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Speech

Notes for Remarks by
The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.,
Minister of the Environment,
Announcement on Domestic Climate Change Adaptation
Toronto, Ontario
November 8, 2011

Check against Delivery

It’s a particular pleasure to be here today. It was at a Toronto Economic Club luncheon that I gave my first speech as Environment Minister last January. That was also my first opportunity as Minister to present the Government’s sector-by-sector strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change.

It’s a national plan with a strong, corresponding international component… and today I’ll give you an update on where we are and where we’re going.

At a time when economic recovery, jobs and prosperity are the principal focus at home and abroad, it is more important than ever to ensure that we remain committed to improving the environment.

Innovation expert Richard Florida, who’s based at the Rotman School of Management, refers to this period in our economic history as a “great re-set.” It’s a term I like because it reflects the opportunities for positive improvement and renewal that are too-often eclipsed by the negative news that has dominated our lives in recent months.

One of the opportunities of this “re-set” is to better integrate our environmental objectives into Canada’s economic structure and infrastructure. It’s one way to ensure that we maximize our competitiveness in a rapidly evolving global field.

Delivering on our clear environmental plan and regulatory framework provides the certainty that encourages companies to spend the money to upgrade their operations and create good jobs for Canadians.

That means, even though we are currently in a period of real fiscal restraint—something this Government takes very seriously—, it is the right time to make investments that will position Canada’s economy for the future.

There’s no question our domestic businesses can be more productive and more efficient than ever while still meeting the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and other environmental standards we’ve put in place.

But it’s also important that the reality of climate change be well understood and proactively managed.

That’s why today I’m announcing that the Government of Canada will spend $148.8 million over the next five years to help our country adapt to climate change.

This funding – which extends and expands 10 programs across nine Departments – will help us frame a credible, science-based response to the impact that climate change has and will have on our economy… our health… our security… and—in particular—our northern and Aboriginal communities.

But, let me be clear, only an international agreement that includes all major emitters deliver the greatest impact in addressing climate change.

This funding builds on—and extends—the $85.9 million we’ve spent over the past four years to help provinces, territories, municipalities and others develop science-based knowledge and practical strategies for domestic adaptation to climate change.

Internationally, the government is equally engaged in developing a strategic response to climate change. It’s a question of enlightened self-interest: if we want Canada to meet the environmental challenges ahead, we have to help others do the same.

That’s why Canada is one of the first countries to step up with its fair share of climate change adaptation funding for developing countries, something we pledged to deliver under the Copenhagen Accord.

Among other measures, we’ve provided $400 million in fast-start financing in 2010-2011 to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations develop clean energy options, address the problems caused by deforestation and boost sustainable agriculture.

Over four years, we’re also contributing $238.4 million to the Global Environment Facility. Some of that came from the Fast-Start Financing envelope, the rest came from the International Assistance envelope.

In turn, this funding reinforces our $100 million contribution in 2008-2009 to the World Bank’s pilot program on climate resilience.

In other words, we’ve implemented a proactive climate change action plan on domestic and international fronts, one that’s tailored to Canada’s specific needs but based on our commitments at recent United Nations climate change summits in Copenhagen and Cancun.

Every year, at the end of November, the United Nations convenes a special “Conference of the Parties” meeting or “COP” to discuss climate change and frame the multilateral efforts required to address it.

This year, the 17th COP meeting will be held in Durban, South Africa. Having recently attended the pre-meeting meetings, I assure you that COP season has a very distinct micro-climate of its own: it tends to get very hot… and occasionally very windy.

Canada also fully participates in the 17-member Major Economies Forum… as well as ongoing continental and bilateral environmental working groups with the United States and Mexico.

It was at the COP 15 meeting in 2009 that Canada—and all other major emitters—agreed to the historic Copenhagen Accord. Subsequent to that we inscribed the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets that frame our domestic and international environmental strategy today.

Our commitment to reduce this country’s emissions by 17 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020 was deliberately harmonized with the targets set by the United States, our largest trading partner and closest neighbor. It makes sense given the integrated nature of our respective economies and environments.

In Cancun, at COP 16, Canada built on the foundation of the Copenhagen Accord, which included the fast-start funding to which I referred to earlier, with a series of comprehensive agreements.

Of course, it’s never easy to achieve consensus when there are so many countries with such diverse circumstances sitting around the table.

But Canada’s position in the face of so many competing environmental agendas has always been—and continues to be—very simple: we will only support climate change agreements that are signed and ratified by all major emitters.

It’s a straightforward, practical approach.

That’s because we’ve already declared that however acute the international pressure, we will not agree to taking on a second commitment period target under the Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol doesn’t meet our simple criteria: It has not been signed by all of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. That means it ultimately covers much less than 30 per cent of global emissions.

Frankly, we can do—and have already done—better than that with the Copenhagen Accord, which is signed by all major emitters and incorporates ambitious emission reduction targets for all of them.

The supplementary agreements made in Cancun a year ago, made further refinements to the Accord and also established a workable template for continuous improvement in future.

As a Government, our principal job is to make the best decisions possible for Canada and Canada’s specific environmental, economic and social context.

Other countries are entitled to base their decisions and actions on what they believe to be best for their circumstances. But we are confident in our plan and will not be swayed.

The reason we are so confident is because our plan is working.

Our sector-by-sector approach—along with the work done by the Provinces—has brought us 25 per cent of the way to reaching our 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target.

We’ve introduced new emissions regulations for cars and trucks. We’re currently refining the regulations that will phase-out the use of coal to generate electricity. Our renewable fuel standards have mandated a 5 per cent ethanol content for the gasoline used by cars and trucks.

At the same time as we’re focused on the long-term, we’re not neglecting the shorter-term opportunities to address climate change.

Along with the United States and Mexico, Canada is looking at ways to reduce the soot, methane, ozone and other gases which are called short-lived climate forcers. They account for 30 to 40 per cent of global warming on a short-term basis

It’s work that complements a variety of existing regulatory and international efforts and holds the promise of some dramatic results.

There’s much more to come and let me be clear: there’s no quick fix for climate change.

Addressing it is a highly consultative process, and one that requires a careful balancing and re-balancing of economic and environmental considerations—domestically and globally. It also requires focus, consistency and determination.

As we head to the COP meeting in just a few weeks, there’s no question that there will be some very passionate discussion about the best way to manage the threat of climate change. Neither is there any question that the differences and disagreements that will get all the public attention—that makes for more dramatic headlines.

Thank you.