Murray Rankin supports the Paris climate agreement

The next generation deserves a healthy environment and a prosperous, resilient, sustainable low-carbon economy.

Murray Rankin speaks in Parliament in support of ratifying the Paris climate agreement, adopting evidence-based carbon targets, and creating jobs in clean energy.

Mr. Speaker, I support the ratification of the Paris agreement. I support aggressive action to cut carbon pollution and to create clean energy jobs. In fact, I ran to represent Victoria here in Parliament, in large part, because I just could not stand on the sidelines any longer, as the Conservative government drove our country further down the road toward the enormous economic, social, and environmental costs of climate change.


Never before has one generation handed such a hefty bill to the next. We owe it to young Canadians to do everything in our power to reduce that bill. The next generation deserves a healthy environment and a prosperous, resilient, sustainable low-carbon economy.


I am proud to support the ratification of the Paris agreement, but I fear that the targets now shared by the Liberals and the Conservatives, as well as the recent decisions of the government with regard to Site C and the Pacific NorthWest LNG proposal, are simply inconsistent with our obligations to that international agreement, to indigenous peoples, and to young Canadians, who will bear the burden of our inaction.


We meet today as the people of Haiti are digging out from the destruction of yet another hurricane, Hurricane Matthew, and millions of Americans are evacuating their homes on the eastern seaboard as the storm approaches. In Florida, a state of emergency has been declared. Families are stocking up on gasoline and bottled water, and shop owners are boarding up their businesses as we speak today.


This is just one storm, but it illustrates a trend Canadians are seeing across our country and around the globe. A changing climate is bringing more extreme weather, more ice and wind storms, more fires, and more floods. The Calgary floods, for example, cost Canadians $6 billion, and only a third of that was covered by insurance, leaving families and governments to pick up the tab. The Fort McMurray fire destroyed 2,400 homes and became the costliest disaster that insurers in Canada have ever seen.


Canadians know that climate change is not coming; it is here. If we do not take aggressive action, the costs are just going to keep climbing. The Liberals' plan to go back to Stephen Harper's plan, Stephen Harper's targets, and Stephen Harper's timeline is deeply disappointing to my community in Victoria and, indeed, to many Canadians who care deeply about the future of our planet.


Five years ago, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy wrote a major report. It forecast that climate change will cost Canadians $5 billion each year by 2020. That is about the cost of the Calgary floods each year.


We owe it to look down the road, not look at the short-term vista only, and to think about what we are doing to our children's and grandchildren's futures. I had the opportunity to meet last night with David Suzuki to talk about the carbon pricing that the Liberals have put on the table, and I can say that he was as deeply disappointed as the people in my riding are with what this plan would actually accomplish.


By the middle of this century, that bill I mentioned that the Round Table report talked about is expected to grow to $20 billion a year and $40 billion in the worst case. That is the equivalent of several Calgary floods and Fort McMurray fires each year. That means more damage from storm surges, particularly in Atlantic Canada, as sea levels rise and as the Greenland ice cap melts. A drop in air quality means more hospital visits in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver. There is not a single member in the chamber who wants to see that happen, so let us talk plainly about what needs to happen next.


To avert catastrophic climate damage, we need to reduce the pollution that we pump into the air each year. The more we cut pollution, the lower the bill for future generations. It is really that simple. That pollution is measured in megatonnes or millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.


In 1990, Canada emitted 613 megatonnes. A Liberal government then signed the Kyoto protocol, promising to reduce emissions by 6% by 2012, but by 2012, our carbon pollution had actually gone up from 613 megatonnes to 710. By 2014, according to Environment Canada, our emissions reached 732 megatonnes, 20% higher than when we signed on to Kyoto.


The fact that pollution keeps going up has never stopped governments from making promises. At another summit, this time in Copenhagen, the last government pledged to reduce Canada's emissions to 611 megatonnes by 2020, effectively bringing them back to where they were in 1990.


Are we on track?


Environment Canada projects that carbon pollution will get worse between now and 2020. According to its data, we will miss our target by 116 million tonnes. Let us not forget that the target, the one chosen by the Conservatives and then xeroxed by the Liberals on the way to Paris, is not nearly enough to save future generations from the enormous costs I spoke of earlier.


The best science shows that a tipping point will be reached if our planet heats up more than 2° above the pre-industrial level. Once we cross that tipping point, the damage to ecosystems and to our economy could be catastrophic and irreversible. That is why article 2 of the Paris accord calls for nations to work together to hold temperature increases to “well below that 2° red line”, and ideally to 1.5°. That is the goal of the Paris agreement and what I stand here to support.


The hard truth is that the targets set by Stephen Harper and now supported by the Liberals will not meet that goal. In fact, they knowingly undermine it. One virtue of the Liberals and Conservatives sharing the same climate goals is that it simplifies the math, because Mr. Harper's targets were already part of the calculation made by the UN Climate Secretariat last year before the Paris accord.


It does not have to be that way. The Americans and the Europeans are on track to meet the Copenhagen targets. They are cutting their pollution. Their economies are not stagnant. The American economy is growing.


We have a choice. Adapting to climate change is the defining challenge of our time. We can buckle underneath it. We can let it slam the brakes on our economy and tear down our infrastructure and damage our health, or we can rise to meet a challenge that will organize and measure the very best of our energies and skills as Canadians. We in the NDP intend to see Canada rise to this challenge. We have always done it before and we will do it again.