The Climate Change Bill
Re-introducing the Climate Change Accountability Act, Bill C-311The science is now unequivocal: unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will lead to catastrophe. We face vanishing polar ice caps, drought, rising sea levels, altered agriculture, massive deforestation, species extinctions, virulent diseases, extreme weather events, and economic hardship. Faced with conclusive evidence for years, successive Prime Ministers promised that they would act—but didn’t.
A new level of political commitment is needed to prevent the threat of worsening economic and health effects of climate pollution.
Bill C-311 ensures the government is accountable to Canadians on climate change. The Bill, virtually unchanged from last Parliament when it was introduced by Jack Layton as C-377, passed through the House with support of a majority of Members before reaching the floor of the Senate where it died due to the 2008 election. It was often called the “Kyoto Plus” Bill because it picks up where the Kyoto Protocol leaves off, by regulating the time period after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol period. At the time of its original passage, the House of Commons became the first democratically-elected legislature in the world to pass legislation mandating firm post-Kyoto targets.
The new Climate Change Accountability Act, introduced on Feb 10, 2009 by NDP Deputy Environment Critic Bruce Hyer, sets the same firm medium and long-term targets for greenhouse gas emissions.
Protecting our environment and tackling climate change are critical to maintaining Canada’s tremendous natural and ecological advantages, ensuring highly livable communities, positioning our economy for future prosperity, and being part of the global solution to the environmental and humanitarian threat that is climate change.
Fulfilling Canada’s International Commitments
C-311 achieves deep, science-based reductions of climate pollution in the post-2012 period. The Bill is based on the Case for Deep Reductions report by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation. This bill will ensure that our government can never again shirk its international commitments, through measures like:
- long-term targets – 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 - for the reduction of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions and medium-term target of 25% below 1990 levels by 2020.
- provide authority for the government to make regulations in order to meet these targets and set penalties for those who contravene regulations passed under the Act.
C-311 requires the government to prepare and publish a plan for interim targets for every 5 years starting in 2015, with the first target published within 6 months of the Bill becoming law. It requires the government to make regulations in order to meet those targets.
It mandates regular reviews and reports from an independent outside party (the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy) on the government’s selection of targets and the measures it adopts to reach those targets.
Here's how the logic behind the bill goes:
Temperature Limit: science indicates that we must avoid a 2 degree Celsius increase (from pre-industrial levels) in the earth's temperature in order to avoid catastrophic climate effects.
Concentration Objective: the science indicates that limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees requires stabilizing CO2e at 400 ppm. In order to check temperature increases, we need to stabilize the concentration of CO2-equivalent in the atmosphere (for three-quarters of the last millennium, CO2e has be around 280 ppm, but by 2004 the amount of CO2e in the atmosphere reached a level of 377 ppm)
2050 GHG reduction target: 80% reduction by 2050 for Canada. Industrialized countries must reduce emissions by 85-90% between 1990 and 2050 and Canada's emissions are, on a per capita basis, among the highest in the world.
2020 GHG reduction target: 25% reduction by 2020. This target lies on a straight line between Kyoto 2008-12 target (6% reduction) and 2050 target.
Climate change represents one of the greatest challenges of our time. Since February 2009, Bruce Hyer’s Climate Change Accountability Act is the only legislation Canada’s Parliament is considering that will set real targets on greenhouse gas pollution. Will our government act to stop global warming?
On April 1, 2009 Members of Parliament came together to support Bill C-311. The bill passed second reading, with 141 votes in favour and 128 against.
The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for further debate, which had 60 sitting days to consider it. Bills are often deliberated or amended in committee and passed back to the House for a final vote in a matter of weeks, but may take longer if changes are needed. Fortunately, no party proposed any amendments to C-311. Unfortunately, not all parties cared to see the bill through in a timely manner, and a crucial House of Commons vote on Oct 21, 2009, resulted in a delay of the bill.
Because of the delay, and further delays because of proroguement, the bill did not return to the House of Commons for final consideration until March 3, 2010 - more than a year after it was introduced. And because of a procedural roadblock thrown up by Conservative MPs, it faced another delay and challenge vote on April 14, 2010, which it passed.
A final vote in the House of Commons resulted in a victory for Canadians: on May 5, 2010, 149 opposition MPs representing a large majority of Canadians voted in favour of action on climate change, and 136 against.
C-311 arrived in the Senate on May 6, 2010, where it sat of 193 days without consideration or debate. Conservative Senators were ordered not to debate the bill.
On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, the Conservatives called a surprise Senate vote when many Liberal Senators were absent, and defeated the country’s only federal climate change legislation 43 votes to 32. This is unprecedented in Canadian history because there was no debate or consideration of the bill before Harper’s unelected Senate killed it. It is colossally hypocritical of Harper to use the unelected Senate to kill bills passed by the democratically-elected House, when he has spent most of his political career railing against this tactic. Worse, the defeat of this key bill means that Bruce Hyer and his colleagues will have to start from square 1 and re-introduce it after the next election, resulting a further 2-year delay on climate change action. Nevertheless, it has passed the House twice already (in 2008 and 2010), and New Democrats will introduce and pass climate legislation again, as many times as it takes to pass into law. Our future depends on it.
Please take action today: Send an e-message to all the political parties represented in Parliament. Urge them to pass Bill C-311 as soon as possible. Sign the Clean Air, Clean Energy petition and send your MP the petition.
Write to a Senator - Make sure they will support the Climate Change Accountability Act though the Senate so it can become law - and do so without delay.
Download and Sign the C-311 Petition - For a Clean Air, Clean Energy future.
Thank you to the 150,000+ Canadians that signed the KyotoPlus petition in support of C-311! It was delivered to Stephen Harper on October 23, 2009
Part of an Integrated Environmental Action Plan
The Climate Change Accountability Act is an integral part of any serious action plan to be taken on the environment. But a credible plan must also include:
Cap and Trade System - Big polluters will have to pay if a price is put on carbon through a ‘cap-and-trade’ carbon pricing system, which will implement a market-based price on carbon emissions from Canada’s large industrial emitters, covering over 50% of Canada’s emissions. All revenue will be applied to environmental solutions.
Vehicle Emissions Standards - New motor vehicle consumption standards would be benchmarked against leading jurisdictions so that technological and environmental improvement is being driven at the same rate in Canada as elsewhere.
New Energy Strategy - A crucial part of reducing pollution and fighting global warming must be a strategy for substantial new investments in renewable energy solutions, developed through consultation and a cooperative effort of stakeholders. Measures include: introducing incentives for clean power production, removing bureaucratic barriers to the development, manufacture, and licensing of zero emission vehicles in Canada, supporting rail transport and hybrid public transit, and implementing firm targets for renewable fuels, biomass, wind power and other renewables.
Green Building Retrofit Program - A national retrofit and energy efficiency strategy could create thousands of new jobs and make Canada a world leader in building efficiency skills and technology. There are approximately 12.5 million homes in Canada, along with millions more commercial and institutional buildings. Green Communities, an Environmental Organization involved extensively in residential home audits and retrofits, estimates that home energy efficiency improvements can result in GHG saving of 4 tonnes a year per house.
Rein in New Tar Sands Development - The tar sands are both Canada’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions today and will contribute close to one-half of the projected growth in emissions between 2003 and 2010 for the entire country. It would be responsible to hold off on new tar sands development until carbon emissions are capped; cumulative environmental, social and health impacts are assessed, and protected areas are set aside.
Canada Environment Action Bonds - Introduce Canada Environment Action Bonds, a new government-backed financial instrument that Canadians can purchase to help fight climate change by raising capital for environmentally-friendly infrastructure and renewable energy. This will create a new financial instrument designed to engage the public in fighting climate change and accelerate Canada’s transformation to the new energy economy.
Join Bruce on:
69 N. Court Street
Thunder Bay, ON
(No postage necessary)
Bruce Hyer, MP
House of Commons