Climate Change Emergency Debate - 15Oct17

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Richard Cannings (South Okanagan—West Kootenay)

2018-10-15 22:23 [p.22433]

Madam Speaker, I am proud to be sharing my time with the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith, who is flying in directly from Vancouver Island for this debate.

 I am really grateful to be allowed the time and space for all of us here to talk tonight on this emergency debate. If there was any emergency that we could talk about, I think climate change is probably the definition of an emergency for our country and our civilization. The scientific consensus about the gravity of this issue has been around for decades, for 30, 40 or more years. However, politicians have been kicking the can down the road, fiddling while Rome burns, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. We can pick the analogy, they are all as accurate, as painful and as frustrating as the last. Rio, Kyoto, Copenhagen and Paris were all perfect opportunities for world action and were all ultimately squandered. We have to change this.

 Two weeks ago I became a grandfather for the first time. Before I became a grandfather, I heard all the time that politicians are really very fond of talking about their grandchildren and the future that we will leave our grandchildren. Now that I am actually a grandfather, I can say that having a grandchild really sharpens that perspective dramatically.

 Shortly after that, on Thanksgiving Monday, two news headlines jumped out at me, both dealing with our path to a sustainable future. The first announced of course the latest report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That is what we are speaking about tonight. That is what has triggered this debate.

 The IPCC report states that the world would have to cut greenhouse emissions by half by 2030 and then achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 to meet the 1.5°C target that Canada so proudly proclaimed and led the world on at the Paris Agreement. We are just over the 1°C increase now and under present policies we are headed for 3°C or maybe 4°C.

We have already seen some of the early effects of that 1°C increase, such as more fires, more floods, more heat waves and more extreme weather of all sorts. I have to say that tonight and in previous weeks I have heard some people on the Conservative side say that we should not have a carbon tax because B.C. has had a carbon tax for 10 years and it is still having fires, so what is the use. That is not how it works. It shows either a shocking misunderstanding of how climate change works or just a wanton disregard. If the whole world went carbon neutral today we would be at that 1°C rise. We would still have those fires. We would still have floods. All that extreme weather would be with us. What we are trying to do is save us from a far more frightening future.

 The IPCC report states that the hottest days of summer in mid-latitudes could increase by 4°C under a 2°C global increase. That suggests that heat waves in southern British Columbia, where I am from, could easily reach 44°C. We often get to 40°C and it is pretty hot. Therefore, 44°C, for people who are still in Fahrenheit, that is 111°F or 112°F. That is the hottest record temperature Canada has ever encountered, yet that will become commonplace. That is at 2°C, and we are headed for 3°C or 4°C if we do not do something.

 Under the same 2°C scenario, coral reefs would disappear from the world's oceans. That part of the report really hit home to me. I cannot imagine my granddaughter only knowing about coral reefs through history books.

 The Climate Action Tracker site, which covers the commitments of all the countries signed on to the Paris Agreement, classes Canada's climate action efforts so far as “highly insufficient”. It is like getting a D on a report card. It is easy to think that we are doing well when we live beside the U.S.A., which is listed as “critically insufficient”. I guess that would be like an F. However, we share our highly insufficient grade with some countries many people like to criticize for their carbon footprint, such as China. Most of the developed world, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico, all rank above us. One of the countries I often hear held up as a problem on the world climate action scene, India, is actually leading the pack in its policies and accomplishments.

 What actions could get us to an increase of only 1.5°C? The IPCC report says that we have to do almost everything possible to reach that goal. One obvious task that is often talked about is the rapid construction of renewable energy systems, such as wind and solar power. These would have to provide 75% to 85% of the world's energy by 2050. World transportation systems must be transformed from fossil fuels to electric to take advantage of that shift to renewables.

 In June, I travelled to Argentina with the Minister of Natural Resources for the G20 energy meetings. The theme of the meetings was the grand transition to the carbon-free future. There the Chinese minister talked of his country's bold action, moving directly from coal-fired plants to renewable energy. China has big plans to build ultra-high voltage power lines to bring that clean energy from the deserts of western China to the industrial heartland of eastern China by 2025, and by 2035 it plans to move that clean energy throughout Asia. The German minister agreed, pointing out that we could create clean energy where it is easiest to create, such as solar power in the Atacama Desert of Chile and then transport that power around the world using hydrogen cells. The Japanese minister echoed those statements. The U.K. minister talked about his country's three-point plan of action: legislated targets; significant investments in clean technology, including $2 billion in electric vehicle infrastructure alone; and a real plan to create good jobs in the clean energy sector. However, our Canadian minister talked about buying a pipeline. It was sort of a head-slapping moment.

We can do better. We have to do better. Instead of investing $4.5 billion in an old pipeline, we could copy the U.K. and spend $2 billion on building electric vehicle infrastructure across southern Canada. We could provide meaningful incentives for Canadians to switch to electric vehicles, just as Norway has done. We could invest billions in other clean technology projects across the country, providing good jobs for electricians, welders, boilermakers and steelworkers who would like to work in their hometowns rather than in remote camps.

 We often forget that buildings produce 40% of our carbon emissions. We must invest billions in building retrofits. We had a perfect model for such a program, the ecoENERGY retrofit program, which helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians retrofit their homes, lowering their energy bills by 20%, creating thousands of good local jobs and reducing greenhouse emissions by three tonnes per year per house. The Conservative government cancelled that popular program and the Liberals kicked it over to the provinces, very few of whom have picked it up. Ontario picked it up, but, of course, Doug Ford has cancelled it.

 These actions are investments. They cost money. As Myles Allen, one of the IPCC report authors from Oxford, stated, “I think we need to start a debate about who is going to pay for it, and whether it’s right for the fossil-fuel industry and its customers to be enjoying the benefits today and expecting the next generation to pay for cleaning it up.”

That brings me to the second headline of Thanksgiving Monday, the announcement of the Nobel Prize for economics. This year's winners were William Nordhaus and Paul Romer, who were honoured for their work on sustainable growth. Nordhaus's work directly links to the IPCC report. He has shown how a price on carbon is the most effective tool to quickly bring down greenhouse gas emissions.

I am increasingly dismayed by Conservatives across this country, provincially and federally, fighting a price on carbon. The parties that take this position are ignoring the fact that carbon pricing is the easiest and most painless way to lower our carbon footprint. It can be implemented and is being implemented without impacting low-income households, despite what we heard from the member for Carleton today and many other Conservatives over the past weeks.

 When the Conservatives say they will take action on climate change by other means, they do not tell us that those other means will cost Canadians, individuals and companies more than the carbon price will. They would be harming our economy and our environment at the same time, all for short-term political gain. I worry that they think political gain is more important than the world they will leave our children. I worry that they are simply kicking the can down the road yet again, forcing my new granddaughter and others in her generation to pay for our laziness and greed.

I also wonder if the Liberal government truly understands the gravity of this situation. It is long past the time to act. We can do this. We must act today. We must act together across this country and around the world.