Climate Change InitiativesPublished on 14 December 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Serge Joyal
Hon. Serge Joyal:
Welcome, Madam Minister, to the Senate. I think we cannot underestimate the obstacle and the roadblocks that Canada will have to face in the next four years when we consider the new administration south of the border and the people who will be responsible for environmental policy. Some of them deny the impact of the human role in the degradation of the environment; others want to go back to the exploitation of resources that in Canada we want to get rid of. Your government has announced initiatives with respect to that, and I have applauded those initiatives.
Now we are faced with an administration that will not be the partner of Canada, on the basis of which you have developed, with the present outgoing American administration, initiatives to favour green technology, research and a shared commitment to satisfy the objectives of the COP 21 in Paris and COP 22 in Marrakech. How will you be able, as a government, to maintain the level of development of those green technologies and research if the American administration works totally contrary to that kind of effort? Canada will have to either slow down in its objectives or totally reinvent its approach to the means that it will have to implement to reach those objectives that were shared by a majority of Canadians. I don’t really sense that the government has measured the new challenges that are ahead of us if we really want to maintain and satisfy the objectives that have been agreed to internationally and to which Canada is committed.
Hon. Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P., Minister of Environment and Climate Change: Thank you, honourable senator. That’s a very good question. You need to, obviously, work with any administration. There’s a new administration coming in in the United States. I was in Washington a few weeks ago to talk to different people, Republicans, Democrats and Conservative think tanks. I think we’re going to need to wait and see. We do know that the next administration is committed to clean air and clean water. Those are all areas that we certainly have in common. When it comes to tackling climate change, there are co-benefits when it comes to health.
I think the broader and the very important point to keep in mind is that, when 195 countries, just over a year ago this week, signed on to the Paris agreement, it sent a signal to the markets. It sent a signal to the markets that we’re moving to a cleaner future. We’re moving to a low carbon future. If you want to position yourself well, if you want to create jobs, jobs of today — we have 50,000 jobs in the clean tech sector, the jobs of the future — if you want to create growth and foster innovation, you should be investing in that space.
Just this week, it was great to see that Google, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, many other leading entrepreneurs, announced a $1 billion clean tech fund in the U.S. that is intended to invest in clean technologies that could support developing countries. A group of 350 companies sent a letter to President Obama and President- Elect Trump, asking for continued support for the Paris agreement, for continued action on climate change. Why? First, because I think they care about their children and grandchildren, but, second, because they know business. They see this as a business opportunity.
At the end of the day, we need to do what we believe is right for Canada and for Canadians, being mindful of competitiveness, but this is the opportunity. That is why you saw, on the stage with the Prime Minister, every province and every territory and the three national indigenous organizations, saying, “We believe climate change is real. We know we need to act, and we’re going to act together, providing flexibility for provinces to determine systems and actions that make sense for them but moving forward.” I’m certainly very committed to that.
I will continue to work with the next administration, of course. I will work closely with other countries like China, where China is absolutely committed on climate change. When I was there last week with my friend the Chinese climate negotiator, he said, “We are only moving forward.” They are investing trillions of dollars. The former Governor of the Bank of Canada has called China a $30 trillion opportunity. Canada does not want to miss out on that. It’s also the right thing to do for our kids.
Some Hon. Senators: hear, hear!