Libby speaks out in support of the NDP motion to address climate change

House of Commons
December 5, 2011

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NDP Opposition Day Motion on Climate Change:

That this House urge the government to: (a) play a leadership role in tackling global climate change and ensuring Canadian jobs aren’t lost as the rest of the world moves towards a new sustainable energy economy; (b) work in a leadership role at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban towards a binding climate change treaty with the goal of limiting average global temperature increases to 2°C; (c) recognize the real, science-based threat of global climate change, as well as respect and adhere to its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord; and (d) take immediate action to lower net carbon emissions in Canada and increase Canadian trade with our major partners in a new sustainable energy economy.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in Parliament today to speak to the official opposition motion on climate change. I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Nickel Belt, for his very personal and graphic description of the changes that have taken place that he has seen from the air when he is flying over his community in the north. It is a very good example of how serious this issue of climate change is here in Canada, and of how much we are missing the boat on what needs to be done.

As the Durban conference gets under way, it is very timely that the NDP has put forward this motion today calling on the federal government to show leadership on climate change. This is nothing new for the NDP; we have been doing it almost every single day. Certainly our Environment Critic, the Member for Halifax, has been very front and centre, and very forthright in calling on the federal government for leadership and action.

This motion today is an opportunity for us to debate this important issue and to show where NDP members stand. We hope that the federal Conservative government will move and change its position.

For New Democrats, some of the key priorities for the next international climate change protocol include ensuring that there is a fair, ambitious and binding agreement. We want to ensure that there is adequate financing for the green climate fund from 2013, and we want to close the gigatonne gap between promised emission cuts and actual action. This is critical, because saying one is going to do something is one thing, but actually not following through and doing it is very serious. This is why Canadians in the environmental movement generally feel so hugely disappointed in the government’s lack of performance.

We also want to make sure there is no gap in legally binding commitments.

What has the NDP been calling for? It has had an astounding track record on this issue. When our former leader, Jack Layton, came to Parliament, the first thing he did was ensure that we tabled a bill on climate change. That bill passed through Parliament by a majority vote. Then we had an election. We reintroduced the same bill after that election, and for a second time the bill passed through Parliament. However, as we know, it was killed in the Senate. In terms of climate change, that was a very bad day for Canada; we had a fantastic bill that was doing everything that needed to be done, and it was killed by the unelected Senate.

New Democrats have a very good track record on this issue. We have always said that we would put a price on carbon and establish hard emission caps for large industrial emitters. We have said that we want to enact a Climate Change Accountability Act. This will now be the third time. It would put into legislation a framework for achieving the national target of 80% below 1990 emission levels by 2050.

We have said that we would establish a permanent federal energy efficiency retrofit program for residential energy use, cut GHG emissions, create jobs and save Canadians money.

We have said that we would establish an effective program to help communities deal with the impacts of climate change. One very important element of that is the transition fund for jobs. The issue of jobs is very important in this debate. They are linked. As we move to a greener environment and a greener economy, we have to make sure that people are not put out of work. We have to make sure there is a transition to new jobs, new training, and good-paying jobs.

We would also fulfill our international climate change obligations and cut the over $2 billion in annual subsidies to fossil fuel industries.

Let us contrast that plan with what the federal government is not doing. It is a fact that Canadian greenhouse gas emissions were 24% above the 1990 level in 2008 and in 2012, we expect Canadian levels to be 30% above the 1990 level. A recent study from the International Institute for Sustainable Development makes it clear that Canada’s plan is inadequate and that the current and planned measures by the provinces and the federal government combined will only achieve an emissions reduction of 46% of the government’s own, and very weak, greenhouse gas emissions target by 2020.

What kind of record is that? It deserves an ‘F’ as a failure.

We know that the government has weakened its climate change targets by 90% since 2007. To make matters worse, on the 2010 annual climate change performance index, Canada finished 54th out of the 57 countries evaluated. There will be a new index published tomorrow, and we fear that it will not be any better for this year’s index. Of course, to add insult to injury, Canada won three Fossil of the Day awards during the first two days at Durban. Unfortunately, we are a repeat winner.

This is a terrible record, and it is all the more reason we need to have this motion debated today.
I want to contrast that performance with what one city in Canada is doing. It is my own city, Vancouver. The City of Vancouver launched a program called Imagine 2020, which aims to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world in just nine years. The program’s goals include green buildings, green transportation, growing local food and becoming a centre for green enterprise.

This is what is quite incredible: emissions have already been reduced to 1990 levels, and Vancouver is on track to meeting the Kyoto target, which is 6% below 1990 levels by 2012, at the same time that its population has grown by 27% and its jobs by 18%. As a result, Vancouver has the lowest per capita emissions of any major city in North America, at 4.6% tonnes per person.

I offer this because to me it is a brilliant example of how, when there is a political will–in this case, from the Vancouver City Council under the leadership of Mayor Gregor Robertson–the targets can be met and can be exceeded. We have seen this with the City of Vancouver.

Vancouver tops the chart of Canadian cities leading the fight against climate change, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The city ranks the highest on the organization’s list, released in March of this year, based on indicators such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions, using renewable energy and encouraging green building and transportation. It can be done.

In fact David Cadman, who is an outgoing city councillor in Vancouver and well known in his role as president of Local Governments for Sustainability, was in Durban. I would like to quote something that he said. I quote:
“Fundamentally unlike the nations of the world we are committed to action and a future for humankind. While the nations of the world like Nero fiddle while the planet burns, cities and millions of their citizens are doing the right thing and urging the nations of the world to come off this precipice that big oil gas and coal have taken us on to.”

That is an initiative of a local municipal government. Here we have a federal government that claims it is interested in responding to climate change, yet every indicator, every report, every record that we have shows us that we are falling further and further behind, and now Canada is an embarrassment in the international community.

In British Columbia we have some very special and key concerns about climate change. One of them is the Enbridge pipeline. We know this massive proposal would carry over 500,000 barrels of tar sands crude each day over very sensitive and precious mountains, farm land, the Fraser and Skeena Rivers, and straight through the Great Bear rainforest to the Pacific coast, where it would be picked up by supertankers that would try to navigate some very difficult waters. I am very proud of the fact that Rob Fleming, the NDP Environment Critic in B.C., along with our B.C. NDP members of Parliament, have been very outspoken on this issue.

This motion today is absolutely critical if we are to see the federal government change course and move to action. That is what we need: a move to action to say that climate change is a priority, that we are not going to divide people or pit jobs against the environment, that we are going to recognize that we have to deal with the problems of fossil fuels and energy resources in Canada and that we have to move to a new green economy.