Speech Article from
Remarks for the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change at the Canadian Climate Forum
October 20, 2016 – Ottawa, Ontario – Environment and Climate Change Canada
Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon, everyone. It is an honour to be here today. Thank you for your warm welcome.
First though, I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
And now, from supporting research that studies severe drought, to atmospheric changes, to the impact of Arctic storms—the Canadian Climate Forum has been important to the research of climate change in Canada and around the world.
Consistently, the Canadian Climate Forum has been a leader in the fight against climate change.
And make no mistake—leadership is what we need.
As we join here today, the effects of climate change can already be seen—seared onto the landscape of our country.
- In the Atlantic provinces, coastal erosion is a very real and significant challenge. Prince Edward Island is literally shrinking: it lost 46 centimetres of coastline in 2014 alone. By 2100, the sea level in Atlantic Canada could rise by up to one metre, and the impacts would be devastating to coastal communities.
- In the Boreal Forest, wildfires rage longer and harsher than ever before. Last May, close to 2400 homes were destroyed by fire in Fort McMurray, leaving thousands of people without shelter and without their possessions.
- And in the Arctic, Indigenous peoples can no longer predict the weather as their ancestors once did. Natan Obed—President of ITK—describes how, each year, Inuit hunters are dying after falling through the ice, which is now thinner than ever before.
It is clear, the impacts of climate change are real, and they are framing the problems of the 21st century.
That is why—together—Canada is taking action. By addressing the problem in a purposeful and practical way, we have the opportunity to create a better world for future generations.
As I have said before—this challenge also brings great opportunity.
Today, economies are shifting towards cleaner, more sustainable growth. And Canada must do the same.
Across our country, we need to renew our infrastructure, strengthen our transportation networks, and invest in new technologies to spark innovation and entrepreneurship.
This will send a strong signal, to the markets, that Canada will lead during the clean-energy century.
Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, puts it perfectly when he says, “The more we invest with foresight, the less we will regret in hindsight.”
In Canada, the more we invest with foresight, the greater our economic opportunity. Mr. Carney believes that the clean-energy economy represents a future market in the trillions of dollars.
And Canadians want us to take action. They told us so this summer, when MPs attended town halls across the country, from Newfoundland to British Columbia.
Thousands also 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; from environmentalists; and from Indigenous peoples.
Canadians want cleaner transportation.
Over the next 25 years, electric vehicles will become a key mode of transportation—making our cities healthier and less polluted.
Forecasts tell us electric vehicles will make up 25 percent of the global car fleet, by 2040, and the cost of car batteries will decline steadily thanks to technology development, economies of scale, and manufacturing experience.
In Canada, we must accelerate the adoption of EVs in our cities—by creating networks of charging stations and supporting new infrastructure.
I recently visited a factory in Winnipeg that makes electric buses. They are incredible. They run smoothly and quietly and with zero emissions. And the company—called New Flyer—is creating good middle-class jobs. Today, we can find electric buses and electric cars humming across the country, and this will continue.
If there are cynics who still doubt this, just remember, the former chairman of IBM in 1943—Thomas Watson—once said this about the personal computer:
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” he said.
Of course, he couldn’t have been more wrong.
Today, Canadians also want more energy-efficient buildings.
And there is a lot we can do on this front. We can update codes for new buildings to make them more energy efficient. And we can also retrofit our homes and buildings, which saves Canadians money on their heating bills.
Construction is a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada. When we make our infrastructure more energy efficient, we also create more jobs.
In Canada, every dollar spent on energy-efficiency programs generates between $4 and $8 of GDP.
Last week, I was in Edmonton and visited a manufacturing facility that makes net-zero homes, and where these jobs are being created.
The company—Landmark Homes—employs over 300 people, uses energy efficient materials, and puts solar-panel roofs on their houses. I met a family who lives in one of these homes. Instead of paying hydro bills, they earn revenue from selling electricity.
These are the homes of tomorrow, and I know that the construction of green buildings will help reduce our carbon emissions and create good-paying jobs across the country.
Now, Canadians are also calling for cleaner energy.
A recent poll showed that 82 percent of Canadians want our government to enable the provinces to use more renewable electricity.
And this is already where we are moving. 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.
Since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power doubled seven times. Wind power doubled four times over the same period.
The opportunities for Canada’s electricity industry alone are tremendous. We have seen wind- and solar-powered electricity grow by five times between 2006 and 2014.
And, as we phase out coal-fired generation, we expect this trend to continue.
In many respects, Canada has a head start.
We are already seeing major foreign investments and partnerships in clean-energy technologies. The rate of growth in Canada’s clean-energy sector is outpacing that of every other.
In just the last 5 years, more than CAN$45 billion has gone into building new renewable-energy projects across the country.
And global demand for clean technology is on the rise. Canada is home to more than 750 clean-technology companies. We have a rapidly growing export industry. And we perform cutting-edge research and development. We need to get a greater share of the global clean-tech market.
In fact, I just met with clean-tech innovators this morning. And we talked about how the government can better support them by reducing barriers and promoting their clean solutions at home and abroad.
Companies, like Toronto-based SkyPower Global, continue to produce more and more megawatts through solar power. Operating in over 30 countries, the company has projects planned, which could potentially power tens of millions of homes*.
And in Canada’s remote areas, communities are also transitioning towards renewable energy and away from burning diesel for electricity.
On the northern reaches of Great Slave Lake, a Dene First Nation installed 144 solar panels, producing electricity they now sell back to the utility. It is estimated their solar PV system will displace up to 11 000 liters of diesel fuel annually.
Now, it is true cleaner and more efficient technology will help reduce carbon pollution. But it is absolutely clear that to further reduce our emission, further policies are needed.
So in the same week we ratified the Paris Agreement—a historic understanding between 197 countries around the world—our government also set out a plan to price carbon pollution across the country.
Here are the details: We will set a benchmark price for carbon pollution, which will help reach our emissions targets and will also provide certainty to markets and Canadian businesses.
The price on carbon pollution should start at a minimum of $10 per tonne in 2018, rising by $10 each year to $50 per tonne in 2022.
And by the end of 2018, all Canadian jurisdictions will have a price on carbon in place.
The plan is flexible, as the provinces and territories can choose how they want to price carbon pollution. They can either put a direct price on it, through a levy, or they can implement a cap-and-trade system.
This next point is very important: The provinces will keep any revenues that are generated. And they can use them in whatever way makes most sense for them.
They can invest in renewable-energy projects, like wind and solar, or in transit infrastructure and energy-efficient buildings. Or they can give the money back to their residents, through tax cuts to the middle class and for small businesses.
The provinces have already shown bold leadership, and today, 80 percent of Canadians live in a province that prices carbon pollution.
And now, businesses are also showing strong support.
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 “A broad-based carbon price is the right answer.”
And 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 by pricing carbon we send a market signal, and we unleash the potential of our inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs to innovate and create clean solutions and good jobs.
This is another example of how the environment and the economy go together.
The Paris Agreement gave us an incredible opportunity.
After years of failure to reach a consensus, the world finally came together to reduce carbon pollution.
Then—for the first time history—the federal government joined all 13 provinces and territories to tackle climate change, forming the Vancouver Declaration.
This declaration not only created a strong foundation for a low-carbon economy in Canada, but it also emphasized the need for dialogue and collaboration with Indigenous groups. And this is crucial as many Indigenous peoples face unique realities in confronting climate change.
Now, Canada is taking action with our plan to price carbon and, in doing so, is sending a clear signal to industry and investors that we are moving to a low-carbon future.
Many are calling the energy transition the clean-energy revolution. And much like the digital revolution—which forever altered the way we communicate and conduct business—the clean-energy revolution will alter everything from transportation, to our built environment, to the types of jobs we have.
Hundreds of billions of dollars are being invested globally to spark new technologies and drive new possibilities.
And Canada will be a leader in this new economy.
As a mother myself, when I look at my three children, I wonder what the world will look like for them in the future. And like every parent, I want them to have a sustainable planet and good jobs.
I do know that if we work hard and make the right the decisions, we will give our children and grandchildren a better life.
If we continue to make progress and work together, future generations will live in a country with a strong, diverse, and clean economy; healthy and dynamic communities; and mountains and lakes that are pristine.
Today, change is happening. And I am confident we will succeed.
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