IN THE HOUSE | Speech on NDP Motion on declaring an environment and climate emergency

Published: May 15, 2019
Categorised in: Energy & Natural Resources, In the House

42nd Parliament, 1st Session

The following motion was be debated in the House on Wednesday, May 15, 2019:
Mr. Singh (Burnaby South):
That the House call on the Prime Minister and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to declare an environment and climate emergency following the finding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and urge the government to bring forward a climate action strategy that:
a) prioritizes reconciliation with Indigenous peoples;
b) invests in a transition that leaves no workers or communities behind;
c) increases the ambition of its 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets to avoid a more than 1.5°C rise in global warming, as recommended by the IPCC report;
d) includes robust rules for implementing the Paris Agreement;
e) prescribes transparency and accountability mechanisms to address climate change;
f) does not proceed with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project;
g) immediately eliminates all federal fossil fuel subsidies, including through Export Development Canada funding; and
h) integrates human health into Canada’s climate commitments.

Peter’s speech:
Mr. Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby, NDP): Mr. Speaker, if anyone thought that there was no reason to adopt the motion that the NDP is presenting today and that the NDP leader has just spoken to so eloquently, that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change declare an environment and climate emergency, if anyone thought that somehow that should not be a priority, they should talk to the many flood victims that we have seen in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, just over the course of the last few weeks.

I visited the Ottawa River last night and like so many of us, I was appalled by the extent of the damage that we have seen. When we look across communities, and that is communities in all three provinces, what we see is devastation and heartbreak. Families are coming back to homes where all of their possessions, all of their memories, everything that they have invested have simply disappeared under the waters and can never be reclaimed.

If anyone in the House thought that we do not need to declare a climate emergency, they should visit the families of the victims of last summer’s catastrophic heat waves. Dozens of people in Quebec, in Montreal particularly, died of heat stroke over the course of that devastating period as record temperatures and poverty for so many of the victims, as the Quebec coroner has pointed out, people who are living in homes without access to air conditioning or without access to fans, passed away in that terrible heat wave. Dozens of people died. Anyone questioning the importance of the climate emergency should speak to the families of those victims.

From personal experience, I can say that anyone who comes out to the west coast can see the impacts of the climate change emergency that we are living through just through the course of the devastating forest fires that have already started. My colleague from Courtenay—Alberni, who spoke in the House during question period, raised the fact that for the first time ever in the month of May, more than a dozen out of control forest fires are burning our forests in British Columbia.

Over the last three years in the Lower Mainland, the month of August has meant unbreathable air. The month of August has meant the sun literally disappeared under the heavy weight of clouds as the forests all around us burn. Anyone who thinks for just a moment that we are not living through a climate emergency, let alone the devastating typhoons, cyclones and hurricanes that we are seeing, categories that did not even exist a decade ago, now exist and are carrying devastation throughout coastal areas. We see the rise of sea levels and the fact that some countries are now planning that they will no longer exist because they are at low levels like the Maltese in the Indian Ocean.

We do not need to look at the international examples to understand how vividly climate change is transforming our planet. As Bill Nye said this week in his social media post that has been seen worldwide, “the planet is literally burning”. The question is, as members of Parliament, what do we do? We have a motion before us that talks about concrete action. We know from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the Paris Agreement is nowhere near enough now.

As the leader of the NDP just mentioned a few moments ago, the Liberal government’s current approach on climate change means even those targets that no longer are adequate will not be reached for 200 years. We went backward last year. There are 12 million new tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions put into the atmosphere under the government. We do not have the luxury of delay. We see the impacts on the ground and the IPCC has made it very clear that we need to take action.

Tragically, and that is why in the motion it speaks very clearly to fossil fuel subsidies, as Oil Change International has pointed out, over the last five years under the former Conservative government and the current Liberal government, we have seen oil and gas subsidies largely through the EDC, of an unbelievable $62 billion in subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

These are scant resources devoted to renewable energy, and yet the climate burns and Canada fails in any way to meet its obligation.

(translation in progress) J’accuse l’ancien gouvernement conservateur qui a donné toute la priorité aux oléoducs. Il a tenté la construction d’ Énergie Est, de Trans Mountain, de Keystone. Il voulait mettre des oléoducs partout, plutôt que de mettre l’argent dans les énergies renouvelables, là où sont les emplois de l’avenir.

J’accuse l’ancien gouvernement, mais j’accuse aussi le gouvernement actuel qui est prêt à donner 12 millions de dollars à Loblaws, qui est prêt à pousser l’oléoduc Trans Mountain, même si les gens de la Colombie-Britannique ne le veulent pas, même si cela va augmenter de façon considérable les émissions de gaz à effet de serre qui provoquent cette douleur de notre planète.

J’accuse donc ces gouvernements. Les victimes de tout ce dont je viens de parler, les inondations record qu’on voit au Nouveau-Brunswick, au Québec, en Ontario, la canicule de l’été passé qui a tué plus d’une soixantaine de Québécois et de Québécoises, sont surtout des jeunes pauvres, surtout des jeunes handicapés, surtout des jeunes qui n’ont pas le moyen de trouver un endroit convenable.

J’accuse aussi ces deux gouvernements pour avoir refusé de mettre en place un plan d’action. En Colombie-Britannique, nous voyons, chaque été, des feux de forêt qui obscurcissent le soleil et qui font en sorte qu’on ne peut plus respirer l’air là-bas.

What is most important is that in this tragedy, this unrolling catastrophe so many Canadians are now living through, there is so much opportunity. If we have a government that is willing to show leadership and members of Parliament adopting the NDP plan in the next few days, we will see action that will allow us to literally create millions of jobs in this country.

I give that figure because the Canadian building trades have evaluated what an action plan on climate change would mean for the Canadian economy. Currently, it is costing us $5 billion a year, which is rising incrementally. It will cost us up to $40 billion to $50 billion a year in just a few decades.

However, if we make the investments, the building trades have said that we could create up to four million jobs over the next 30 years in this country. Imagine a young generation of workers who could go to work in the building trades building renewable energy, regional and municipal heat plants and all the infrastructure needed to address this climate crisis.

It is not just reducing subsidies to oil and gas, it is making the investments. As I mentioned, $62 billion in the oil and gas sector has not created the jobs that $62 billion in renewable energy would have created. These are the kinds of investments that will make such a difference.

There is a dream behind this that most Canadians share, the Canadians who have suffered through the increasing number of climactic climate change events. Their dream is for parliamentarians to vote yes on this motion. Their dream is that we will have a government that will take action and remove the fossil fuel subsidies, invest in renewable energy and show the transparency that is so important for us to battle back and beat climate change.

Our dream is very simple. It is a springtime where we are not hearing about communities devastated by record levels of floods due to climate change and summers where people can walk outside and breathe the air in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, like I remember when I was kid. We have not seen that over the last few years, but when I was a kid, August was a wonderful time where one could breathe in the sea air and see the sun and the mountains. That no longer happens because we have not taken action.

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