Address to the United Nations Climate Change Conference
Speech delivered by the Honourable Rona Ambrose, P.C., M.P., Minister of the Environment
(Check Against Delivery)
Mr. President, distinguished delegates, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Canada is proud to be here in Nairobi as a friend, a partner and an ally to further our international efforts to address climate change.
We have come together to demonstrate to the world that an effective global response to climate change is needed, and that it is possible - to offer hope instead of fear, and to be constructive in the face of institutional, economic and environmental challenges.
Canada faces these challenges with the world. In the small, northern village of Lutsel K'e in Canada's Northwest Territories, I heard from our aboriginal Dene elders who shared with me stories about the changes they are seeing in their surroundings – the change in permafrost, the impact to the migratory patterns of the caribou, and to their traditional ways of life.
It is globally accepted that the Arctic is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and northern peoples – the Inuit, First Nations and Metis – will require unique adaptation interventions.
When Canada hosted the UNFCCC Adaptation workshop in my home town of Edmonton, Alberta, we heard – first hand from more than 40 countries – the same stories recounted in different ways. It's when we gather to tell our stories to the world and to one another that we truly appreciate the global nature of the challenge we face. And we thank Africa for sharing their unique story with the world.
We are here to share our challenges, our successes and our hopes for the future.
I am pleased to share with you Canada's challenges, our successes and our hopes.
When Canada's New Government assumed office this year, we found an unacceptable situation. We found that measures to address climate change by previous Canadian governments were insufficient and unaccountable.
Years after signing and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, Canada still had not implemented a domestic plan to address climate change. And the result is that Canada is 35% above our Kyoto target.
We recognized that it was time to face up to our challenges in the most Canadian way – to be forthright with Canadians and our international partners about the results of Canada's previous efforts, and to be realistic on the progress we could make by 2012.
As with any bold recognition of the truth, ours was met by resistance. But it was the right thing to do.
We will not deny the obvious, nor disrespect our international obligations by paying them mere lip service with no substance. We will confront the reality of previous governments' inaction.
Indeed, we have chosen real progress over delay - and transparency over rhetoric. We are taking responsibility, embarking on pragmatic solutions and finally beginning the process of putting our own house in order.
This is where our challenges have turned into successes.
We recognized that leadership and real action were required. And
under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, this autumn our government introduced Canada's Clean Air Act; the first ever legislation by a Canadian government to address national regulations on climate change and the first to take a coordinated approach on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
We recognized that the voluntary approaches of the previous government were not sufficient and that it was time for Canadian industry to become a larger part of the solution. As such, our government is the first to move industry from voluntary measures to mandatory reductions. We are acting immediately to ensure Canadian industry meets short, medium and long-term emission reductions targets. Our plan recognizes the importance of a long-term commitment to reducing emissions. We will continue to take into account the well-researched advice of the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, and will work to reduce Canada's absolute emissions by up to 65 per cent by 2050.
But our plan also recognizes the need for urgent action so that we can finally make progress towards our 2012 international obligations. Early in the New Year, Canada will finally have short term targets and timelines for all major industry sectors.
Recognizing the role for non-regulated entities such as municipalities to take on voluntary targets and receive credit for the contributions they are making, we are working with Canadians to develop a system for opt-ins and offsets to create increased opportunity for credit for early action and investments in renewable energy.
Only a plan that seeks to include everyone will deliver the results Canada needs to make a difference.
Our plan recognizes the importance of taking an integrated approach to ensure we address both climate change and air pollution. The health of our citizens and the health of our environment are equally important. To us, the two are inseparable and for that reason, our government has chosen to address them in unison.
Our plan recognizes the Canadian context: our greenhouse gases come primarily from two places - transportation and the energy sector. Our government has invested 1.3 billion dollars in public transit, and is finding innovative ways to offer Canadians cleaner fuels.
For the first time, Canada has set a target of 5 percent renewable fuel content by 2010. Our government will be the first Canadian government to introduce mandatory fuel efficiency standards in vehicles.
Acknowledging the importance of technology as a solution to addressing climate change, our government will hold a national workshop to debate and discuss the governance and operational capacity of a Canadian technology fund.
Canada possesses a wealth of innovative environmental technologies, practical research and constructive bilateral and multilateral partnerships. And our government has the will and the leadership to share these ideas and experiences with the world.
Our plan recognizes that citizens must be a part of the solution. If consumers do not take individual responsibility for their actions and make cleaner and more environmentally friendly choices, the actions of any government will be in vain. To support our new industrial regulations, our government this year committed 2 billion dollars towards additional action on climate change, including consumer programs, energy efficiency and transportation initiatives.
Canada's New Government recognizes the importance of the provinces and territories and their efforts to introduce plans to address climate change. But we also recognize that it is time we moved our country to mandatory national reductions across all large industry sectors. We know that will only be possible by building a national framework of regulations.
There are some who are using the Kyoto Protocol to create divisions within our country – but we will not let that happen. Canada has one target and we all share the responsibility to work together to fulfill our obligations. Individual Canadians, municipalities, provinces and territories must all work together to address this important issue.
Using market mechanisms to achieve reductions at the lowest possible cost to industry is important. And Canada's Clean Air Act provides our country with the framework for pursuing a truly flexible and effective trading system. We look to the experience of Europe and the UK, and I am pleased the EU has accepted Canada's invitation to share their experiences and lessons learned when Canada hosts our national workshop on trading in early December.
It is our belief that Canada must strive to create a market that is compatible with other markets and leads to the inclusion of the United States – a country we will not criticize, isolate and exclude because they must be part of the solution. We will continue to engage our neighbour and encourage them to take on a stronger role within the United Nations process.
As you can see, we have begun to work through our challenges. We can now share some of our progress and we look forward to our successes.
It is through your continued support that Canada will be able to provide hope to Canadians and proof to the world that our government is finally on track to make a difference on this important issue.
Our hope is that other countries can learn from the challenges Canada is overcoming.
Our hope is that when countries consider future action they consider taking an integrated approach and address both climate change and clean air as Canada has – action that will ensure health as well as environmental benefits.
Our hope is that we truly find an inclusive approach as we move forward. That we include, and support and encourage, instead of exclude, isolate and criticize.
To those of you who might question our resolve to stand together on this urgent issue, let there be no doubt.
Canada remains strongly committed to the UN process. Canada remains strongly committed to Kyoto – driven by a principled obligation for collaboration and action. And we look forward to making a significant contribution to the global efforts to fight climate change.
I want to thank my Canadian delegation for their outstanding professionalism and dedication to this cause. As we seek constructive dialogue with other nations, Canada's New Government also seeks constructive dialogue with other Canadian political parties.
As we gather here, we are as ministers obligated to take stock of the challenges facing us, through article 3.9, article 9, and the convention dialogue.
As we do this, we must ask ourselves "what has worked" and "what has not worked" under the protocol to date.
There are some who fear that by admitting certain things are not working we are in effect abandoning Kyoto. On the contrary, I would challenge each of us to recognize that we are abandoning our protocol obligations if we do not acknowledge that we must make improvements.
Our debate needs to be one of constructive dialogue - centered on real policy discussions, not cynicism and political expediency.
Ultimately we will not achieve success by denying the shortcomings of our past approach.
Rather, success lies in an open, honest and constructive assessment of where we stand today, and a determined effort to identify how we can collectively move forward to find a truly global solution to combat climate change.
In Canada, climate change is the subject of vigorous debate – as it is throughout the world. In our Parliament, our government seeks open and constructive dialogue and welcomes every overture of collaboration.
We seek and offer the same in the international community.
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