THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
OTTAWA, Thursday, June 10, 2021
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met by videoconference this day at 9 a.m. [ET] to examine the subject matter of Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.
Senator Paul J. Massicotte (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning. My name is Paul Massicotte, and I am a senator from Quebec and the chair of the committee. Today, we are conducting a virtual meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. Before we begin, I’d like to remind senators and witnesses to please keep your microphones muted at all times, unless recognized by name by the chair. I will ask senators to use the “raise hand” feature in order to be recognized. I will do my best to get everyone who wants to ask a question to witnesses, and in order to do so, I ask senators to try and keep their questions, and preambles, brief. We will allow six minutes per senator for questions and answers. The clerk will signal her hand on the screen when the time is up. Should any technical challenges arise, particularly in relation to interpretation, please signal this to the chair or the clerk and we will work to resolve the issue.
I would now like to introduce the members of the committee who are participating in this meeting: Margaret Dawn Anderson from the Northwest Territories; Claude Carignan from Quebec; Brent Cotter from Saskatchewan; Rosa Galvez from Quebec; Mary Jane McCallum from Manitoba; Julie Miville-Dechêne from Quebec; Dennis Glen Patterson from Nunavut; David Richards from New Brunswick; Paula Simons from Alberta; Josée Verner from Quebec; and David M. Wells from Newfoundland and Labrador. I wish to welcome all of you and all the viewers across the country who may be watching.
Today, we are continuing our pre-study of Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.
This morning, for our first panel, we welcome: Dr. Aaron Henry, Senior Director, Natural Resources and Sustainable Growth, Canadian Chamber of Commerce; Corinne Le Quéré, Professor, Climate Change Science, University of East Anglia, as an individual; and David Wright, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary, as an individual.
Welcome and thank you for being with us today. I would like to remind you that you have five minutes each for your opening remarks. We will have questions for you afterwards. Mr. Henry, you now have the floor.
Aaron Henry, Senior Director, Natural Resources and Sustainable Growth, Canadian Chamber of Commerce: Hello and good morning to the chair and honourable committee members. It’s a pleasure to appear before you today to share comments on Bill C-12, An Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Thank you for the invitation.
I’ll get right into it. In principle, the Canadian Chamber is supportive of Bill C-12, though we believe some of the details of this proposed legislation and its mechanisms of execution need greater clarity and improvement before they can enjoy the confidence of Canada’s business community.
Before getting into that, I would like to start with some of the potential value that we do see in Bill C-12. Particularly, if developed well and in consultation with Canada’s business community, the bill could lend to greater policy certainty in Canada and the creation of mutual trust among government, business and Canadians in the pursuit of our efforts to decarbonize.
As has been noted, we have a history of setting climate goals and failing them. Not only does this undermine our efforts to meaningfully contribute to global efforts to combat climate change, it also creates the risk of radical swings in Canada’s policy environment as successive governments introduce new measures and more stringent regulations to close ground on lapsed targets.
In our view, achieving net zero will require tremendous capital investment, in the magnitude of $1 trillion to $2 trillion globally each year from now until 2050. For Canada to earn its share of this investment capital, we will desperately need to increase energy capacity and decarbonize, as well as generate new energy capacity. That is going to require a predictable policy environment and one that is protected from political risk.
If properly designed, Bill C-12 could create the transparency, accountability and stability to avoid rapid policy swings. However, while the chamber recognizes the legislation could play this role, we believe it requires some improvements to meaningfully fulfill it.
First, climate change is a challenge that has many different dimensions, and how we approach net zero will have consequences that go beyond simply reducing emissions. Our approach to net zero will carry implications for social inclusion and determine Canada’s economic prosperity and opportunities for Canadian workers. In short, not all pathways to net zero are created equal. Some pathways will require higher trade-offs than others. Some of them will achieve the desired environmental outcomes but at the unnecessary expense of other social and economic factors.
For this reason, the Canadian Chamber advises that the legislation be amended so that rather than it being the sole discretion of any minister to approve a five-year plan, that the decision be shared amongst cabinet as a Governor-in-Council decision. We propose this change simply because there are many different dimensions and it will require the expertise and consideration of other departments.
In addition to this, there are a few mechanisms described in this legislation to ensure that the economic opportunities and consequences attendant to our pathway choices are given full consideration. We think two things need to be done to rectify this. There needs to be a clear economic lens built into the legislation. This lens should set the parameters to ensure that sectoral strategies developed by the proposed advisory board consider economic competitiveness, job creation and international opportunities for emission reductions, as well as potential export advantages in commodities and clean technologies that Canada can leverage.
Second, developing decarbonization plans for multiple economic sectors over multiple years is a high task set for the advisory board of 15 people. The challenge becomes greater in the absence on the advisory board of industry expertise and representation. It is our recommendation that the legislation be amended to ensure that industry stakeholders, the stakeholders that are closest to the technological and business opportunities to lower emissions for their sector, are given a clear and formal role in developing sectoral decarbonization challenges. This would increase confidence in the legislation.
Last, how Bill C-12 will interact with climate plans and regulations of provinces and territories is unclear. The legislation should be amended to ensure that the targets set by provinces are integrated into the federal five-year plans. This will be critical to avoid regulatory duplication, ensure certainty around which technologies are eligible for offset creation and meet the test of additionality. In short, strong cooperation with the provinces is important to ensure companies are not subject to duplicative regulations or uncertainty in new business models they may be incented to pursue.
Thank you for the opportunity for these opening remarks, and I look forward to discussing the bill in greater detail with all of you.
Corinne Le Quéré, Professor, Climate Change Science, University of East Anglia, as an individual: Good morning. Thank you for hearing me today. I have worked the past several years to advise governments on climate legislation, as a member of the Climate Change Committee in the United Kingdom and as Chair of the High council on Climate in France. I am here to share this international expertise today.
Contrary to now many other countries, the governance of climate actions in Canada has not worked in the past. Bill C-12 needs to guarantee that current climate objectives will be met. Canada’s greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions increased almost 20% between 1990 and 2019. As part of the G7 taking place this coming weekend, Canada is the only country whose emissions did not decrease during the past decade 2010-2019, so that emissions in 2019 were the same level as emissions in 2005. In 2020, the decrease in emissions due to COVID-19 confinement measures is temporary because nothing has changed: we still have the same infrastructure; we just use it less. Emissions are going back up around the world and the situation is extremely serious.
Canada’s objective of decreasing emissions by 40% to 45% in 2030 below 2005 levels therefore means that Canada essentially needs to achieve those cuts in an eight-year period. That means that Bill C-12 needs to be as strong and clear as it possibly can to trigger immediate action by government and immediate response by the whole of society. Experience of the past 15 years shows that many countries have successfully implemented sustained cuts in emissions, and we can learn from the laws in place elsewhere. A comparison of Bill C-12 with equivalent bills in the UK and in France shows two main ways Bill C-12 could be considerably strengthened: first, by injecting a sense of urgency and clear signals; and, second, by strengthening the independence of the advice received by government.
On the first point, Bill C-12 has little sense of urgency and misses out on the clarity of signals that are needed to guide private investments. The objectives and pace of governance is too slow. This could be rectified by reporting on progress every year to maintain a clear and up-to-date picture of progress or lack thereof; setting a milestone target for 2025 or 2026; determining milestones at least 10 years in advance, or even more, so the private sector knows long ahead what is the direction of travel; and facing milestone levels on the advice of the advisory group.
On the second point, expert, independent, evidence-based advice is critical. It should take into account global climate constraints as well as national circumstances, such as the fact that Canada is a federation, and the fuel mix, can and will be an ally in the implementation of actions by government and Parliament. This point could also be considerably strengthened by Bill C-12 by mandating the members of the advisory body based on expertise, not on representation, and providing sufficient and protected resources to support the work of the commissioner and the advisory body.
Canada has made a great step forward with its new climate targets for 2030 and its net-zero objective for 2050. But its poor track record on delivering on its climate objectives is very visible and has substantially damaged Canada’s international reputation. Bill C-12 and the implementation of climate actions that it will trigger are an opportunity to rectify matters.
The Chair: Thank you.
David Wright, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary, as an individual: Good morning, members of the committee. My name is David Wright, and I’m an assistant professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary. Thanks for the invitation to speak today bright and early Mountain time. I have a lot of respect for the difficult and important work you are engaged in here, especially during this pandemic where nothing is easy.
By way of background, my research focuses on environmental law and natural resources law, with an emphasis on climate change. I’m a professor but also a lawyer, having been called to the bars of Nova Scotia, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, and I’ve been engaged in climate law policy for about 15 years or so.
One of my previous roles was also with the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development for five years, from 2011 to 2016, so I note with interest the revived role of the commissioner set out in Bill C-12.
Turning to Bill C-12, let me begin by saying that, in my view, the bill represents a significant step forward in Canadian climate law and policy. It provides a much-needed basis for enhanced coherence across Canadian climate law and policy. It also stands to provide stability and certainty in a context where Canada’s political system is poorly suited to address the long-term time horizons of climate change. While the expectations are high and many would like to see changes to the bill, I think it’s getting reasonably close to the mark, particularly given the amendments that appear to be emerging from the clause-by-clause review.
Turning to specifics, in my brief opening comments I will focus on three points: federal-provincial jurisdiction, justiciability and the role of the commissioner.
With respect to jurisdiction, it’s no surprise to members of this committee that silence in Canada’s Constitution with respect to environmental matters, including climate change, has resulted in overlapping jurisdiction between federal and provincial governments. The federal government does have ample jurisdiction to address climate change and presently exercises that through infrastructure spending, direct regulation and, as recently clarified by the Supreme Court of Canada, carbon pricing. The federal government also occupies a unique role, a unique vantage point with an ability to coordinate and communicate across jurisdictions in the federation.
However, as noted by the minister in his opening remarks yesterday, the federal government cannot impose a top-down decarbonization agenda — cannot, for example, compel provinces to take on specific emission reduction targets. As such, a federal climate change accountability statute like this can really only go so far in terms of detailing what the entire federation can do.
It’s clear that Bill C-12 was drafted carefully with a view to these jurisdictional constraints. Many of the operative provisions are focused entirely on federal measures, for example, in clauses 10, 14 and 15. Having said that, Bill C-12 can be strengthened and improved in articulating how actions of provinces and territories factor into this regime, and a few of what seems to be emerging changes from clause by clause are steps in the right direction. We can discuss details in Q and A, but overall my suggestion is for there to be clear, detailed requirements to include information on the expected emission reduction measures and contributions from provinces and territories in clauses 10, 14 and 15.
To be clear, none of these suggested changes would impose any obligation on the provinces. There’s certainly no jurisdictional constraints or constitutional barriers to the federal government including this information in its plans and reports. I would note, however, that these changes would not fully address the elephant in the room, which is clear, formalized emission-reduction commitments from all provinces and territories. We can discuss that challenge in Q and A.
Moving to justiciability, the key question here really is the extent to which Bill C-12 includes or invites accountability through judicial scrutiny in addition to the political and public accountability woven into the proposed regime. In short, there’s some unpredictability on this front given the nature of this bill. The key question for this committee and those engaged in revising the bill is the extent to which such unpredictability ought to be managed and the extent to which it can be managed. Here’s what I mean by that. It’s fairly simple to clear this up by including an explicit provision that provides for judicial review and remedies with respect to obligations set out under the act. I understand that several submissions have proposed that type of change. It’s a relatively straightforward one, and I would recommend it. It would provide a statutory basis, for example, for a judicial review of a failure to set requisite milestone targets and failure to establish a detailed plan to meet emission-reduction targets. It would establish a statutory basis for work to order a minister to establish such complaint plans. That would virtually eliminate the justiciability concerns you’ve been hearing about. From there, things get to relatively complicated alternatives, which is amending specific provisions to reduce the basis for a court to find an act not justiciable. We can go into details in the Q and A, but the upshot is that the duties in the bill need to be set out in clear, mandatory language that provides courts objective, legal criteria to be applied.
With my final remaining seconds, I will touch on the role of the commissioner. In my view, overall, the revival of that independent, oversight role is a welcome feature of Bill C-12. The office of the commissioner is a strong, credible, high-capacity office that can add value and contribute to the proposed transparency and accountability regime. One detailed suggestion I have is to revise clause 24(1) to require a commissioner’s report at least twice every five years instead of the current once every five years.
In conclusion, the proposed regime is an important, laudable step in the right direction that will improve coherence across the Canadian climate law and policy. Changes from clause-by-clause review seem to be improvements and steps in the right direction. However, a federal statute of this kind is bound not to live up to some expectations no matter what final form it takes, but it stands to act as an important stabilizing device against shifting political winds in the years and decades to come. Thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: Good morning and thanks to all the witnesses for being here today. I can only say that there’s a major contrast between the presentation by Mr. Henry from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and that of Ms. Le Quéré on the composition of the advisory board. I’d like to hear both witnesses on that point.
First of all, Ms. Le Quéré, what do you think about the idea of including industry in this advisory committee and of adding economic criteria?
For Mr. Henry, I’d also like to understand why industry might want a slower pace. Given that Canada is already lagging so far behind on its targets, is it really a good idea to have industry exercise an influence on the committee, which is supposed to be a body of scientific experts?
Ms. Le Quéré: Thank you. What’s important for the advisory committee, at least in my experience, is that its members be independent and have appropriate expertise on all climate issues. However, the definition of expertise is very broad because we live in the real world, and that expertise must also extend to the obstacles facing the actors operating in that real world. It isn’t essential that they be academic actors. On the contrary, you can have experts with very broad backgrounds, including industry. However, if those experts sit on the advisory committee, they must do so as experts, not as representatives. Consequently, when the issues raised result in potential conflicts of interest with their spheres of activity, they must recuse themselves from making recommendations and decisions.
If they have expertise in many fields, they may not be appropriate candidates, but it isn’t a problem for them to sit as industry experts. The key is to avoid conflicts of interest.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: Are there any industry people in England and France?
Ms. Le Quéré: Yes, especially in England. Of the eight members, one comes from the biomass energy industry and doesn’t work on biomass energy issues but does on sustainability issues. In the United Kingdom, we have people who come from committees of representatives, not of any industry in particular, but of organizations that support industries.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: Thank you.
The Chair: Mr. Henry, did you wish to speak?
Mr. Henry: Thank you for your questions, senator.
I think that there are a few aspects to the question. First, does Canadian industry want to go slower? I’d like to push back quite firmly on that. I don’t think Canadian industry wants to go slower. I think Canadian industry is looking for predictability and certainty. Increasingly, there’s a lot of strong corporate stewardship among Canadian businesses.
The other aspect I think we need to be cognizant of is that the pace of being able to decarbonize is important. It is being increasingly dictated by financial markets. If we’re not able to position Canadian industry and we are not able to create clear policy and policy signals, then I think we’re putting them at risk of exactly what I alluded to in my opening, which is that we might find ourselves shut out from that capital that will be absolutely crucial in building the capacity as well as developing and deploying the technologies for decarbonization.
I respect and understand the point as far as conflict of interest goes, but I would suggest that I’m not sure if we’ve raised that issue with other members of the council or advisory board, and we have not put in their expertise and the amount of focus that has to do with their own position. Many members of the advisory board are currently from environmental organizations and communities.
Our point here to have industry representation is not to have conflict of interest or to steer the advisory board in a particular direction. The point is simply this: If you do not have that expertise that is able to say what is feasible, what is possible and what is the best way for Canada to make the most of its existing assets, we’re going to be stuck at 100,000 feet when it comes to the analysis. We need to be getting down to 20,000 feet so we can actually create granular policy that reflects the needs of industry.
Senator Galvez: I have the same question for Ms. Le Quéré and for David Wright. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, a lobby group that represents the upstream oil and gas industry in Canada, proposes that the bill be amended to include economic targets. To your knowledge, does the U.K.’s, France’s or any other country’s climate accountability legislation provide for the setting of economic targets, and can you tell me briefly what you think about this proposal? Thank you.
Ms. Le Quéré: Economic considerations, yes, but not economic targets. It is recognized in the U.K. and in France that there will be a cost to tackling climate change, and the role of the advisory committees in these two countries is to do the job at the lowest possible cost and to distribute the costs fairly. The advice is not blind to the economy, but it is made with the objective of reducing the emissions in the most efficient way, considering the capacity of the economy in general to absorb, but with the priority given to the instrument that would work best.
Mr. Wright: Thank you for the question. I don’t have a whole lot to add. I would defer to the previous answer on the international context. One word of caution I would offer is that the more you try to pack into what’s required in the plan and reports, the higher the risk is that the court will not want to look at it. You want clear, crisp, mandatory language that moves away from value-laden provisions in the act.
Senator Simons: As I know Professor Wright can attest, yesterday was a watershed moment in Alberta. Yesterday, Premier Jason Kenney and TransCanada pipeline officially announced that they were ceasing all plans for the Keystone XL pipeline, which means a loss to Alberta taxpayers of about $1.3 billion minimum. On the same day, Premier Kenney, Minister Champagne and Minister O’Regan signed a memorandum of understanding with a company called Air Products to build a $1.3 billion blue hydrogen plant in Edmonton. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that the $1.3 billion loss and $1.3 billion investment are precisely the same number, but I think it was a powerful symbol of change in economic direction.
My question is for Mr. Henry. That kind of investment decision, to build a $1.3 billion hydrogen plant, is predicated on the understanding that this is the direction in which our governments wish to go and that there will be enough economic certainty to justify a $1.3 billion investment in new tech like blue hydrogen. Can you tell me if you think that Bill C-12 provides enough clarity, enough assurance and enough of a guarantee for investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to think we are shifting to a new economic paradigm? Does this give you enough assurance that this is the way money is going to go?
Mr. Henry: Senator, thank you so much for the question. It’s a good question, and the answer is complicated.
I would echo the comments of the other panellists. I think this is a good step in ensuring transparency, but the way this bill is constructed, I’m not sure if it provides the policy certainty the rest of the investment community will be looking for at this point. A lot of this will come down to how the sectoral decarbonization strategies are defined, how they’re understood and the extent to which they are able to align with federal policy.
The investment in hydrogen is a good example, because there are a number of pieces that need to come together. A lot of investors are looking for some stability in terms of the incremental increase of carbon pricing, but there won’t be a radical shift in that regime. In addition, although there are opportunities for green hydrogen, much of Canada’s capacity rests on blue hydrogen, which means there has to be some sort of large-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage. The certainty on that will come down to whether there are offset creation opportunities, whether there is certainty around the carbon prices and whether current federal measures to incentivize that technology will remain in play.
Part of the challenge with this bill, although it’s an important step forward and important for accountability, is that we are still dealing with a basket of technologies, some nascent, that will need to be developed to actually meet the targets. That’s where there are still broader concerns regarding investor confidence that will need to be attended to.
Senator McCallum: Thank you to the presenters for their presentations and for joining us today.
I want to ask Mr. David Wright to speak more about the elephant in the room and the challenge of getting provinces on board. What is the role that you see Indigenous peoples playing? Many times they get caught up in interjurisdictional issues. Thank you.
Mr. Wright: On the federal-provincial-territorial side of things, again, the act can only go so far, but it could go further than it does at present by requiring more detail on the provinces’ and territories’ contributions, the measures they will take and how that feeds into the bigger picture. Without that and without prescriptive provisions in the act, there is a chance that the plan and the required reports will have this blind spot and that there will not be a comprehensive view of everything.
With respect to Indigenous communities and the contributions of Indigenous organizations and governments, nothing could be more important. My understanding, from what is emerging from the clause by clause, is that, again, there are good steps in the right direction. There is somewhat opaque language discussing contributions of “other governments.” Perhaps that includes Indigenous governments. Although, one of the challenges for this bill and for the entire process is the different degrees to which Indigenous communities have jurisdiction or, at least, administration and control over greenhouse gas emissions.
I think the bill is taking a high-level approach in creating the space without being too prescriptive, and that’s probably appropriate with respect to the involvement and contributions of Indigenous communities. It’s really up to careful, sensitive implementation in the spirit of reconciliation that those opportunities can be seized, particularly in respect to clean energy projects.
Senator Carignan: My question concerns the independence of committee members. I believe it was Ms. Le Quéré who discussed that.
You say that one of the important aspects is the independence of committee members. I don’t see much in the bill that guarantees their independence. What are the elements that should be added to the bill to guarantee that independence and that are found in other legislation around the world, particularly in England and France?
Ms. Le Quéré: First of all, the bill should state selection criteria. Members must be selected for their independence, and there’s no specific mention of that.
Other countries also have their own regulations governing conflicts of interest. More specifically, members must report potential conflicts of interest, and there are rules governing the circumstances in which they must recuse themselves. Lastly, French law, in particular, provides that members may not receive instructions from ministers or members of the government in the course of their work.
Senator Patterson: I’d also like to turn to Dr. Le Quéré. I was pleased to hear you say that international regimes on net zero have taken into account economic considerations. We always hear from our own government that the economy and environment go hand in hand and that going green is an exciting opportunity to improve GDP growth and grow our economy — although this will take capital, not all of which can come from government. I would like to ask you if, at the end of the day, we should also take into account the economic considerations and impacts on the economy of going to net zero.
We’ve heard the Canadian Chamber of Commerce clearly say there is no clear economic lens factor in the terms of reference for the advisory board. There is an absence of industry representatives on the advisory board, and industry should be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Therefore, in not looking at the costs and benefits to our economy, the bill has a hole in it. Would you agree that we should be able to measure the impacts on the economy of going to net zero as we evaluate these targets going forward? Thank you.
Ms. Le Quéré: Thank you.
You are right that going to net-zero is quite fundamental for the economy. The issue here is that the economic decisions need to fit within a carbon budget. In the countries in which I operate, of course, it is also a dimension, the impact on the economy, but this is dealt with by looking at the feasible minimal cost of policies that can put in place so that climate objectives can be met.
The role of this law and of the advisory board in particular is to advise on achieving the climate goals. Achieving these climate goals involves recommendations for the structure of the economy, which are really quite complex. The expertise of such advisory boards is large, but it does not cover absolutely all aspects of the economy, and there is a role to play for other bodies there.
What I’m trying to say is that the main lens of Bill C-12 and, in particular, of the advisory committee has got to be on achieving the objectives, looking at and taking into account the consequences and the opportunities as well for the economy as a whole, but it does not replace the main decisions on the economy of the government.
Senator Cotter: Thank you to our witnesses today. You have given some really insightful presentations, and I very much appreciate it.
I’d like to zero in on the federal-provincial dimension of the questions that were being discussed, as Senator McCallum raised a bit earlier, and maybe dig in deeper. I noted, for example, in your presentations, particularly Dr. Henry and Professor Wright, the need for that federal-provincial engagement. My concern is that absent that cooperation, it is likely or liable to be the case that some provinces and territories pull in different directions than the federal government.
I’m interested to know, particularly from you, Professor Wright, whether there are solutions, maybe even beyond the boundaries of this bill, that can achieve that. In fact, I have real doubts that the bill itself can do anything to achieve that other than federal hopefulness, given your point about the degree to which the bill can’t impose obligations on provinces.
Dr. Henry, are there concrete things that you think should happen, such as greater cooperation from recalcitrant provinces or a more constructive approach from Ottawa, and how do you see that equation coming together?
If I could squeeze in a question for Dr. Le Quéré and, perhaps, for Professor Wright: Take, for example, a federal country like Germany. How has Germany managed to find cooperative engagement between the different levels of government in Germany to be able to move this forward in ways that Canada seems to struggle with? Thank you.
The Chair: Senator Cotter asked three questions in one. I am going to ask each one of you, if you don’t mind, to make your response short but plentiful.
Mr. Wright: Thank you for the question, senator.
I’ll refer back to a blog post I wrote soon after the bill was tabled late last year on the federal-provincial dimension. You are bang on by saying that there is only so much that this act can do, and the elephant in the room is firm, binding commitments from all jurisdictions in Canada.
One model that I point to and that is readily available but easier said than done is some kind of burden-sharing agreement, also known as an effort-sharing agreement. The most common model is that used in the EU, where the EU has its own macro or comprehensive emission reduction targets, and then all states within the EU commit to specific emission reduction targets based on their economic makeup.
That could be done in Canada. It could be almost like a mini Paris Agreement in which each province or territory puts forward their emission reduction target. Easier said than done, but this is the step that has never taken place in the Canadian climate law and policy context for decades. If it were to take place and if it were to have a formal, binding nature that could span political time cycles and shifting political winds, then we may finally be on track to a clear picture of how to move forward and who does what across the federal government and provinces and territories.
Mr. Henry: Thank you, Senator Cotter, for your question.
There are a few issues. One is simply duplication of efforts, and that is a concern for industry. You end up in a world where the same CO2 molecules are being regulated twice or multiple times. It’s always a cost concern.
I would say one of the most critical elements in policy certainty comes down to the question of additionality. That’s simply if certain technologies get designated in a provincial plan to achieve net zero or certain technologies get designated in a federal plan to achieve net zero by the advisory council, that actually changes the eligibility for those technologies to create offsets that are truly additional.
If that takes place, then that simply becomes a challenge to business models that businesses might otherwise want to move forward on, and that jeopardizes the investment. There needs to be a clear articulation of how we perceive additionality, and in some respects that is still an open question and one that needs to be addressed through a more robust and cooperative national offset system.
Ms. Le Quéré: The four countries of the U.K., the advisory board gives [Technical difficulties] each of the four countries, and the governments of these countries then have chosen so far to go further than the advice from the advisory groups. So that’s an example.
In Europe, as Professor Wright was saying, it is negotiated. Currently they’re negotiating the next target, which was just reinforced, minus 55% in 2030. There are two models there, either distributing the target based on the GDP per capita of the country, so the rich countries pay, or the lowest possible cost, and that’s a negotiation amongst 27 members.
The Chair: Mr. Wright, I have a question for you. Mr. Henry and some others made a point in their own presentations as to the importance of having decision-making in the order-in-council; in other words, by the full cabinet and not to the minister. Yesterday, the minister responded and said that doesn’t make much of a difference because the whole cabinet will be involved in the final important decisions in any case. Give us some clarity there. Who is right and who is wrong?
Mr. Wright: It is hard to say who is right and who is wrong. The relevant provision here is clause 12, and that’s where it explicitly says that other ministers essentially shall be involved in setting the plan and the reports and so on. A question for this committee and those revising the bill is the extent to which that provision might be amended to distribute authority.
My own view is that altering it away from having this minister as the ultimate person in charge and coordinating things could cause confusion — too many cooks in the kitchen, if you will. I think the present form is pretty close to the mark. I leave it to the legislative drafters to come up with language to bulk up the involvement of other ministers, but overall, I think clause 12 is close to the mark as is.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: I have a supplementary question for Mr. Wright. I find that hard to imagine, given the separation of powers between the federal government and the provinces. I like your idea of a mini Paris Agreement between the provinces and the federal government, but I don’t know whether it’s possible.
I’d like to hear what you have to say about one of your suggestions. You said the federal government must of course refrain from telling the provinces what to do, but you want the federal government to include information in its reports, a summary of the provinces’ results and efforts. I’m trying to understand how that could help since those results are already public. Is there a chance we might further complicate and politicize the exercise by pointing the finger at certain provinces in that report? I’d like to hear what you have to say about that.
Mr. Wright: Thank you for the question.
Again, this act can only go so far, and I think the clause-by-clause changes that are emerging are steps in the right direction to require the plan and reports to require as detailed information as possible from the provinces and territories. That is just state-of-play information. This is not normative, persuasive information.
To the previous question from Senator Cotter, what would be required is something completely in parallel with Bill C-12 that is a formal mechanism or arena for acknowledging who will do what. The challenge there, of course, is it may not all add up. The federal government can only do so much in terms of emission reductions, and the provinces are likely only willing to do so much. There really is no other alternative at this point. This conversation needs to happen in a transparent way, and the extent to which there are gaps would be revealed and, hopefully, a cooperative negotiated solution could be found with respect to who does what. Federal infrastructure spending can do a lot to bridge the tension and the gaps in that context.
I hope that answers the question.
Senator Galvez: My question goes to Ms. Le Quéré. It is so refreshing to hear from you that, in the U.K. and in Europe, negotiations are going well and ambition is high and targets are being exceeded and new targets are being offered, more stringent than what the advisory committee is proposing. That’s incredible.
As you are hearing, our issues in Canada and our lagging situation are, on one hand, due to the difficult conversations between the federal government and the provinces and then going down to the municipalities. We have discussed this in the last few minutes, but I want to also point to the technology part. What is the stage of that technology? What are the safe bets? Do we already have in Canada enough technology to have the ambition that you have in Europe? Thank you.
Ms. Le Quéré: Thank you.
Canada’s energy mix is more decarbonized than a lot of countries because of the presence of hydroelectricity. In a way, it’s quite similar to France, where France has a very high nuclear contribution to electricity. That means that Canada and France and also other countries now — Sweden is one — face emissions that are distributed, with transport and industry being particularly important. Actually, in the transport sector, electrification of transport is available. It’s available at a cost, but it’s really important for that reason that Canada sets very clear and ambitious targets to transform the production and to develop new streams of opportunities, including development of batteries and so on in Canada. The obstacles there are more obstacles of implementation, visibility and finance of the sector.
The industry is very fragmented, so it’s important to develop strategies by sub-sector of the industry. Some will be able to electrify their processes. When that’s the case, it can go rapidly. Others will need to rely on hydrogen. There, there are supply chain issues and the fact that hydrogen is not green until it is actually green all the way. There are options there.
The state of matters is that there are many, many technologies that are available now. By deploying these technologies, the costs go down and the process can accelerate, including innovation. There are only a few technologies for which the developments are to be planned later. One of them is carbon capture and storage.
The Chair: I have a follow-up question, Ms. Le Quéré. When we look at England, we see that it produces significant CO2 emissions above 40%.
I have to say that business people in Canada are rightly fearful of the commitment that significant and draconian reduction of the economy requires. When you look at England, you think things aren’t so bad given its GDP and growth. People are still eating and going to work every morning.
What can we learn from that? Many people in Canada are afraid, not just the extremists. They’re very much concerned about the impact on corporate profitability. Can you tell us what is happening in England and France?
Ms. Le Quéré: In England, particularly, clear signals were promptly sent to the energy and electricity production industry and many different instruments were put in place. The European Union emissions trading scheme, the EU ETS, was established to assist in transitioning to a carbon-free economy, but a carbon floor price was added along with innovative subsidies and regulations for the rollout of wind power. The government has thus introduced many instruments to send clear signals to the industry, as Mr. Henry said. When the decision was made to start the transition, authorities used the economic instrument, the EU ETS, a floor price, wind power rollout subsidies and assistance to the industry. Many different instruments were employed across the industry to send clear signals to eliminate carbon. France has somewhat the same system for buildings. It makes extensive use of supply chains, financial instruments and prohibitions. You can’t simply impose a tax on carbon and say everything will be fine. You have to guide all sectors of society by putting more than just one measure in place.
The Chair: Thank you to all three witnesses. I think we have had a very good discussion, very informative and very useful. Thank you for your availability. We will see you next time.
Colleagues, we now turn to our second panel. We welcome, from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, Dr. Judith Sayers, President, and from the Indigenous Climate Action, Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, Executive Director, and from Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm.
The chief is way up north in the Arctic Circle, and he is limited to communicating through his iPad or cell phone. Do honourable senators concur that he can still do so? He will be asked to remove his visual input to give a bit better reception. Is that agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Welcome, dear guests, and thank you for being with us today. I remind you that you have five minutes each for your opening remarks. We will obviously then have questions for you.
Judith Sayers, President, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council: Good morning, everyone. I’m coming to you from the West Coast of Vancouver Island, the Nuu-chah-nulth territories. There are 14 nations that work together to do political things, and we are on the front lines of climate change. Otherwise, you could say we’re disproportionately impacted. Many of our ecosystems and biodiversity are continuing to be impacted due to climate change and increasing temperatures in spring and summer, flooding in the winter, rising sea levels, warming oceans, impacts on wildlife and birds, drought due to higher temperatures on salmon-bearing streams and higher temperatures causing health issues to our elders and vulnerable ones. These are just some of the impacts. We are in a climate emergency, and we must act accordingly. We would love to see the reductions of the targets moved up, even by 10 years. I know this would be a hardship and very difficult to achieve, but I think when we are facing the destruction of many of our habitats and ecosystems, that this could be something that we could do.
Within this bill, there is nothing about mitigation or adaptation, and we feel that there should be a requirement in there to look at that because we have to change our way of living now, and it must be done quickly.
Clauses 4 and 8 rely on the best scientific knowledge, and we really feel we need to add into that Indigenous knowledge and Indigenous wisdom. There are many ways of describing it. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act already recognizes and uses that.
Clause 10 sets out the emissions reduction plan. What is missing in this content is a strategy to recognize and understand the impacts of emissions on Indigenous people, specific strategies to ensure they are reduced and that these impacts will be continually monitored.
Section 11(1) on amendments to the emissions act said there should be consultation with Indigenous people as set out in section 13. As we are impacted on the front lines, we feel we need more than this. We need shared decision making, and article 29 of UNDRIP states that we have the right to the conservation and the protection of the environment and the productive capacity of our lands, territories and resources.
We would like to see Bill C-12 specifically state that an emissions reduction plan cannot be adjusted beyond 2050 and that they must reach the targets within that time. This is too important in this climate emergency and should not be able to be changed. If you allow for amendments, if they are not meeting their goals to reduce, then it’s just a continual nightmare. The government must ensure these targets are met and all sectors are meeting their commitments to reduce their carbon emissions. Canada hasn’t met their deadlines, and there has to be wording in this bill that makes them achieve this. A report to Parliament just isn’t enough, or if Canada is behind their targets, they must accelerate their efforts in the next few years.
Clause 20 on the advisory body must specify that at least one member is Indigenous, that the board is impartial and independent from government and that the minister responds publicly to their recommendations.
I think there should be a zero-emissions summit every five years that includes Canada, the provinces and Indigenous leaders to look at what has and hasn’t been done and make these recommendations. Climate change is everybody’s responsibility, not just the Government of Canada’s, and there’s not enough input from people on this particular plan.
The world of future generations depends on this, and we have to act now, as soon as possible. There’s no more important work than doing this. We’ve been living in our homes during COVID. Is that what the future brings us if we don’t act on time? I think it’s a very real reality we may have to live with if we can’t go outside because temperatures are too hot. Can we survive that way?
Thank you so much for allowing me to speak today. I am here representing Indigenous Climate Action, an Indigenous-led climate justice organization, and I’m also a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, located in Treaty 8.
Recently Indigenous Climate Action, or ICA, released a report Decolonizing Climate Policy in Canada. It was an Indigenous critique of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy. My testimony is largely based on that work, as well as the previous work done on Bill C-12 by the AFN, Tsleil-Waututh, Athabasca Chipewyan, Mikisew Cree, and Beaver Lake Cree First Nations.
There is a global demand for progressive and just climate action that reduces emissions, protects the environment and respects human rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples. Bill C-12, Canada’s net-zero emissions accountability act, is critical and could provide us with another tool to achieve this goal, but it will require specific improvements. Specifically, we need to see stronger wording and safeguards for human rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples. As our previous speaker Dr. Sayers said, Indigenous peoples are on the front line. Without this, we run the risk of continued violations in pursuit of equalizing climate.
This will require direct wording within the legislation that outlines commitments to the implementation of UNDRIP, describes how the Government of Canada will harmonize this bill with UNDRIP, inherent treaty rights and section 5 constitutional rights, and include clear commitments acknowledging that all relations with Indigenous peoples must be based on the recognition and implementation of the inherent right to self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government, and not simply a recognition of rights in the preamble.
By ensuring Indigenous rights are enshrined in the legislation and in the mandate of the advisory body and commissioner, it can provide safeguards to differentiate the participation of Indigenous governments from public participation and in all decision-making processes related to setting and amending national greenhouse gas emissions targets, or establishing and amending emission reduction plans, as per clause 13 of the legislation.
Along with direct language and wording to uphold UNDRIP, this bill must incorporate the protection of basic human rights, including right to clean, free and accessible drinking water — something that continues to be impeded by resource extraction and dirty fossil fuel projects in Canada.
This gets to my second point, which is that this bill must include actual emissions reductions, including ending high-polluting industries, not just offsetting. Net-zero framing is reliant on offsets and can be a sneaky way to keep extracting and exporting fossil fuels. There needs to be transparency about how this benefits the fossil fuel industry while continuing to harm front-line communities facing climate impacts and extractive projects, like my own community, the ACFN, which faces the continued expansion of the oil sands, which currently produces 11% of Canada’s total emissions. As a result, we are concerned about the disproportionate impact this has on communities, including my own.
In the legislation, there needs to be a restriction on the use of carbon offsets in reaching targets. Reducing domestic emissions must be a central focus of the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act.
In addition, we must reach for higher targets. We must be looking at net-zero emissions achieved by reducing domestic emissions of at least 90% below 2005 levels, which is in line with some of the most progressive targets we are seeing internationally.
My last two points are that this bill needs to take into account the unique circumstances faced by Indigenous nations and communities, which are driven by ongoing colonialism, and the bill needs to hold the government to account for the ongoing promises made and then broken about developing climate policy and legislation in partnership with Indigenous peoples on the basis of a nation-to-nation relationship. To date, Canada lacks a substantive process to ensure the rights of Indigenous peoples will be respected or upheld in the development of climate plans and policies to achieve net zero, or to ensure that Indigenous knowledge and solutions are utilized in developing and framing these policies and plans.
ICA’s recent report found that despite repeated mentions of the importance of Indigenous rights and knowledge, we were structurally excluded from the development of Canada’s recent climate policies and plans. This exclusion is not just poor process. It violates Indigenous rights to self-determination and free, prior and informed consent as affirmed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Therefore, what we need is an improved and focused consent-based process with Indigenous peoples, including adequate resources for community participation to ensure direct engagement with Indigenous Nations on this bill and other related climate legislation, regulations, policies and action plans. At the very least, the advisory body must include Indigenous representation. Better yet, we can ensure real transparency and accountable by creating a parallel oversight council of Indigenous experts appointed by Indigenous peoples.
In conclusion, I want to acknowledge that ICA acknowledges the importance of Bill C-12 and its need to be passed with the aforementioned improvements. The climate crisis is too urgent to be replicating the same old patterns of empty promises. We need much stronger forms of transparency and accountability. We need a much stronger bill. If Indigenous peoples were welcomed to the table as real partners in crafting this bill, that’s what you’d get.
As a final note, I ask you to please not take my critiques of the bill and use them as a reason to hold up the bill or to bolster pro-industry agendas against real climate action and accountability. Thank you.
Dana Tizya-Tramm, Chief, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation: [Indigenous language spoken]
Good morning, all of my relations. My name is Dana Tizya-Tramm, and I am the chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I appreciate the opportunity to speak today and pay my respects to committee members and all speakers.
Largely, my comments will go to establish why Indigenous inclusion is so important. As a representative of a modern, treaty-holding First Nation, we the Vuntut Gwitchin consider this a government-to-government dialogue. We must use our voice to establish that state-led response to climate change around the world are not sufficiently responsive to the dire circumstances already being directly experienced by Indigenous peoples, including my own here in the traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin in the Arctic Circle as the most northwest community in Canada.
Bill C-12 can and should do better than allowing Indigenous participation as part of the public engagement. Indigenous voices need to be heard in more than an advisory body capacity. If this were to be so, more definition and certainty regarding this role of advisory needs to be outlined for First Nations.
Canada cannot move ahead without us, and here is why. Within my own territory, we are now at the precipice of pushing over exponential feedback loops with methane being released from the permafrost. The traditional knowledge our people hold can create mitigative and efficient strategies. Even today, our modern treaty rights for salmon harvesting allocation are being infringed upon, and solutions can be born from our people. What is important to understand is that modern treaties cover more than 40% of Canada’s land mass, and there are now more than 70 Indigenous groups currently negotiating modern treaties.
The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has a seat on the Arctic Council as a permanent partner and would like to thank Canada for its support in our mitigation strategies and efforts. Moreover, our First Nation released, on May 19, 2019, [Indigenous language spoken] declaration, which translates to “After our time, how will the world be?” This set off a series of dominoes. It was the first emergency climate declaration, even before Parliament’s own, which has now passed in the Circumpolar North through the Arctic Council with the permanent participants.
We have also mimicked Canada’s commitment to get rural communities off of diesel by 2030, and we have passed this through national bodies, such as the Assembly of First Nations, creating the mandates and aligning resources to push First Nations communities forward.
As we have been left behind in the modern world and technological development, this establishes us in a key place to take advantage. We have the second-largest solar farm array in the Arctic Circle. Our government negotiated the first independent power-producing document and electricity purchase agreement that are conduits for our community to not only to produce electricity but, more importantly, to sell this electricity to utility shareholders at a savings, unlocking more than a quarter of a million dollars per year in a small village of 250 people. The kinetic energy and networks are there, especially with the pre-existing mandates. To economize, as we know, in Latin, is to manage one’s house. It is the Indigenous peoples who truly understand both economizing and climate change.
The voice I speak to you with today is not my own but was given to me by my ancestors and is the birthright of my grandchildren. Indigenous people are the closest that the modern world will get to hearing the land speak, as we, quite literally, have been in our areas since before the written history of man. Our ability to network with one another, to economize and to live in balance with our animals and lands exemplifies that we are an indicator species fomenting these mandates in assistance to the federal government and our regions. We are driving these mandates and our communities forward, weaving modern economic practices that unlock self-fulfilling prophecies of micro socio-economic solutions with renewable energy.
We are a strong partner and a forward-thinking people. Our voices and expertise are aligned into these mechanisms and is a baseline for us moving forward together. Mahsi’cho.
The Chair: Thank you to all three of you. We’ll start with our questions.
Senator McCallum: I want to welcome all three presenters. I’m glad to see you again, Judith and Eriel. I had read your report. Thank you to all three of you for the work you do. Amazing work.
I want to go back to Dr. Sayers’s remarks about how there is nothing in this bill about mitigation and adaptation. Could you expand on that a bit?
Eriel, could you expand on how you wanted stronger wording put in there with regard to UNDRIP and section 35? If possible, could you provide us with some wording that we could put into observations in the bill? Thank you.
Ms. Deranger: In partnership with the AFN and Graeme Reed, we looked at their submission to the ENBI that was submitted last month, and they also gave examples of some wording to recognize and respect the inherent jurisdiction of First Nations peoples by removing the references to recognition of rights and collaboration in the preamble and replacing them with three sentences: Canada is committed to strengthening its partnerships with Indigenous peoples of Canada with respect to measures for mitigating and adapting climate change by ensuring respect for the rights of Indigenous people of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada recognizes that all relations with Indigenous peoples must be based on the recognition and implementation of the inherent rights of self-determination, including the inherent rights of self-government.
Through that, we can look at ways to incorporate the recognition, respect and protection of Indigenous rights, the implementation of UNDRIP and the protection of basic human rights.
Dr. Sayers: Thank you for that. I don’t see anything in the bill that requires the Government of Canada to put in place a mitigation plan. I suppose thinking that reducing greenhouse gas and carbon emissions every year may be that mitigation, but I believe that there needs to be a plan in place that goes along with the reduction of emissions.
For example, our oceans are warming, and our fish, our sea life, are all being affected. Some are dying, and some are appearing in places they’ve never appeared before. Also, they’re ending up on the beach. How do we mitigate that? How do we stop the ocean warming? There are also things such as dumping by cruise ships that is not regulated.
There are actions that need to be specified. We are trying to mitigate right now, but I think there are some requirements of how the government can do that, such as not approving major projects that are emitting too much carbon. If we laid that out, then it would show the responsibility of, yes, we’re reducing carbon emissions, but at the same time, we’re changing our lifestyle.
We have to protect the ecosystems and the biodiversity that is dying all the time. Our trees are rotting at the roots because of flooding. At the same time, they’re also being affected by droughts in the summer. They’re really hard on our forests, which, of course, support fish and wildlife. It’s kind of a circle.
Those would be my recommendations.
Senator Galvez: I was going to ask about expanding on what the impacts are to each one of our guests, but I prefer to ask another question. Thank you, and I couldn’t agree more with all of what you three kind witnesses have told us.
One of the roles of the Senate is to see that legislation is harmonized. My question is to Eriel Deranger. I’m sure you know that Bill C-15, the UNDRIP bill, is in the Senate, and we hope that it is passed. What will be the implication of passing Bill C-15? Do we still need what you are saying in Bill C-12, given that much of what you are saying is in Bill C-15, or are you against Bill C-15?
Ms. Deranger: Regardless of whether or not Bill C-15 is passed, the language needs to be very explicit about how Indigenous rights, particularly UNDRIP, will be harmonized with this bill. It’s absolutely imperative. When you look at clause 10 of this bill for the emissions reduction plan, there needs to be a description of any impact on Indigenous nations and any adverse impact on the rights Indigenous nations recognized and affirmed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. Being explicit is important.
This is something that is being modelled even at the UN level where, within the Paris Agreement, the preambular text states that it recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples and the importance of Indigenous knowledge, but within the negotiations under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement which are currently happening at the subsidiary body, there is still a fight to include the language for human rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples in the article text and the specific articles.
It becomes important that we don’t undermine the fact that it needs to be included. This is because of the history of Indigenous people’s rights continually being obstructed by legislation and the missing wording to ensure the protection of our rights is embedded throughout all legislation.
Senator Galvez: My next question is to Chief Tizya-Tramm. In May 2018, your nation declared a climate emergency, and you also signed a declaration calling on the government to prevent the rise of global temperatures above 1.5 degrees. Could you tell us about the need for this declaration and whether you received a government response?
Mr. Tizya-Tramm: Mahsi’cho. These declarations are key. We rang a bell that resonated across many different tables, even going to COP 25, and working with Canada during those negotiations as well.
These mandates are key as a political thread that permeates all bodies in which we can pull around solutions, such as this bill and its implementation around our regions, all the way down to even municipalities, which is very key, and how that will be affected by both this form of legislation but including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This goes down to all [Technical difficulties]. We have not received a response from the Canadian government specifically, but we can go forward and double down on these efforts.
The implementation you see is going to be key. For instance, within the Yukon Territory, we have 11 modern treaty First Nations, the highest modern treaty jurisdiction in Canada. With what we are able to do and the innovations coming from First Nations, we cannot only just assist local municipalities, territorial governments and the federal government, but move beyond and push further, as even my own nation has a mandate to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. Marsee.
Senator Simons: First of all, I want to say a profound thank you to our guests. I am speaking to you from Treaty 6 territory in the Mountain time zone, and I appreciate that for all of our guests that it is very early this morning. I once again implore my colleagues in Ottawa to think about the width of our country as we are booking our guests. I want to thank you all — hiy hiy and mahsi’cho — for being with us this morning.
I was very taken by something Ms. Deranger said about having a parallel advisory council made up of Indigenous peoples. I wanted to ask all three of you about whether you think that is something that would work, even if it weren’t written into the language of the act, and if you think that having a parallel Indigenous advisory council would underline the government-to-government relationship between First Nations and the Crown, or whether it would come off as tokenism. Would it be like sitting at the kids’ table at Christmas? Why don’t we start with Dr. Sayers, and in the order in which the witnesses were received this morning.
Dr. Sayers: Thank you. I don’t think it would be tokenism. Indigenous peoples across this country have got to be part of a shared decision-making model. If we structure this right by having input into net zero and how to achieve that, how to look specifically at the impacts on our territories and the recommendations that we need, I think that would be one way of being inclusive of Indigenous people. I don’t think I mentioned that I thought we should have a specific Indigenous summit every five years.
It’s really hard. I think the previous senator asked about what will be the impacts on our territory, and even in my lifetime, I’ve seen amazing amounts of climate change in our territories. Nuu-chah-nulth are supportive of Bill C-15, only because it represents an opportunity to get the government to react quickly. We haven’t had a lot of success with section 35, so maybe that would give us another tool. There are many provisions in UNDRIP that would allow us to create those decision-making institutions or that response. As Indigenous people, we are experts because we live this every day. There are so many sections in UNDRIP that could cover this. We have to take opportunities where we can because this is critical. Even just having to get air conditioners for all of our elders when we never had to before just so they can make it through the summer, those are some basic health issues we face every day. Thank you for your question.
Ms. Deranger: I think that an oversight council of Indigenous experts wouldn’t be tokenism and would actually add to. It must also not undermine the fact that the advisory body should still have an Indigenous representative.
The reason why an Indigenous oversight body would be an important aspect is there are three distinct groups of Indigenous peoples in this country. We have First Nations, Métis and Inuit, and a single Indigenous representative cannot represent everyone on the advisory body. However, by having an oversight council, this allows for a more robust process for Indigenous peoples to have oversight and make recommendations and allow those three different groups to be represented and still have input into this net-zero accountability act. It’s really important that there is Indigenous values, knowledge systems and oversight of this bill to ensure that there is meaningful participation in it, and this is just one of the potential processes that can help move us toward that track.
As Dr. Sayers said, I am 42 years old and I have seen in my lifetime the impacts of climate change. I have also seen our communities come up with some of the most amazing and beautiful solutions that are driven from our culture, our identities and our relationships with the land that are taking my own community off diesel, food security, energy sovereignty, and that can be replicated if we are given a space to be a part of these conversations in real and meaningful ways.
Mr. Tizya-Tramm: Again, thank you for the opportunity and for the question.
I would say that this would not be tokenism. There would need to be accountability in the sense that with this overlay committee, the advice and the considerations will have to be vetted in a meaningful way by the committee.
I really want to double down and reiterate and complement some of the comments we heard before. I can tell you that 80 miles north of the Arctic Circle, everything we can quantify is changing, even to the point where we are now admonishing and requesting that pregnant women and young children do not eat the livers of whitefish in our territory as biomagnification does not enable fish species to release mercury from their bodies. It is now accumulating.
I hope I help to paint a picture of our international reach and efforts spanning across the Arctic and right through Canada and into Alaska. Our partnerships, abilities and successes already are far ahead of any government, including our territorial government. With Indigenous communities and Indigenous governments, we have to understand that decentralization and the empowerment of communities at a microscale to empower them toward self-determination and self-sustainability even goes into national defence. With our own ability to generate electricity, we no longer rely on diesel fuel being flown up to our community. Even though these are expensive endeavours, that kind of certainty and what we are able to establish and have already established in our community is unlike any other in Canada.
By moving with First Nations, sharing and momenting these abilities with the Land Claims Agreement Coalition which we liaison with the Canadian government as well, I cannot stress enough the abundance of knowledge, as well coming from another spectrum of history and a way of knowing and being in the world. Moreover, we understand the power of our partnerships, and we are here to empower Canada so that, from a macroscale, the movements from the Canadian government can be more in-depth and articulate with the finesse and complementing our knowledge and direction as the holders of this key traditional knowledge from your lands going back to before history even here in Yukon. Our language is known as Tukudh. We have been here for over 30,000 years. We are in this together, but if our knowledge does not make it into these capacities, Canada will suffer on a whole.
Senator Simons: Thank you all very much.
Senator Patterson: I’d like to welcome all witnesses, and in particular Dr. Sayers. Our Energy Committee visited your beautiful land and saw your run-of-the-river pioneering hydro project.
I was impressed with all the testimony. Chief Tizya-Tramm, you said that state-led initiatives around the world are not doing the job. It got me thinking that Canada is responsible for less than 2% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, but China produces 28% and is building a coal-fired power plant every week, three times more coal-fired generation from one year to the next in recent years. Yet Ms. Deranger, you advocated restriction on the use of our carbon offsets, which are allowed by Article 6 of the Paris accord, which Canada signed. One Canadian LNG project can displace 100 million tonnes of coal-fired greenhouse gas in Asia. Why would you say there should be a restriction on the use of carbon offsets? If there is time, Chief Tizya-Tramm could you comment on that, please?
Ms. Deranger: The carbon offsets system really incentivizes a polluter-pay process. It allows industries to keep developing projects. Particularly for my community, this is an important aspect with respect to the expansion of the Alberta tar sands and oil sands. What we see is companies are allowed to continue expanding and creating carbon emissions if they can just continue to offset them. This doesn’t actually line up with the respect of Indigenous rights. There needs to be restrictions in the use of offsets in reaching the targets. It doesn’t mean we don’t have any offsets. It means reducing domestic emissions must be the central focus of the Canadian net-zero emissions accountability act as opposed to the opposite. What we are seeing in the act, even within clause 6, there is a reliance on offset programs and carbon market mechanisms that allow polluters to continue to pay. That actually continues to abrogate and violate both human rights and the rights of Indigenous communities nationally in Canada and internationally.
This is a big discussion even within the international tables I am a part of. I’m an active member of the UN Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change and the Facilitative Working Group of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform. We have been advocating for a stronger use of the reduction of emissions as opposed to carbon market mechanisms that actually further violate our rights.
In Canada, you said we represent only 2% of the emissions, and that might be true, but the reality is we are a G8 country. We have to set a standard as a leading country within these tables and within these negotiations. If we take the steps to make reducing domestic emissions as a central part of our net-zero emissions accountability act as opposed to carbon offsets, then we are setting a standard globally. We have a major role to play despite the fact that we only represent a fraction of global emissions.
Mr. Tizya-Tramm: Mahsi’cho. As a first-hand participant of COP 25, I was there during the negotiations when Russia, China and the Saudi Emirates spoke against the incorporation and actualization of human rights in the implementation of the Paris accord.
There are Indigenous peoples around the world who we were already connected with who have incredible influences in the regions as well as the UN. Our reach as Indigenous peoples — as I said before on that thread around balance with our environment — goes from Brazil and touches even into Asia. When you speak about having 2% emissions around the world globally, we know that a lot of our new thinking around climate change is not just reducing fossil fuel consumption as we go through a just transition but around sequestering technology.
This is where the interesting part of the conversation comes. Technology is changing so completely fast that it’s hard to keep up with, but we know there are already successful carbon engineering enterprises in British Columbia by sequestering CO2 from the air and putting it into chemical reactions with water, creating high-quality jet fuel from sequestered CO2 in the air. The math shows that 10,000 of these facilities and we will begin reversing our emissions and going toward the Paris accord.
If Canada became a leader in this industry, we are talking about economic benefits while setting a standard for reversing these emissions around the world. Even if China may exist at 28% and Canada’s 2%, imagine us going to a negative 10% or negative 15%, pushing that way on a worldwide scale and putting Canada at the forefront of these industries, creating all-new economic booms, because as I have learned in all my ventures in this, to circumvent the political nuances of these conversations, if you get people getting paid to be part of the solution, it negates that conversation, and the whole industry begins moving signals for investors. This is our future and the technology is here. Marsee.
Senator Anderson: [Indigenous language spoken]
I’m from the traditional territory of the Inuvialuit in Tuktoyaktuk, and we are seeing the same impacts of climate change. We are seeing salmon, which was once foreign in our waters, higher-intensity storms, loss of land and permafrost loss.
My question is around the use of greenhouse gas inventories. Do you or your communities utilize greenhouse gas inventories, whether they are corporate or community, to substantiate Indigenous knowledge, or is there a reliance on Indigenous knowledge first and foremost, or do you use a mix of both? My question is for anyone on the panel.
Dr. Sayers: I think it is a mix of both. We understand the impact as we are out on the land and using all the different forms of land that we can, but when we have to look for funding — Senator Patterson mentioned our run-of-the-river project. When we wanted to do that, we had to use the scientific way of talking about a reduction of carbon. So for us, it was like taking 5,000 cars off the road. We had to do all that technical scientific stuff because it was a requirement of the funding, but normally we would just use our own knowledge of the land and the reactions to that and use that as sitting at the table and negotiating shared management or even some form of management or the restoration and rehabilitation of our lands. We talk more, I think, about impacts on the land. That’s what I would say.
Ms. Deranger: I do want to say that I know that a representative from my nation, Lisa Tssessaze, presented earlier this week with respect to our nation, but I do know that our nation does use what we’ve often coined as a “two-eyed seeing” approach, which is the utilization of Indigenous knowledge systems and the best available science. I think that’s important to understand. Our communities often utilize this practice of a two-eyed seeing approach, but this isn’t replicated by colonial governments and within legislation. What we need to see is that there is a two-way street, that our Indigenous knowledge doesn’t just serve our own communities but it can serve and actually bolster and increase the validity and the strength of the legislation and the types of policies and plans that might come out of Bill C-12 or other plans and policies.
It’s really important that we understand the strength that Indigenous knowledge has. In my own community, I have witnessed that. There was a time when a surface water quantity framework was being developed for our region, and some of the best biologists came in and set forward what they set as the base ecological limits. It went back to our community, and our Indigenous land users and knowledge holders took the data and said, “Actually, it’s not enough,” and the biologists said, “Yes, it is, based on the best available science.” We took our Indigenous knowledge from our community and determined that in order for our lives as Indigenous peoples to continue to be utilized in these lands and water systems, that we needed to have a boat that could hold two hunters and one moose, and that would be necessary for the water levels in the water table, which we then determined what that would mean — parts per million or millimetres- or metres-per-second flow rates. It actually increased the surface water quantity framework to include an Indigenous knowledge system to increase the water level or security measure, and you can see how Indigenous knowledge can bolster and improve our protection of the environment. That’s just one story, and there are many stories across the nation and across the globe where Indigenous knowledge has bolstered science.
Mr. Tizya-Tramm: I very much appreciate the question as this gets to the heart of a number of different matters.
Here in the traditional territory of 54,000 square kilometres in the northern Yukon, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is working with many different agencies, such as NASA, MacEwan University, Carleton University and the University of Saskatchewan. They are now looking at the epistemological approaches in balancing traditional knowledge with Western best practices.
This is very key, as our elders in the past actually helped scientists find woolly mammoths. Through our oral history, we still remember where we chased woolly mammoths into creeks to immobilize them for our hunters. Elders are showing scientists where these remains are and, sure enough, they find them. This is key, as we have access to millennia of observational data coming from our elders.
What is important to understand here is that intelligence, in and of itself, is one or the other, but how it’s contextualized is what can make it a medicine or a poison for our applications in this world. Our economies and our technologies work very well at what they are supposed to do, but they have delivered us into an anthropogenic climate crisis. These are just tools. Wielding them with Indigenous principles and practices is how we are going to make these efforts. In short, my people have been here for 30,000 years, and we have been waiting for these same practices in our treaty partner. We are here to help guide and to educate, but we have to remember that these are the Indigenous values. We were practising balance with our environments far before the climate crisis.
That’s why it’s so important to have our principles and our voices incorporated into these efforts, because they are not just our voices; it’s the knowledge from the land that shows us these ways. Forward, we can create efficiencies and more meaningful ascertainment of data, foundations and movements. For one example, we look at 40% of Canada’s lands being under modern treaties and over 70 being worked on now, and Canada is coming up to a number of tripwires. When our treaty allocations for access to salmon or quality of water begin diminishing, it will create a number of quagmires across the country. This is why we need proactive solutions, and our communities will meet halfway and create innovations that will foment these natural resources, which are the true foundations of all of our economies.
Senator McCallum: I’m so very impressed — I don’t know if “impressed” is the word — with all the presenters today. I thank you from my heart.
Ms. Deranger, I want to look at a brief overview of the climate policy and plans in Canada when looking at the Pan-Canadian Framework, the healthy environment, healthy economy that you had reviewed, and the absolute need for Indigenous Climate Action to be one of the top groups that should be leading climate change among all the leaders, like the chief we have today. Would you comment on that, please?
Ms. Deranger: Yes. I think some of the big stuff is our research uncovered that both plans allow for the continuation of fossil fuel production, and even within the net-zero accountability act, we are seeing the same thing. The fossil fuel production is a primary source of GHG emissions and a major contributor to Indigenous rights violations in Canada. When we ignore and structurally exclude Indigenous peoples from the development of plans and policies, we end up duplicating and replicating violations of Indigenous rights.
When we do this, we ignore the realities faced by Indigenous communities and nations, and we must actually move toward reconciliation. The Liberal government commitment to reconciliation on a nation-to-nation, Inuit, Crown and government-to-government relationships is constantly repeated. By not taking the steps, we ignore the many Calls to Action emanating from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
We also have to understand that Indigenous peoples have been some of the most formidable advocates in advancing climate change as a global political issue for decades. Indigenous people are behind the Kari-Oka Declaration of 1992, which was developed prior to the Rio Earth Summit, also The Anchorage Declaration in 2009 prior to Copenhagen COP 15 and, more recently, the preamble of the text of the Paris Agreement in 2015, which includes the recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples, was advocated and fought for by Indigenous peoples. All of these international instruments have acknowledged and underscored the importance of Indigenous knowledge, sovereignty and rights as critical to climate solution and stabilization, and almost all hinged upon the premise of Indigenous self-determination, FPIC and control over our lands and territories as defined by UNDRIP.
We can’t underscore or undermine the importance that Indigenous peoples play in advancing climate solutions and policies, and we have been historically left out of decision making and matters related to developing federal, provincial and regional climate change plans and policies since first contact. We have an opportunity to change that now. We have an opportunity to work with communities and leaders like Chief Dana, Dr. Sayers and other representatives from Indigenous communities you listened to earlier this week.
It’s critical we don’t ignore the calls for the inclusion and to move from treating Indigenous peoples and communities as merely stakeholders that continues to undermine legal rights and move us to instrumental players and allowing us to have decision-making powers within these tables and the critical matters related to our sovereignty and self-determination and the protection of our lands and territories that have literally, as Chief Dana said, guided and given us everything from our language to our foods to our culture to our identities, to everything that we are. I am Dënesuliné, I am a people of the willow, people of the land, and I cannot be inextricably disconnected from who I am and my identity. It is that intergenerational knowledge that I carry and that every other Indigenous person carries that brings great importance to these discussions.
The Chair: Thank you very much. I want to second what Senator McCallum said earlier. This has been a very impressive panel of three experts. We learned a lot from you, and we obviously have a lot to learn. Thank you very much to all three of you. It has been very enjoyable, with plenty of knowledge.
Colleagues, we will now resume our pre-study of Bill C-12. Before we begin, I’d like to remind senators and witnesses to please keep your microphones muted at all times, unless recognized by name by the chair.
For the witnesses who have just joined us, please note that we will allow six minutes per senator for questions and answers. The clerk will signal her hand on the screen when the time is up.
This afternoon we are pleased to welcome, from the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, Denis Bolduc, Secretary General; from Climate Action Network Canada, Caroline Brouillette, Policy Analyst; and from Nature United, Amanda Reed, Director of Strategic Partnerships.
Welcome and thank you for being with us today. I would like to remind you that you have five minutes each for your opening remarks. We will have questions for you afterwards. Mr. Bolduc, you now have the floor.
Denis Bolduc, Secretary General, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec: Good morning. The Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec has 600,000 members across all regions of Quebec and in all sectors of economic activity. Our members work in the biggest carbon-producing industries, including cement and steel production, transportation and mining, and many work directly in the energy sector. I can say without boast that the FTQ is the labour organization most committed to the fight against climate change, at least in Quebec.
We are pleased that the federal government seems serious about its intention to meet its climate change commitments and, more specifically, to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. In our view, the energy transition and net-zero emissions contemplated in Bill C-12 will require a systematic transformation of our economy and jobs. The transition must be planned and include the people who will feel its direct impacts: workers. We must therefore safeguard workers’ jobs and economic and social rights and ensure that our communities are sustainable during the transition, and governments must introduce fair transition mechanisms in all workplaces concerned. For these reasons, we believe the net-zero emissions bill should necessarily include fair transition mechanisms based on social dialogue.
We must not address climate change as though it were an accounting exercise. That’s a trap we must avoid at all costs. Our present economic system is based on the pursuit of short-term corporate profits, an approach that excludes any vision of collective well-being. We can’t plan the actions we take to combat climate change based solely on the next quarter’s results. We must look beyond that, avoiding the tunnel vision that prevents us from moving forward.
For many years now, the federal government has defended its subsidies to the hydrocarbon industry as essential in funding the energy transition. Reading between the lines, however, we’ve never perceived any semblance of a sound plan that might enable us to reach Paris accord targets. On the contrary, Canada is the only G-7 country whose GHG levels have risen. In the meantime, it has to be said that Bill C-12 is the closest the government has come to a GHG reduction plan to date, but it’s still not enough. We simply must alter course. As I’m sure you’re aware, the International Energy Agency released a very interesting report last month, stating that the target of +1.5˚C can be reached without compromising the economy. That will be essential in the event governments commit to a raft of new hydrocarbon production projects.
I would also like to say a few words about the advisory body proposed in the bill. The government needs advice in its decisions from a credible and competent advisory committee that is free of any conflicts of interest. In Quebec, the advisory committee on climate change includes nine people from the scientific community. That’s nine out of 12. That’s very different from what is proposed in Bill C-12. Only one out of 14 members would come from the scientific community compared to four from fossil fuel companies. We find that worrisome. We believe that science should guide the government’s decisions, not business interests. The current makeup of the committee opens the door to conflicts of interest. Strict rules need to be put in place to counter this eventuality.
Before concluding, I’d like to quote an excerpt from a Radio-Canada article last month about the International Energy Agency’s report. This is what it said, and I quote:
The pathway is “narrow” but still “achievable,” and brings “major benefits” in terms of jobs and economic growth, according to the IEA.
This requires changing practically the entire energy landscape into one powered predominantly by renewable energy, with a sharp decline in fossil fuel demand.
I will conclude by saying that what the FTQ is most worried about is the total absence in the bill of any planning for the transition. It seems to imply that net-zero emissions will be achieved without workers and their communities. But without them, it won’t work. It’s essential, right now, to include just transitional mechanisms in the bill. Thank you.
Caroline Brouillette, Policy Analyst, Climate Action Network Canada: Thank you for inviting me, Mr. Chair. I am joining you on unceded Kanien’kehá:ka territory. I represent Climate Action Network Canada, which brings over 130 labour, development, faith-based, and indigenous groups together with Canada’s key environmental organizations working on climate change. I’d like to thank the committee for having begun a pre‑study of the bill, because we want it to be studied in a timely fashion.
Canada has been setting climate targets for decades and has failed to deliver on every single greenhouse gas emission reduction commitment it has ever made. Canada is the only G7 nation whose emissions remain well above 1999 levels and whose emissions have continued to rise since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015.
If we missed target after target, it was not because they were too ambitious or unattainable. Quite the contrary, it is because of the critical lack of climate governance in this country.
Amended Bill C-12 provides a foundation, although an imperfect one, for establishing climate governance. Together with our members and colleagues from Ecojustice, West Coast Environmental Law and Équiterre, who appeared yesterday, we submitted a briefing note to the House of Commons Environment and Sustainable Development Committee that focused on five recommendations to strengthen Bill C-12 and ensure that it becomes a robust climate accountability act.
As the committee completed its clause-by-clause study yesterday evening, allow me to offer a few thoughts on each of these points. First of all, in terms of ambitious short-term action, we are pleased to see that an interim target was added for 2026, in addition to progress reports for 2023 and 2025. That’s important, because the trajectory taken to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 is as important as the destination.
Then, on the matter of medium- and long-term certainty, setting our targets 10 years in advance would enable individuals, industries and other levels of government to take the time required to plan, invest and innovate. Placing the 2030 target in the act is also a good idea. On the other hand, the 40% to 45% reduction below 2005 levels being proposed by the government does not represent Canada’s fair share of the world effort to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Climate Action Network Canada estimates this fair share for Canada at 60%.
In terms of credibility and efficacy, the amendments mean that more details are required in the plans and reports, including annual GHG emission projections, disaggregated by sector. However, the detailed plan will only be required five years prior to a target. As you know, when it comes to public policy, five years is not a lot of time to make required adjustments. Accountability, as several among you mentioned yesterday in your questions, is lacking in the act. There is no clear obligation requiring the minister to meet targets, but rather obligations to establish cycles and submit plans. The United Kingdom and New Zealand laws clearly stipulate that the minister or the secretary of state must reach the targets.
With respect to science and expert advice, while we welcome the strengthened role of the advisory body that will now advise the minister on targets and plans, we still have concerns with respect to its independence and the role of science in the advice it gives. I would add that it would be important to acknowledge, show respect for and affirm the inherent jurisdiction of First Nations; the rights of First Nations are not subordinate to federal, provincial or territorial recognition, as implied in the bill’s preamble.
Despite some major weaknesses, Bill C-12 establishes a climate governance framework for Canada, though not at the level of the most widely respected laws in the world. There will be future opportunities to improve the act once it is in force. Canada’s next nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement, and the first plan submitted, must raise the bar to a high level in terms of details and ambitions, and the advisory body must play a strict and independent government monitoring role.
The flaws identified could be dealt with during the mandatory legislative review by a committee of the House of Commons or the Senate, according to an amendment that was adopted yesterday by the House of Commons committee. I’ll wrap up now.
This is not the first climate legislation to come before the Senate. If adopted in a timely manner and with strong implementation, Bill C-12 has the potential to finally ensure that Canada has consistent and transparent planning and reporting to tackle the climate crisis.
As ever, and with our members and allies, Climate Action Network Canada will keep working to build on the framework that this bill lays to transform climate action in this country.
Thank you very much, I’d be happy to answer any questions.
Amanda Reed, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Nature United: Thank you very much, honourable senators, for the opportunity to appear before the committee today.
I would like to acknowledge and honour the traditional territory the Algonquin Anishinaabe, where I am calling from here in Ottawa.
Canada is facing a climate crisis that is threatening communities, local economies and biodiversity across this nation. With a national warming rate that is two times the global rate, Canada must show leadership now to avoid catastrophic warming. As noted in Bill C-12’s preamble, the IPCC has concluded that achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is critical to keeping temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Nature United has been working in Canada to support Indigenous-led conservation and economic development for nearly two decades. We’re the Canadian affiliate of the world’s largest conservation organization, a leader in tackling climate change globally.
Today, I want to talk to you about the role that nature can play in helping to achieve this critical net-zero target.
I would like to start by strongly affirming Nature United’s support for Bill C-12, with amendments that are working their way through the House of Commons. We commend Canada for increasing its NDC under the Paris Agreement to 40% to 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. Bill C-12 consecrates the net zero and interim targets like this into Canadian law and provides transparency to the Canadian public into how the government will achieve these targets and the progress the government is making toward them.
Achieving net zero in the interim targets will require rapid transition to clean energy, low-carbon transportation and innovations in building materials. This transition must be transparent, just and equitable. It will not happen without federal leadership and an integrated policy framework such as this net-zero legislation, in addition to Canada’s national price on carbon and recent commitments to advancing natural climate solutions.
Now I will speak to the role of nature in helping meet this net-zero target and ambitious targets along the way. Last week, the study Natural Climate Solutions for Canada was published in the peer-reviewed science journal Science Advances following a three-year research initiative. Natural climate solutions are actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the protection, management and restoration of forests, grasslands, wetlands and agricultural lands. Led by Nature United with the support of 38 co-authors from 16 institutions, including Natural Resources Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the study finds that natural climate solutions can avoid or sequester 78 megatonnes annually of carbon equivalent in 2030. This number represents 11% of Canada’s current emissions, or the emissions from powering every home in Canada for three years. The mitigation potential of these pathways is 104 megatonnes in 2050.
Natural climate solutions are available to us now. They can play a critical role in a net-zero future by protecting the soil and forest banks, and avoiding new emissions from entering the atmosphere. They can also increase the ability of nature to sequester more emissions out of the atmosphere.
Agricultural pathways include things like planting cover crops, nutrient and fertilizer management, and increased use of trees in farmlands. Wetland pathways include protecting peat lands, and restoring wetlands and coastal marshes. Grassland pathways include protecting grasslands from tilling. Forest pathways include protecting old-growth forests, new silviculture strategies and planting trees.
By advancing natural climate solutions, in partnership with governments, Indigenous peoples, local communities and industry, we can also gain incredible social, environmental and economic benefits. On this point, the study includes the cost-per-tonne of carbon mitigation and finds that many of the pathways cost less than $50 a tonne. Over half of the annual mitigation potential we found for 2030 is available at less than $100 a tonne.
The study also integrates social safeguards that minimize negative consequences to local economies. For example, it only forecasts reducing logging by 10% below historical levels, and agricultural pathways do not take high-quality lands out of food production.
These natural climate solutions have economic benefits across many industries by creating new jobs and providing alternative revenue streams to Indigenous communities, farmers, ranchers and foresters. For example, large-scale restoration projects require engineers, construction workers, heavy equipment operators and land managers. Agricultural practices, such as cover crops and nutrient management, can reduce operating costs, diversify farm revenues and increase crop yields. Protection of intact lands can support conservation economies, especially for Indigenous and remote communities.
The bill states that the annual report by the Minister of Finance will include financial risks and opportunities related to climate change. There are many financial benefits from the path to net zero, and it’s essential the government recognize these benefits.
In conclusion, natural climate solutions present an immediate, powerful and cost-effective opportunity and have a vital role in meeting the net-zero 2050 target as well as interim targets along the way. I have also provided written comments, which have links directly to the report and infographics to help interpret the results.
Thank you again for allowing us to appear today before the committee.
The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Reed. We will now move to questions.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: My question is for Mr. Denis Bolduc. Thank you for being here today.
It’s unusual for a central labour body to agree so graciously to having some of its members lose their jobs. What percentage of FTQ members work in the Quebec oil and gas sector?
Mr. Bolduc: Our main affiliate in oil and gas is Unifor, which represents thousands of workers in this sector, not only in Quebec but also Canada.
Surprising though it may seem, Unifor wants the target to be 60% rather than 40%. Why? Because action is needed now. The longer we wait, the greater the challenge will be, and the worse the impact.
I read an article published by the International Energy Agency last month that spoke about the disappearance of some jobs, but also the creation of even more jobs. Approximately 5 million oil and gas industry jobs will be lost by 2030, but there will be 14 million jobs created as a result of the energy transition. Senator Miville-Dechêne, in my book — as some people say in Quebec when talking hockey — that’s 9 million more jobs.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: But then of course you have to retrain all the people who work in oil and gas, and it’s not that simple.
I just want to discuss what you called “a just transition.” You’d like to see something for workers in the bill. But then it’s a federal bill; as you know, the workforce, generally speaking, is more of a provincial jurisdiction. What do you think would be meant by a just transition? What specifically are you asking for? Paying several years of wages to allow people to retrain? What exactly would you like for these workers who are going to end up unemployed?
Mr. Bolduc: There are all kinds of possibilities. It could indeed be the requalification through training or financial compensation. Many jobs will disappear while others will be altered, and a number of jobs that don’t yet exist will be created.
Each of these will require a different form of action and workers will have to be given support during the transition. When a company has to make significant changes, or even shut down, some employees may be entitled to training for a new job or a job that is going to be transformed. So workers need to be supported, but the concept of community also needs to be factored in.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: Mr. Bolduc, that sort of thing can’t be put in Bill C-12. You’re speaking more generally, I guess.
Mr. Bolduc: What we’d like is for the just transition principle to be included in Bill C-12. We’ve been promised that it will eventually happen. However, it’s important for our workers that the net-zero emissions goal be tied to the just transition principle, and we don’t see that in the bill.
We believe that the net zero by 2050 goal needs to take workers into consideration, in addition to the communities that are affected.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: Thank you, Mr. Bolduc.
Senator Galvez: Thank you for joining us today. We have been meeting with people from all sectors. I am grateful to people who have come and provided witness testimony. We have had citizens and high emitters like the cement industry, physicians and doctors, scientists involved in math and physics, Indigenous people and workers today, all in favour of this type of legislation, one that sets targets and one that makes action possible.
Still, we have people working against this type of bill. There are people who are still climate change deniers and people still putting up a lot of obstacles. Instead of asking more about the things you have said, Mr. Bolduc, they want our bills to be less ambitious and have economic targets more important than health or climate. What would each of you say to these people who are in opposition to this type of bill?
The Chair: Who is your question addressed to?
Senator Galvez: If each one could answer a little bit, thank you.
Mr. Bolduc: I believe that doing nothing would cost more and require a lot more effort than taking action immediately. There is no future in oil and gas. I repeat, there’s no future in oil and gas!
According to the International Energy Agency Study I referred to earlier, all oil and gas expansion projects could be stopped by making the energy transition, and it wouldn’t affect the economy.
I don’t have the expertise needed to challenge the conclusions of the various studies, and all I’m doing is reporting what they say. There is an important study from the Canadian Public Health Association which concludes that health costs will be enormous if we do nothing. Also according to this study, it is urgent to adapt to the consequences of the crisis, with costs related to loss of life and quality of life, estimated at $86 billion per year between now and 2050.
These are huge numbers that I’m in no position to challenge. I take them at face value, in what at first glance appears to be a serious study. It’s a cost of $250 billion per year by the year 2100.
In a high-emissions scenario, climate change would cause a loss of 128 million hours of work per year by the end of the century, the equivalent of 62,000 full-time jobs, worth approximately $15 billion.
Ms. Brouillette: Thank you for your question, Senator Galvez. I was educated as an economist and think that if there’s one thing we can say generally about how we look at the economy, it’s that we have historically sought to optimize only one variable, which is the rate of GDP growth. That’s why we need a separate bill if we are to meet another societal objective which, as we know, is intrinsic to bettering human health and welfare. The other important component related to equity and justice is reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We don’t need any more space in our legislative framework, where our emphasis is on these economic indicators. Our society is already doing that in an ad hoc manner. Bill C-12 needs to concentrate on our response to the climate crisis, from both the mitigation and adaptation standpoints.
Ms. Reed: The target for net zero is absolutely critical to have a resilient economy in Canada. That being the one target that’s included as a raw number in the bill, it’s essential as a guiding point. Really, what the bill does is set up a structure of how to meet that, with reporting timelines and interim target setting and what will go into plans that meet those. It provides the opportunity for additional regulation and sets up an advisory body, which we’re very supportive of.
Really, for people who have those valid concerns you mention, there’s an opportunity within the actual plan, establishment and development through the advisory committee to be engaging the public and different stakeholders and their needs throughout those processes. I don’t think there’s an additional need to address some of these economic pieces in the text of the legislation but ensure those processes laid out in the legislation allow for diverse perspectives in developing plans and targets.
Senator Simons: Thank you to all of our witnesses this afternoon.
My question is for Ms. Reed. We’ve heard from a number of witnesses over the course of this week who have expressed reservations about any kind of net-zero strategy that isn’t simply a reduction in emissions. I think it would be fair to say that for a lot of people, the kind of emission reduction strategy you’re describing is almost seen — I don’t want to put words in their mouths — but I think like a form of cheating, that somehow it’s not taking away emissions so therefore it doesn’t count. I wonder if you can explain to us how we can legitimately count and sort of do an analysis of to what extent nature conservancy is actually reducing our overall greenhouse gas situation.
My family owns a quarter section that has been in our family for a long time, and a big chunk of it is wetlands. It’s slough, as we call it here in the prairies, not swamp. We never do anything with it because we have 160 acres and we’re really only using 60 of them, so if 100 of them is under water, that’s cool with us. But surely we ought not to get points for our sloth. Nobody is giving out the Paula Simons wetlands preservation prize because I’m too lazy to think of things to do with my wetland.
Ms. Reed: Thank you for your question. I’m sure your wetland is very pretty. I would love to visit one day.
Senator Simons: The moose and mosquitos like it.
Ms. Reed: Fundamentally, when you think of the hundreds of megatonnes of emissions we need to reduce to meet the 2030 targets, let alone net zero, a huge portion of that has to come from transitioning away from fossil fuels, energy efficiency, clean transportation, et cetera. That absolutely has to be the bulk of the transition, but nature and the natural climate solutions that I describe also have a very important role to play.
There are two buckets of how that plays. At Nature United, the study that we looked at, all the pathways are additional, so they are not counting on business as usual. They’re additional and reduce emissions beyond business as usual.
First, if we continue to convert intact forests to high-intensity cropland and impact grasslands to high-intensity croplands, that will emit additional emissions into the air. By protecting those, we are actively reducing emissions that will occur and be seen by the atmosphere every year. The numbers I told you about are based on current rates of conversion over the last 10 years. Those are actually reducing emissions that we know will be released into the atmosphere because of the level of activity that we have in Canada.
The other part is sequestering, and that is taking emissions that are already in the atmosphere out of the atmosphere. Really, you get to that through the restoration of natural areas that are currently not absorbing carbon and you increase their ability to do that. Tree planting is a great example. Baby trees don’t sequester a lot of carbon. You need to wait 30 years until they’re mature and their processes are working to really get that carbon absorption. Those processes are important to put in place now so you have those net reductions in 2050.
There are always going to be emissions that we can’t reduce from building materials that we will still use, so to the extent that we transition away from fossil fuels to the maximum extent possible and do all of these other things, there will always be unavoidable emissions. They’ll take a while to get those emissions. Also, we already have a high level of emissions in the atmosphere. Sequestration is helping us transition and getting us to net zero from those emissions that are hard or impossible to negate.
Senator Simons: I guess my question is, though, how do you measure? How do you account for it? How do you know how much carbon a new-growth forest is sequestering? How much carbon is removed if you take what had been a canola field and return it to pasture for cattle?
Ms. Reed: There are two elements to that. One is the actual carbon flux from that biophysical process, and there is research out there about how much a wetland can absorb in carbon. I’m not a scientist, but they’ve been able to measure that. There are data gaps. There’s still more science you can do on that. Very specific — what is the flux from this natural process to get the uncertainty rates down? That’s on the flux of how much carbon a tree or a wetland can actually store.
Then, when you look at how the changes and practises change our sources and sinks of emission, there is complex modelling that you use to do that, and that is based on rates of change. In the forest sector, what is the demand from forest products in that region? What are the historical rates of logging and conversion? Then you kind of multiply that by that carbon flux, so you can have a very complex scientific and accounting model to figure that out.
Senator Cordy: Thank you, all. You’ve been great witnesses. Thank you all for your commitment to a healthy environment for all Canadians.
I’d like to speak first about the advisory board. I’m also very pleased that the advisory board is actually part of the legislation and that we have to have it. The legislation says that the minister must take into account the advice of the advisory board.
Mr. Bolduc, you spoke about the advisory board in Quebec. You have nine members of the advisory board in Quebec who are climate scientists, yet the advisory board that has been set up to deal with this legislation and to deal with the environment has one climate scientist. Is this problematic?
Mr. Bolduc: Yes, we believe it’s highly problematic. This kind of issue or discussion about the bill or the goal must be guided by science. If we add all kinds of other considerations, then the goal may well not be achieved. Goals really need to be guided by science. Having only one scientist and four fossil fuel representatives on the advisory body for this bill leads us to ponder who will be most influential.
Even if we attribute the best of intentions to these people we don’t know yet, we might well imagine that they will support the interests of the industry they represent. For us, it represents possible conflicts of interest on the committee.
Senator Cordy: Thank you.
My second question is a follow-up to Senator Galvez’s, and Senator Simons’ question as well. It relates to the positive things. You all spoke about how this climate change and net-zero legislation is a positive thing overall. You spoke about creating new jobs and social safeguards. Ms. Reed, you spoke about your annual report speaking about financial risks and benefits.
The reality is that, when we get legislation related to climate and zero gas emissions, there are many people who immediately jump on the job losses and those kinds of things. How do we counteract that? How do we get the message across that not only is it a win for our health and welfare as Canadians, but it can also be a very positive thing for our economy? How do we get the message out that it’s not a win-lose and that it can be a win-win, Ms. Reed?
Ms. Reed: There are a lot of ways we can do it. It’s probably the responsibility of all of us — the government, the corporate sector, as well as NGOs and public interest groups.
I will say that the fact that the Government of Canada announced the $3.9 billion commitment to natural climate solutions as part of the Fall Economic Statement, which was part of the COVID recovery package, is very important because they recognize the role that these natural climate solutions have in creating jobs and alternative revenue streams. From the nature side, that was a big thing put forward saying that this is part of economic recovery and not just conservationism and environmentalism, and it has an impact on local economies.
The Chair: To follow up on Senator Cordy’s question, there are many business people in our society who have all kinds of concerns about the major changes we will be facing. Many are not convinced that ordinary mortals will be able to avoid being seriously harmed economically.
Mr. Bolduc, I can tell that you are very committed. That’s good news, because your own success depends on a viable economy, and for your clients, your investments depend heavily on the economy. It’s a very positive signal that you’re sending to society at large.
Nevertheless, I believe that the FTQ was involved with the Port-Daniel cement plant, and that did not turn out well. Cement plants are one of the three sectors where no technical solution has been found yet, the other two being steel and chemicals.
What do we need to do for these sectors and cement plants, which create a great deal of pollution, but which are essential?
Mr. Bolduc: There are four cement plants in Quebec, including Port-Daniel. A few years ago, the FTQ toured every region of Quebec to make people aware of the energy transition. We met people, including some in the cement sector. I believe that the best thing you can do is to get the people, companies and communities affected by the changes on board.
For example, in Quebec, we’d like a working group on the just transition, established and funded by the government, to be included in Bill C-12. It would have representatives from major union organizations, employers, and government departments — two or three departments, like those responsible for the economy and the environment — who would analyze the available options. The just transition working group could have a committee of experts to deal, as required, with specific situations like the cement plants, to determine what could be done, and what is being done outside of Quebec and Canada.
In Sweden, carbon-neutral steel is currently being manufactured with green hydrogen. That’s one solution. For the cement plants, and I’m not an expert on what exists or does not at the moment, work is being done on establishing transitional laboratories that would bring workers and corporations together to analyze how companies can be more effective with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Work is in progress on how this could be done in the cement sector. That’s being worked on right now.
The Chair: You raised a concern about the advisory bodies, in terms of potential conflicts of interest. And yet, knowledgeable people are needed. These sectors are highly technical. So we want people who can help us. In the United Kingdom and France, such people are all brought together. In other words, potential conflicts of interests are accepted, but they have to be declared. What solution would you suggest for Canada? It’s all very well to have all kinds of people sitting on an advisory committee, but technical knowledge is needed for solutions to be developed. How can we strike a balance?
Mr. Bolduc: Well, the unions would like at least one seat. You’re right, you need a pool of knowledge around the table, but four representatives from the fossil fuel sector may be overdoing it, with too much influence on the committee. That worries us. There are reasons to wonder what directions, suggestions and recommendations might come from a committee with so many industry representatives.
The Chair: Thank you.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our witnesses. I think we’ve had a good discussion. You’ve shared your knowledge effectively with us, and I thank you on behalf of the committee.
For our final panel today we welcome, as an individual, Dr. Joy Agnew, Director, Applied Research, Centre of Innovation, Olds College, and from JustEarth, Joyce Hall, Co-chair.
Welcome and thank you for being with us today. I would like to remind you that you have five minutes each for your opening remarks, which we will then follow with a question and answer period. Ms. Agnew, we are ready to hear your comments.
Dr. Joy Agnew, Director, Applied Research, Centre of Innovation, Olds College, as an individual: Good afternoon. I oversee the college’s applied research program and Smart Farm operations. Our research mandate is to accelerate the development and adoption of innovations, technologies and practices that increase the productivity and sustainability of agriculture and food production. The college’s social purpose is to transform agriculture for a better world. I’m honoured to be here today to share my thoughts on how Bill C-12 may impact the agricultural sector.
I believe that Bill C-12 provides the government with an important tool to help ensure that Canada can meet ambitious emission reduction targets. This legislation is needed to properly drive the development of regulatory protocols and voluntary markets that will enable the paradigm shifts in the energy, mining, transportation and ag industries required to meet the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Stakeholders in the ag sector are concerned that the emission reduction targets and the strategies developed through this legislation may disproportionately and negatively affect the industry’s ability to produce food for a growing population while competing in the global marketplace.
The carbon emissions per pound of food produced in Canada are already among the lowest in the world because our growers and ranchers adopted best practices decades ago. There is room for improvement, however, and there is potential for the agriculture industry to be a net carbon sink through enhanced carbon sequestration in the soil.
The carbon footprint of the ag industry is incredibly complex and highly variable, with emissions and sequestration occurring across all 55 million hectares of agricultural land in Canada. This complexity, combined with the importance of the ag industry for Canada, means that the measures and strategies developed through this legislation must align with the way we do business in ag.
Complex quantification and verification protocols and detailed reporting requirements may work for carbon footprint assessments in the energy sector, but they are not feasible for the ag sector. Strategies that reduce net ag emissions in Western Canada may not be applicable in Eastern Canada. Strategies that incentivize the adoption of practices with a lower carbon footprint simply do not work when there are no alternative options that exist.
My recommendations for amendments to Bill C-12 are centred around the advisory body, whose mandate is to provide advice on the measures and sectoral strategies to achieve an emissions-reduction target.
First, I agree with previous recommendations to strengthen the advisory body’s role in establishing targets, plans and reports, rather than simply providing advice to the minister.
I also agree with previous recommendations that the advisory board be comprised of independent experts that report to Parliament rather than to the minister directly.
I’m also recommending that the advisory body have cross-sectoral representation, specifically representation from the ag sector. As I’ve mentioned, agricultural emissions are highly variable and depend on dozens, if not hundreds, of factors. Without this expertise on the advisory body, the proposed measures and strategies may be misaligned with the realities of producing food in Canada.
I also recommend that the advisory body be mandated to develop cross-sectoral measures and strategies. Continuing to draw the emissions envelope around each industry independently will make it challenging, if not impossible, for Canada to reach its target of net zero. There is a tremendous amount of overlap among energy, mining, transportation, forestry and ag sectors. It’s possible to deploy practices in agriculture that have no effect or may even slightly increase emissions in the ag envelope but drastically reduce emissions in the manufacturing and transportation envelopes. If there is no incentive or ability to evaluate the effect of a practice on the total net emissions, these opportunities are lost.
We must learn from what is and is not working in other nations with respect to legislating emissions-reduction targets, as well as strategies to achieve those reductions, but we all must understand that Canada’s sheer size, diverse landscape, challenging climate and key industries will require measures and strategies that are specific to Canada.
I am optimistic that a well-designed advisory board will recommend well-defined and aligned strategies, allowing the ag industry to continue to feed a growing population while playing a critical role in helping Canada achieve its target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
Joyce Hall, Co-chair, JustEarth: Good afternoon, members of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources and fellow presenter. Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of JustEarth.
I speak to you from Grey County and acknowledge the traditional territory of the Anishinabek Nation, the people of the Three Fires, known as the Ojibway, Odawa and Potawatomi Nations, and further give thanks to the Chippewas of Saugeen and the Chippewas of Nawash — now known as the Saugeen Ojibway Nation — as traditional keepers of this land.
JustEarth is an environmental NGO based in Toronto, founded and headed by former MP Lynn McDonald and a member of the Climate Action Network. Over the past year, we have been speaking to MPs of all parties, via Zoom, on the need for a strong climate accountability act for Canada.
You will agree, senators, I am sure, that no reasonable argument can be made to postpone urgent action on climate change. Those of us who are alive today bear a heavy responsibility — perhaps heavier than ever before borne by human society — because we see the threat of catastrophe directly in front of us. We know its approximate shape and size, and we have the means to avoid it.
As we sit here today, Canada is in the dubious position of being a climate laggard among its G7 peers and has occupied this place for far too long. We hope we are at a turning point. In your position of leadership, you have the opportunity to make a key decision when Bill C-12 comes before you, which we hope will be very soon.
It can be tempting to argue that the bill is not good enough, especially that it is not strong enough, and that more time is needed. Of course, that’s exactly the problem. There is no more time. A great deal of effort has gone into getting the bill this far, and the House rises on June 23.
Amendments already achieved in committee are laudable. Therefore, JustEarth proposes that while this bill is not perfect, it offers a framework that is workable and that we can build on. There are options for strengthening it, both in implementation and in further amendments, and a recent amendment from the standing committee calls for a review in five years.
That said, JustEarth has these suggestions for future amendments. They are to be noted for future reference, not as reasons to stall the bill.
Ninety per cent of net-zero efforts must occur through absolute emissions reductions, not offsets.
The legislation needs to ensure that the rights of Indigenous people are guaranteed by integrating into its implementation the free, prior and informed consent established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
It makes sense as well to make full use of the knowledge of Indigenous peoples — who cared for the land wisely and respectfully for thousands of years — by including them in the advisory body.
Accountability legislation moving forward should take into account the total amount of emissions that we spend as we travel to reach net zero by 2050 — in other words, the carbon budget or the cumulative emissions from now until 2050.
We suggest legislated five-year budgets to increase accountability for each government in an election cycle so that there is no incentive to put off action.
As for sectors included in planning, all — including military and space — need to be included.
Also to consider moving forward is the requirement for the government to report on the status and direction of greenhouse gas emissions in sub-national jurisdictions — provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous. Reducing our national emissions requires clarity on how each sector — and, ideally, each province — is expected to contribute to the national goal.
Setting provincial targets and carbon budgets would increase transparency and certainty in our decarbonization plan, allocating our limited climate budget across the economy and country.
A reminder: The U.K. passed its very effective Climate Accountability Act in 2008 by near unanimity, with the major parties of the day — Labour and Conservative — joining to pass it. Canada needs a similar nonpartisan effort, and this bill is our chance to place us on the continuous, concentrated course required to reach net zero by 2050.
In closing, I repeat that there is no need to hold up the bill in order to integrate our suggestions. It will evolve and improve as the impact of climate change draws increasing attention and as we learn. JustEarth recommends that Bill C-12 be adopted as it comes out of committee so that Canada loses no more time in meeting its profoundly important international obligation to ensure a safe future for human generations to come.
Thank you very much. I appreciate your attention and look forward to your questions.
The Chair: Thank you to both of you. We will proceed to questions.
Senator Simons: Thank you very much to both our witnesses today. As a senator from Alberta, I’m particularly happy to see Dr. Agnew here waving the flag for Olds College, which is an important Alberta educational institution.
Dr. Agnew, when people think about the carbon or methane footprints of agriculture, they think about things like grain drawing at great volume or cows producing methane in the way that they do. Since you are the director of applied research for the Centre of Innovation, could you tell us some of the more innovative techniques, equipment or procedures that you’re seeing young farmers experimenting with that could reduce and offset carbon?
Dr. Agnew: Thank you, Senator Simons, for the question and the shout-out for Olds College.
Before I talk about some of the innovations and technologies that your question addressed, I wanted to point out the fact that there is a lot of misinformation out there as well with respect to the carbon footprint of agriculture, and specifically the livestock sector, where, yes, cattle do result in methane emissions. However, the methane that is emitted is typically part of a short carbon cycle where that carbon is sequestered that year and then consumed by the animals in the following grazing cycle. The net emissions of carbon to the atmosphere from cattle production is far lower than many people believe, based on poorly presented study results, in my opinion.
To answer your question more directly around technologies and innovations that are helping to reduce overall emissions, they are so numerous I barely know where to start. We are talking about novel feed additives for the cattle industry that are then reducing the enteric emissions from the animals.
There are novel sensors, algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence that are helping to optimize in-bin grain drying processes so you are only running fans and heaters and burning propane and natural gas for the shortest amount of time required to achieve safe-to-store moisture content conditions.
We are seeing massive advances in the use of precision ag tools to ensure that only the right amount and right type of nitrogen fertilizer and other fertilizers are being applied to grow the crops with maximum yield.
It goes on and on. The opportunities are endless. The challenge is that some practices or some methods of transitioning to a lower carbon economy, again, are not aligned with the way that we do business in agriculture. I’m referring to the fact that sometimes there aren’t alternative practices to adopt, and that can severely inhibit or limit our ability to grow enough food to feed a growing population.
Senator Simons: Can you go into more detail? When you say things are not aligned, I’m sensing from your comments that you are almost concerned that individual farmers are going to have to be reporting in. There is nothing really in Bill C-12 that is that prescriptive. What are your concerns about practices that you don’t think, with the technology or at least the procedures we have now, that can be made to have that kind of drastic drop in emissions?
Dr. Agnew: Thank you for the follow-up question.
Yes, I recognize Bill C-12 won’t require farmers to individually document and report on emissions. I’m referring to mechanisms like the carbon tax, for example, where farmers are being penalized, so to speak, for burning fuel for grain drying and other practices that are not exempt, where there is no alternative for them to have a lower carbon footprint. That is one example of a policy or regulation or mechanism that’s deployed to encourage alternative management practices to reduce a carbon footprint that is not aligned with the way that we do business.
Agriculture is a business with incredibly razor-thin margins, and farmers and ranchers are constantly having to manage risk carefully. In order to do that, they can’t be burdened by additional costs of doing business without any opportunity to recover that down the supply chain.
They also have to remain competitive with other nations, and if other nations don’t have the same type of climate policies that affect agriculture production, then it makes it very difficult for our Canadian farmers to compete.
Senator Galvez: I have a question for Dr. Joy Agnew and one for Joyce Hall.
The agricultural sector is complex and has been changing a lot in the last years. I was recently in a conference for agricultural and rural engineers, and I learned a lot of things.
In Canada, we have the growth of small agro people growing biological products, caring about permaculture, integrating crops and reducing the carbon print even more. On the other hand, the middle-sized agriculture farms are disappearing in making room for huge farms. I think that this is impacting in parallel the situation with the climate. It’s impacting the sector incredibly. I am sure you are aware that one of the nine boundaries of this planet is the geochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus, which are exceeded. Can you please elaborate for us to better understand all the scales of the agricultural sector?
Dr. Agnew: Thank you, Senator Galvez, for the question.
Yes, it has been an interesting evolution, watching family farms disappear and large corporate farms seemingly take over. It’s primarily because of the economies of scale and because the advancement of agriculture over the last 100 years has followed the industrialization model, where you need to get bigger, use bigger equipment and take advantage of those economies of scale. To some degree, it has meant we have sacrificed overall stewardship of the land. To some degree. I want to stress that both large-scale and small-scale farms have to be strong stewards of the land. With agriculture, it’s not like we have to make a choice between being sustainable and being productive and profitable. They are intricately linked because our ability to grow food on the soil and the land depends on the soil and land being strong and healthy. It’s not like we are making choices in agriculture that are purposely against or have negative environmental impacts in order to increase productivity and profitability. They are linked.
I’m not sure if that answers your question, but that is definitely an observation in terms of farm size, but both are strong stewards of the land. They have to be because their livelihood depends on it.
Senator Galvez: Thank you very much.
Ms. Hall, I agree with all you said and that as imperfect as Bill C-12 is, we are laggers among our peer G7 countries, and we have not attained our targets, so we have to be stronger and push further for those. I will ask you a question I asked of the previous group. Despite the emergency we have with the climate crisis, we still have people who don’t want us to go in that direction. What is the message? Do you think that putting obstacles to legislation like this one is irresponsible?
Ms. Hall: Your question is interesting. I live in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, and I have recently been in communication with my Conservative MP asking for cooperation to pass this bill. I’m one of seven climate action groups in Grey County. We are municipally based, and there is a tremendous amount of activity going on in climate up here in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
We are certainly educating. When COVID finishes, we hope to do more. We hope to have public meetings. I can tell you that we are very alive to the need to do things differently.
One of the problems in my particular area is soy and beans use neonics, and beekeepers are very concerned about the use of neonics and its effect on bees. We are working at the local level, so looking for local solutions.
I’m very pleased to report that I believe that solutions are being found locally, municipality by municipality. As each municipality signs on to the PCP program and gets their climate action program together, they are going to have to find local talent and energy to resolve or to create good paths toward the carbon targets that they set — local, suitable, appropriate means and methods.
So there is that report from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound on the lively activity here and I believe a strong impetus to educate the public on climate change and our local MPs and MPPs.
Thank you for your question.
Senator Miville-Dechêne: My question is for Dr. Agnew. I’m interested in farming too, but I want to make sure I’ve understood your comments properly. You say that there are all kinds of new technologies that could help farmers generate less carbon dioxide, but can you tell us whether farmers are adopting certain solutions on their own?
I understand there is a problem with fuel. I would imagine that’s because it’s not easy in Alberta or indeed wherever we are in Canada, to switch to other fuels, but is progress is being made with different technologies that would generate less carbon dioxide, and are they being used in agriculture? In other words, is agriculture trailing behind or leading the pack? Does it need financial assistance to make the transition and what’s the problem with fuel?
Dr. Agnew: Thank you, senator. That is a great question.
Yes, there are solutions that can help producers generate fewer emissions and actually enhance carbon sequestration. Many of them are at a relatively early stage or they are pre-commercial or maybe have just been commercialized in recent years.
Farmers, as I mentioned, are inherently risk managers. They have to manage risk because the profit margins in ag are razor thin. They are very careful, if not reluctant, to adopt brand-new technologies, unless they have been relatively well-established, they see that it’s working elsewhere and it’s not going to inhibit their ability to produce food, be profitable and put food on their own family’s table. It is all about risk mitigation, so at this stage, advancing those technologies, proving them out and accelerating that is going to help accelerate the adoption of them and then accelerate the emission reduction potential on farms through those technologies.
To answer the second part of your question, I’m in a bit of a conflict of interest with respect to the need for more funding support for that technological development because that’s my world. I manage the Centre for Innovation at Olds College, where we support the development and validation of those technologies. Right now, there is strong investment in this sector and a tremendous amount of activity and momentum going on, but there will always be a need for that support to make sure that innovators and technology developers are supported so they can get their ideas from a napkin to a commercial reality to help us produce food more profitably and sustainably.
Senator Cordy: Thanks to both of you. You’ve presented a really good discussion on this particular piece of legislation.
Dr. Agnew, if I could start with you, you certainly gave us a great explanation about the farms and the challenges for heating grain and should you be penalized for doing that. I guess you’ve also spoken about needing strong investment, and there is currently strong investment for new technology in the agricultural industry.
You suggested an amendment, I believe, to change the advisory board. If we amend it in the Senate, the possibility is that this piece of legislation could be gone. With the five-year review, would that not be a time to look at the advisory body? I’m not really keen on the makeup of the advisory board either, but then I look at it from a parliamentary perspective and say, okay, does this have bones for the future? Is this a good working document? I guess that’s how I look at it. I’m interested. You’ve certainly made some good arguments, but would you rather see no bill or see a bill with strong bones?
Dr. Agnew: Thank you, Senator Cordy, for the question.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am a scientist and I know very little about the legislative process. I definitely agree with your comment that the bill as worded is strong enough of a foundation to move forward with. If it means that it could die because you have to amend it, I don’t agree with that. But I do strongly recommend, even if it’s not included in the wording of the bill, that it be considered to have cross-sectoral representation in that advisory body. I looked at the current members of that body, which represent some really strong individuals with strong backgrounds and a good mix, but agriculture was missing, from what I could see. To me, that’s a problem. I would rather that problem get fixed before the five-year review by simply rethinking the appointments to that body.
Senator Cordy: That’s a really good point. Maybe, Dr. Agnew, we’ll have you back in five years’ time for the review.
Ms. Hall, I wonder if you could answer that comment. I believe you did in your testimony, but if you could reiterate what you said.
Ms. Hall: JustEarth does want to see the legislation passed, as imperfect as it is. We have been lobbying for one year now. We’ve been Zooming with MPs. When this amount of work has gone into it and a lot of good amendments have been put forward by the standing committee, we really want to see it continue. We do feel that it can be amended and changed moving ahead. We have lots of good models to look at, and we will learn from experience. So absolutely do not stall the legislation in the Senate. I appreciate your question, and I can reply very directly to that. I’m glad Dr. Agnew agrees with me. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you very much, colleagues. That brings this panel session to an end. On your behalf, I want to thank our witnesses and experts for sharing their knowledge. This was very interesting. I think you contributed quite a bit. Thank you for being available to us.
Colleagues, I now adjourn the meeting, and we’ll see each other tomorrow at noon.