look forward to engaging with my constituents this summer in a series of town halls regarding climate change, as I know that addressing this challenge will require everyone getting on board. We must accept that climate change is an emergency for our planet and begin to act with a sense of urgency. Our children and grandchildren deserve no less.