Speech Article from  Environment and Climate Change Canada

Remarks for the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change on carbon pricing

October 2, 2016 – Ottawa, Ontario – Environment and Climate Change Canada

Mr. Speaker,

It is a privilege to rise here today to address the Honourable Members—and indeed, all Canadians—about the importance of ratifying the Paris Agreement.

Today, the world is at a turning point as the effects of climate change are already being felt.

We know that 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history—and before that—so was 2014.

Scientists now tell us that 2016 is on track to shatter those records.

We can already see and feel the impacts, from heating oceans, to rapid species extinction, to wildfires that rage longer and harsher than ever before.

The list goes on.

But with this great challenge of our time comes great opportunity.

In Paris—after intense and rigorous discussions—the world finally decided to act.

For the first time in history, almost 200 countries agreed that future generations deserve better.

Mr. Speaker, the story of Paris was an overwhelmingly positive one.

And we can be proud that Canada played a major role.

Our delegation included provincial and territorial premiers, mayors, and Indigenous leaders from across the country, who worked passionately to bring consensus.

In Paris, there was an understanding that by taking action now—by reducing carbon pollution—we will not only stave off the worse effects of climate change, but we will spark innovation and drive growth across our economy.

With this great challenge of our time comes great opportunity.

And now—here at home—Canadians are demanding we honour our commitment in Paris.

Our MPs attended town halls across the country, this summer—from Newfoundland to British Columbia. I can tell you that Canadians are calling for their country to lead.

Thousands took the time to participate in our online consultation and in town-halls in their communities.

We have heard from Canadians, young and old; from businesses and labour organizations; from scientists; environmentalists; and Indigenous peoples.

Canadians know that future generations deserve healthy cities, diverse economic opportunities, and pristine rivers and lakes.

Ultimately, this is the legacy we will leave behind.

And today—by ratifying the Paris Agreement—Canada will become a leader in this new era.

But the path forward will not always be easy as there is much work to do.

We know that years of inaction and indifference—here in Canada and around the world—have undermined our collective ability to protect our planet and our future.

What should interest us now is doing something about it.

That means ending the cycle in which federal governments have set targets without a corresponding plan.

After years of indifference today, we are getting the work done.

During the election last year, our party set forth a comprehensive plan to address climate change, and Canadians voted overwhelmingly in favor. We promised

  • to invest in clean transportation systems;
  • to upgrade our infrastructure, for the 21st century; and
  • to invest in renewable energy.

Then—in our very first budget—we stayed true to our promises. We committed

  • over 60 million dollars for clean transportation;
  • 2 billion dollars to communities to improve their water, infrastructure, and to make buildings more energy efficient; and
  • over a billion dollars to support clean-technology projects.

Canadians wanted change, and we are delivering.

Mr. Speaker, this is all part of our commitment to strengthen Canadian middle-class jobs aided by our 10-year, $120 billion investments in infrastructure.

Integrating climate science into our national model building code will mean new jobs for the building industry.

Investing in infrastructure that supports alternative transportation fuels —like electric-vehicle charging stations and fueling stations for natural gas and hydrogen cars.

These investments will help refurbish and replace old transportation stock that readily emits carbon and create more well-paying jobs

Throughout our history our nation made investments—like the national railway and the Trans-Canada Highway—to improve the quality of life and opportunities for those of us alive today.

Mr. Speaker, we stand upon the shoulders of those who made difficult decisions in the past, and, today, we take one step closer to ensuring that same legacy for future generations.

Canadians expect no less than efficient and effective public transit, to unclog our cities and reduce pollution.

Now, Mr. Speaker, these are not glamorous changes, but I can assure you they are essential.

We must continue to work with governments at every level to develop an infrastructure plan that builds sustainable communities, contributes to a clean economy, and meets the real needs of Canadians.

And tied in with our plans for investment and infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, is our other campaign pledge to price carbon pollution across our country.

Of course, there are cynics who say we shouldn’t try.

They say that if we address climate change, our economy will suffer.

Mr. Speaker, they couldn’t be more wrong.

The truth is our economy suffers when we don’t address climate change.

Earlier, I discussed the wildfires that burn each summer in our country—stoked by changes to our climate.

Last May, red and orange flames swept through the town of Fort McMurray, in Alberta.

And last May, close to 2 400 homes were destroyed by the fires, leaving thousands without a home and without their possessions.

This was not only the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history, it was also the costliest disaster in Canadian history.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimated the cost of the fires could be $3.5 billion.

Experts and insurance companies alike agree that the damage caused by the increased frequency of natural disasters will have a heavy economic toll.

This is a major reason to act, but it is not all doom and gloom.

By pricing carbon pollution, we can also be proactive rather than reactive to the realities of climate change.

Contrary to what the cynics keep saying, it is the business world that is telling us to price carbon.

Just this year, over 20 Canadian companies formed the Carbon Pricing Leadership Council—including Barrick Gold, TELUS, and Suncor—calling for a price on carbon pollution.

Suncor CEO Steve Williams said, “We think climate change is happening,” and “We think a broad-based carbon price is the right answer.”

Cenovus Energy Inc. released a statement saying, “Having a price on carbon is one of the fairest and best ways to stimulate innovation to reduce the emissions associated with oil.”

These companies understand that when we pressure industry—when we put incentives in place—we unleash the market potential of our inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs to innovate and create.

These companies understand that as the world moves towards a low-carbon economy, it is market pressure that will unlock Canadian innovation and allow us to stay competitive in the 21st century.

We will continue to use older forms of energy, but we must take advantage of the staggering opportunities unfolding.

In 2015, there was a major global shift.

Close to a third of a trillion dollars was invested globally in renewable power—almost double the amount invested in fossil fuels.

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, recently said that renewable energy investments represent a future market in the trillions of dollars.

And as he reiterated during another speech in Berlin:

The more we “invest with foresight, the less we will regret in hindsight.”

It is now time to signal investors that Canada will take part in the low-carbon economy.

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State—who represents the largest economy in the world—has said that “the global energy market of the future is poised to be the largest market the world has ever known.”

Mr. Speaker, there is no time for the cynics.

The business case is clear.

Canada must lead. And Mr. Speaker—we are.


Today, the opportunities for Canadians are growing.

Canada is blessed with bountiful resources.

Our forbearers hunted and fished in our forests.

Coal and oil helped thrust our ships across the seas, and propelled our trains from the Canadian Shield to the Pacific Ocean.

Today, this legacy continues and, at the same time, has evolved.

Wind, solar, and geothermal energy sources are plentiful and now course through our electric grid.

Our buildings are becoming more efficient and our transportation cleaner.

And today, education and research in renewables is occurring across the country.

Just this summer, the Edmonton Journal reported that students in Alberta are scrambling to take courses in solar-panel installation, at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

And other courses can’t keep up with demand.

Many of those interested are electricians, and they see renewable energy as a natural progression for their trade.

The same tools and knowledge they use in one sector is transferring fluidly to the renewable-energy sector.

As one of the teachers in the article explained, the students “know this is the future and they are excited.”

Since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power doubled seven times. Wind power doubled four times over the same period.

Here in Canada, Alberta has committed to generating 30 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

In Saskatchewan, the province-owned utility, SaskPower, has committed to 50 percent renewable power by 2030.

And the opportunity of renewable energy extends into our oceans.

In Nova Scotia, the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy is leading Canada’s efforts as a test-centre of tidal-energy technology.

The latest research suggests there are more than 7000 megawatts of potential in Nova Scotia’s Minas Passage alone—with the potential for 50 000 megawatts of energy throughout the Bay of Fundy.

The implementation of these technologies, and the research and know-how to create them, will require well-paying and skilled jobs across our workforce.

Now, we have invested in our future—to upgrade our infrastructure and to install clean technologies—but to advance our goals we must also price carbon pollution.

Mr. Speaker, let me just say, almost 40 countries around the world are pricing carbon.

In the past two years—while carbon emissions remained stagnant—the global economy continued to expand.

Here at home, we have done the same.

Research shows that British Columbia’s carbon tax is working—CO2­­ emissions have been falling—and this while BC enjoyed some of Canada’s strongest economic growth.

Our government has a fair plan: All Canadian jurisdictions must price carbon pollution by the end of 2018, and the price will be set to a national benchmark.

To ensure that the plan will meet our targets, we will review it in five years, in 2022.

We have been equally clear that the choices—a carbon levy or a carbon-trading system—are both fair and flexible.

And provinces that do not have a system are free to choose which one works best for them.

Furthermore, 8 out of every 10 Canadians already lives in a province that prices carbon pollution.

The provinces and territories have been early leaders in addressing climate change.

Heeding the call of businesses and scientists—BC, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec all implemented carbon-pricing measures.

BC and Alberta use a carbon levy and either give money back to citizens through tax reductions or invest in energy-efficient infrastructure and clean technology.

Quebec and Ontario use a carbon-trading system, where emissions are capped and industry must buy and sell credits if they want to emit.

Quebec linked its cap-and-trade system with California, creating a dynamic continental system of cooperation.

And Ontario will join this partnership early next year.

Ultimately, both systems lower carbon pollution.

Now, this next point is essential: Provinces will continue to control their revenues from either system, and they can use them in any form they like.

It is their decision.

We cannot succeed without the help of our provincial and territorial partners. They are integral to this process going forward, and, looking back, they have been invaluable collaborators.

Yesterday, in Montreal, I had the honour of meeting with my provincial counterparts to discuss the path forward.

The meetings were very productive, and I can say confidently that—together—we will move forward and finalize an agreement this December, when the Prime Minister meets with the premiers in Ottawa.

In fact, they have already formed an excellent working relationship, forged through discussions last March, in Vancouver.

There, in rooms that looked upon the rugged Coast Mountains, the First Ministers agreed that transitioning to a sustainable, low-carbon economy is necessary for the collective prosperity of our country.

There, in Vancouver, they agreed that, by taking action against climate change, we can ensure the health and security for future Canadians.

To get the ball rolling, the First Ministers established working groups, including one to develop options for using carbon-pricing mechanisms, in order to help meet Canada’s emission-reduction targets.

Yesterday, we reviewed many of the options, and, in the days and weeks ahead, we will make these reports available to the public.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to let Canadians know that—very soon—we have another opportunity to make major headway in the fight against climate change.

This is a very rare opportunity, and it has nothing to do with carbon.

As many of you already know, carbon dioxide is not the only cause of climate change.

There are other gases—called hydrofluorocarbons—that are thousands of times more powerful drivers of climate change than carbon dioxide.

Today, these pollutants are spilling into our atmosphere in alarming quantities.

Each year, HFC-emitting sources release the carbon-dioxide equivalent that is released by 300 coal-fired power plants.

If left unchecked, HFC’s could account for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

But bold action to phase out HFC’s could bring remarkable results.

In Paris last year, leaders dared to set a goal of limiting global warming to below 2 ˚C.

If we act now and phase out HFC’s, scientists believe we could reduce global warming by 0.5 ˚C.

This single action could have enormous benefits.

And in a week’s time, in Kigali, Rwanda, leaders could come to an agreement.

Now, we should look at this story with hope.

Not all solutions will be this easy, but I encourage leaders to work hard to limit HFC pollution because this truly is the low-hanging fruit.

Mr. Speaker, in Paris, our world was given an important opportunity.

After years of failure to reach a consensus, the world finally came together.

And now, with hard work and collaboration, we have the opportunity to give our children and grandchildren a better life.

I know this—as a mother myself—that I look at my three children, and I wonder what the world will look like for them.

When I am gone, will my children and grandchildren have the opportunities that I was given?

Will they live in thriving cities with well-paying jobs?

Will crops be abundant and will rivers and streams flow with salmon and trout?

Yet, I believe a parent today should look to the future with hope.

The opportunities of the past will transfer to the future, but in different forms.

The digital revolution indelibly altered the way we communicate and conduct business. And the clean-energy revolution will alter everything from transportation and urban design, to the types of jobs we have.

As we heard from our Prime Minister yesterday—and from leaders the world over—an enormous opportunity stands before us.

The low-carbon economy is roaring forward.

In Germany, a major industrial nation, 30 percent of their electricity comes from renewable sources.

Denmark is up to 40 percent, and, on one very windy day during the summer of 2015, 100 percent of Denmark’s energy came from renewable sources.

Hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested globally to spark new technologies and drive new possibilities.

Innovators, engineers, and entrepreneurs are catalyzing the market of tomorrow.

The specter of climate change and the opportunity of clean energy impel us to act to renew our infrastructure, strengthen our transportation networks, and invest in new technologies to spark innovation and opportunity.

As the Prime Minister stated earlier this year at the World Economic Forum: “Our global push toward a low-carbon economy will produce new companies, new growth, and new prosperity.”

Here, today, we can send a strong signal that Canada will be a leader of this new economy.

Here, today, we can make history—and in doing so, give our children and grandchildren the legacy they deserve:

  • a strong and diverse economy;
  • healthy and dynamic communities; and
  • a natural world more beautiful than ever before.

This is our task.

And Mr. Speaker—by ratifying the Paris Agreement—I am confident we will succeed.


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