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Speech for

The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.
Minister of the Environment

To the European Union–Canada Going Green Conference

The Palais des congrès de Montréal,
Montreal, Quebec

March 20, 2013

Thank you Ambassador Brinkmann for that kind introduction. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am delighted to participate in this timely discussion on the advancement green economy initiatives.

We are pleased to be co-hosting the 10th AMERICANA International Environmental Technology Trade Show and Conference with the Government of Quebec. I hope that you enjoy yourselves and take the time to experience the beauty and adventure Montreal has to offer.

Canada and the European Union are committed partners in advancing environmental stewardship, especially in our efforts to combat climate change. Climate Change is a global problem that requires a global solution.

Canada, like the European Union, takes its commitments seriously and is doing its part. It has been my pleasure over the past two years to work with Connie Hedegaard, the European Union Commissioner for Climate Change Action through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as the Climate and Clean Air Coalition efforts to reduce Short Lived Climate Pollutants.

The environment—and all the challenges associated with its stewardship—is something we all share.

That makes it especially heartening to see such a strong turnout at AMERICANA: it is a powerful display of common purpose. This year there are 10,000 participants, 350 exhibitors and 200 speakers from different countries. All focused on the latest environmental technology. All looking for ways to take it even further.

The Government of Canada strongly supports this multi-lateral approach to environmental progress, which echoes our own commitment to collaborative leadership.

From the outset, our strategy has been to work closely and in consultation with a full range of domestic stakeholders—as well as our continental partners and international colleagues. That is the only way to build a strong legal and policy framework that also reflects the specific context of our country and its unique environment.

Just look around this convention center: every country, every region represented has its own physical, social and economic circumstances. There is no single route to success and no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

That is exactly why it’s imperative for us all to come together, to share knowledge, best practices, expertise and experience. Technology and innovation play a critical role in any environmental plan—all the more because they can be adapted and applied to different conditions and challenges.

Through collaboration, opportunities abound.

By any measure, Canada’s regulatory agenda is an ambitious one, focused on the establishment and consistent enforcement of transparent world-class environmental standards.

Those standards, which we are introducing on a sector-by-sector basis, apply to greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, standards for greenhouse gases, chemical management, air and water quality, and biodiversity are reinforced at every turn by investment in the research and development required to transform intent into action.

But however proud we are of Canada’s record of achievement, we acknowledge there is—and always will be—more to be done.

Consider that Canada has invested more than $10 billion since 2006 to reduce greenhouse gases, to improve energy efficiency, to develop green infrastructure.

To supplement what the Government can and should do, we are also looking for strategic opportunities to support private sector initiatives.

That’s why Sustainable Development Technology Canada, under its SD Tech Fund, has spent $581 million over the past decade on 238 projects, projects which have been actively supported by another $1.4 billion in funding from other partners.

Just a few weeks ago, we strengthened our commitment to “green” Canada’s economy by investing $61.8 million to assist 23 new projects, ranging from an innovative, environmentally-friendly way to control bacteria in crops to making heating and air conditioning systems more energy efficient.

These investments—and the many other programs and partnerships the Canadian government supports—are crucial to ensuring that we balance our environmental agenda with our economic reality. But what is so encouraging is the results we are achieving.

I referred earlier to Canada’s focus on world-class environmental standards. Well, for the transportation sector alone, the changes we’ve made in the rules for emissions—in collaboration with our biggest trade partner, the United States—will result in a 50 percent drop in greenhouse gases and fuel consumption from cars and light trucks by 2025 relative to 2008 levels.

Meanwhile, the new standards for heavy trucks will see greenhouse gas reductions of up to 23 percent by the 2018 model year compared to unregulated vehicles, as well as significantly lower fuel usage and costs for vehicle owners and operators.

Our Government has also issued a regulatory proposal that would see emissions reduced from new ship builds in the marine sector. 

Canada has also taken action against the dirtiest form of power-generation: burning coal. New regulations will make Canada the first nation to ban construction of future traditional coal-fired plants.

As Canada continues to push forward—domestically, continentally and internationally—we will rely more heavily than ever on technology and innovation to maintain and sustain what we’ve accomplished to date—and to secure incremental gains.

We are continuing to work with our partners on the oil and gas sector. The oil sands are a crucial economic driver in Canada. We are committed to the responsible development of this important resource. There continue to be significant actions taken by federal and provincial governments and industry to improve the environmental performance.

Canada’s oil sands are a perfect example of an issue in which discussion, in some circles, is fed by falsehoods. In fact, independent studies have clearly shown that, over the full life cycle, greenhouse gas emissions from oil taken from oil sands are similar—if not lower—than those from several types of oil imported and used on a daily basis in the European Union.

However, the proposed measures for the implementation of the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive unfairly penalize crude oil from the oil sands while ignoring crude oil responsible for large quantities of greenhouse gases currently used in the European Union.

Canada has an open and transparent system that requires reporting on the intensity of greenhouse gas production from crude oil, but is compared to countries that do not publish that information in a transparent and comparable manner.

That being said, Canada objects to any option that puts oil sands crude in a separate category from other heavy crudes, or in a separate category from light crude where there is extensive venting or flaring. These crudes have greenhouse gas characteristics similar to the oil sands and there is no justification for treating them differently.

A better way to reduce emissions is one that considers and is built upon the actual greenhouse gas characteristics of individual crudes.

If an average value is used, there is an incentive not to report, and high-emissions suppliers never will.

The current fuel quality directive proposal effectively discourages the importation of crude from a reliable, responsible, market-based country—Canada—in favour of less stable and reliable producers. This will hurt the European Union and global markets in terms of security of supply.

What is exceptionally notable is that we made progress to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions while being cognizant of the need to ensure our country’s long-term economic prosperity. Our government believes that our greenhouse gas emission-reduction approach will ensure Canadians are able to benefit from the prosperity and stability of our country’s strong economy and to rest assured knowing that they will have a rigorously protected, clean, and beautiful environment for years to come, for future generations.

We have the ingenuity and the inspiration to innovate... to make the steady progress, to ensure that our stewardship is a success... for us and for future generations.

As you will spend the rest of day discussing energy efficiency, green cities and clean energies for a sustainable future, you will have an opportunity to discuss current best practices from both European Union and Canadian angles, and challenges faced at city, regional and country level. 

These discussions will be fruitful with an emphasis on creative solutions and practical follow-up such as potential twinning of cities between Canadian and European municipal leaders present here.

Thank you for your time and may your deliberations be fruitful and informative.

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