OTTAWA – May 5, 2010 --- The country’s only federal climate change bill passed a final vote in the House of Commons Wednesday night with the support of New Democrat, Bloc, and Liberal MPs. The bill was introduced in February 2009 by Thunder Bay – Superior North MP Bruce Hyer as a private member’s bill, and has survived numerous roadblocks and delays before tonight’s successful vote.
"Tonight, Parliamentarians recognized their responsibility to future generations. They took an important first step towards tackling the most urgent challenge of our time." said Hyer. "This is an important victory for all Canadians. Faced with conclusive evidence for years, successive governments promised that they would act on climate change - but didn’t. The Harper government has merely continued that tradition by opposing real action in order to appease big oil interests. A new level of accountability is necessary."
Bill C-311 sets science-based targets in law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, from 1990 levels, by 2050. It requires the Environment Minister to publish 5-year plans to achieve the 2050 target, starting in 2015, and report on progress every two years. It mandates an independent body, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, to review and report on each plan. Finally, C-311 requires interim targets to be in place within 6 months of the bill becoming law.
"It’s a great day for Canada as we finally have a blueprint for greening our future," said New Democrat Leader Jack Layton. "But we wouldn’t have this victory today without the thousands of Canadians who called and wrote to their Members of Parliament, pushing them to finally adopt meaningful climate-change legislation."
"The Climate Change Accountability Act sets firm but achievable targets to reduce greenhouse gas pollution over the next 40 years." Hyer added "It obliges the federal government to finally publish a plan to achieve those targets, and provides oversight to ensure accountability to Canadians. It provides badly-needed leadership that will offer stability to business and pave the way for new industries, new innovation, and new technologies in a more sustainable Canada."
Climate Change Accountability Act
C-311 In a Nutshell: Canada’s only federal climate change bill - Bruce Hyer, MP
The science is now unequivocal: unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will lead to catastrophe. We face vanishing polar ice caps, drought, rising sea levels, altered agriculture, 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 is virtually unchanged from last Parliament when it was introduced as C-377, passed through the House before dying in the Senate due to the 2008 election.
Protecting our environment and tackling climate change are critical to maintaining Canada’s tremendous natural and ecological advantages, ensuring healthy and 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 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 (at most). In order to check temperature increases, we need to stabilize the concentration of CO2-equivalent in the atmosphere (by 2009 we had reached 387 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.