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

European Tour

Brussels, Belgium

May 15, 2013

Thank you for taking the time to be here this morning. My name is Peter Kent, Canada's Minister of the Environment. I am in Europe this week meeting with colleagues to discuss environmental strategies, challenges and to advance shared goals on the environment. I am also taking this opportunity to tell Canada's story, to convey what we are facing and what we are doing about it, as well as the progress we are making in protecting our environment.

Every country has its own unique geographic, economic and social landscape—which impacts its environmental challenges and solutions. This is a particularly important factor to consider when it comes to climate change. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to reducing emissions—what works in one country may not be the best approach in another. Mutual progress relies on effective collaboration that recognizes individual challenges and solutions.

As the second largest country in the world, Canada is blessed with an enormous and magnificent natural environment. While size alone presents challenges for our country, we are striving for continuous improvement, working collaboratively and advancing our knowledge and technologies.

Canada is an Arctic nation. Nearly 40 percent of our land mass and fresh water is located in the north which means we are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of global warming. And, we understand first-hand the threats from climate change.

That is why we are so focused on reducing emissions—within our own borders, with our continental neighbors and on a global level. It is also why we are so committed to meeting our ambitious Copenhagen target—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Taking Action on Emissions at Home

As a federation, we are working with our provinces, territories and other jurisdictions by taking a sector-by-sector approach, targeting those sectors with the biggest impact on the environment.

Given the size of our country, it is no surprise that transportation accounts for about one-quarter of our emissions.

So, in Canada we are taking on the challenges posed by this very sector. We have been working closely with the United States, our immediate neighbors, aligning standards for North American vehicles where it makes sense to do so.

A concrete example of action taken is our harmonization of the regulations for the current 2011-2016 model passenger automobiles and light trucks, and the proposed harmonized regulations for the 2017-2025 models.

By the time the 2025 fleet rolls off the lot, it is estimated that these vehicles will be consuming 50 percent less fuel and producing 50 percent fewer emissions compared to the 2008 models.

We have also tackled emissions from coal-fired electricity generation. Indeed, Canada is the first country in the world to ban construction of traditional coal plants.

Today, with three-quarters of our electricity supply emitting no greenhouse gases, Canada now has an electricity system that is one of the cleanest in the world.

And even as we project increases in both electricity generation and economic growth—emissions from the electricity sector are projected to decline by one-third by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.

This shows that economic growth and environmental stewardship can go hand-in-hand and are not mutually exclusive. There is a way to achieve economic growth with responsible development and management. And it works.

Reducing Emissions in the Oil Sands

Canada is also focussing on reducing greenhouse gases emissions in the oil and gas sector. As a country with the world’s third-largest oil reserves, it is vital that we develop this resource responsibly. And that is just what we are doing.

Working with other levels of government and industry, we are collaborating to develop federal regulations for the oil and gas sector.

In the meantime, the industry has been working proactively to reduce emissions intensity in the oil sands.

The oil sands generate emissions, but the fact is that the oil sands today generate 26 percent fewer emissions per barrel than they did just 20 years ago.

Last year, Canada and Alberta launched a joint monitoring plan to give us the most scientifically credible picture of the water, air, land and biodiversity issues in the region. And we are making this valuable information accessible to everyone, not just stakeholders or industry, in a transparent fashion through a new, online Joint Data Portal we launched just last month.

Our more stringent regulations, in a variety of sectors, have also led to continuous improvements in Canada’s air quality. For the last two decades we have seen a 90 percent decrease in emissions of pollutants such as mercury and cadmium.

To further our efforts in protecting the air, we are also putting in place a national Air Quality Management System that will provide a comprehensive approach to improving air quality, not only today but for future generations.

Since 2006 the Government of Canada’s has invested more than $10 billion in Canadian dollars to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy efficiency and develop green infrastructure.

On top of this, Canada is supplementing its actions by actively supporting business efforts to develop innovative and sustainable solutions and promote a green economy. These actions are being taken through Sustainable Development Technology Canada.

Included in the investments I alluded to earlier, Sustainable Development Technology Canada has supported nearly 230 projects worth nearly $600 million in Canadian dollars. This was compounded by other partners topping up this funding with an additional $1.4 billion in contributions.

Our investments also include Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s recent $61.8 million contribution, from Budget 2012, towards new clean technology projects in agriculture, transportation, mining and energy.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s funding has helped move forward valuable solutions such as natural gas engines for trucks, improved pipeline integrity and renewable liquid fuels created from wood and non-food biomass. 

We are also making additional investments through Canada’s ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative. This past May 3, for example, we announced an additional $82 million for 55 innovative new projects to create new technologies and jobs and reduce the impact of our energy consumption.

Moreover, renewable energy sources—such as solar, wind, hydro, biomass and geothermal—now provide 17 percent of Canada’s total primary energy supply.

Protecting Wildlife, Water and Land

Canada is also making advancements in protecting its natural environment. Since 2006, the Government of Canada has taken action that will add almost 150,000 square kilometres to Canada’s network of protected areas. This will protect habitat for Canada’s wildlife in a territory that is nearly the size of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland combined.

In 2010, the final steps were completed to establish our first protected space established under the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act

The site is an innovative partnership, connecting the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve with the adjacent Haida Heritage site. These two regions create the world’s first protected area spanning from the peak of a mountain to the depths of the sea.

We are also working with partners on a National Conservation Plan that will both conserve and promote awareness of these precious natural spaces.

When it comes to chemicals, Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan has made us a global leader in the safe management of chemical substances and products. Under this plan, we are assessing chemicals used in Canada and taking action on those found to be harmful. For example, Canada was the first country in the world to take action to prohibit the importation, sale and advertising of baby bottles that contain Bisphenol-A.

And we are building on its success—investing more than $506 million in Canadian dollars over five years on the next phase of our Chemicals Management Plan.

In all these areas, science plays an important role. In fact, Canada has been a world leader in atmospheric ozone science for more than fifty years. It was our scientific contribution, twenty-five years ago, that laid the groundwork for the development of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Canada continues to play a key role in the success of the Montreal Protocol—as demonstrated through our leadership in promoting the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons under the Montreal Protocol. And we are honoured to host the Protocol’s Multilateral Fund Secretariat in Montreal.  

We are also proud to host the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal as well. The great work and collaborative efforts to attain results related to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan are certainly cause for celebration. And as a testimony of our commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada recently provided funding to support its implementation.

Canada’s Multilateral Work

Not only are we reducing our own emissions domestically, we are also fulfilling our international commitments to help developing countries take meaningful action of their own.

This April, I confirmed that Canada has fully delivered on its commitment to providing its fair share of the Copenhagen commitment to fast-start financing.

Our investment of $1.2 billion in Canadian dollars in new and additional financing is Canada’s largest ever package of support for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

More broadly, Canada is harnessing the power of the private sector to help developing countries achieve their climate goals. We have delivered more than $600 million to multilateral banks for the express purpose of mobilizing private sector financing in climate-friendly projects. We are also funding programs to promote sustainable agriculture and to protect forests in developing countries.

As part of this significant support, I recently announced that Canada is doing even more to help reduce emissions from short-lived pollutants such as black carbon, methane and ozone.

Once again, I cannot stress enough that as an Artic nation Canada understands the larger implications and importance of the effective management of short-lived pollutants.

Canada is a proud founding member, lead partner and largest financial contributor to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, established to reduce short‑lived climate pollutants.

We have delivered $13 million in Canadian dollars to support the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. This is in addition to the $7 million that we committed to bilateral projects that support the long-term mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants in developing countries. 

Canada is fully committed to doing its fair share to achieve international climate change goals. We are conscious that the stakes for climate change are rapidly evolving and that emerging economies are increasingly making up a much larger share of the world’s emissions. That balance will continue to shift and must be addressed. We must learn from each other and share our experiences.

The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action recognized this evolving landscape. It put all countries under the same tent—for the first time.

Likewise, we are pleased the post-2020 climate change agreement that we are negotiating under the Durban Platform will apply to all parties, especially the largest emitters. That has been one of my most important messages in discussions with colleagues here in Europe this week. We are all part of the solution.

Canada’s engagement in other multilateral environmental issues and fora is also quite impressive. Just last week, we were actively engaged in the first joint meeting of three important Conferences of the Parties addressing the critical issue of chemicals and wastes. And our dedication to deliver results was quite evident during this two week meeting.

Our work in the World Meteorological Organization is also second to none. And we are grateful for the confidence that Canada received from the international community—by electing a Canadian President of this important organization.

Furthermore, because of our important ties to the Arctic, Canada’s scientists, researchers and policy makers have contributed significantly to the work of the Arctic Council and will continue to do so. Here again, Canada is honoured to Chair the Arctic Council over the next two years.

Canada is making progress across a range of issues—reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving our natural environment, ensuring the quality of our air and water and protecting Canadians from harmful substances. 

Yet, these successes did not come easy. As a country with a significant stake in its natural resource-based economy, we have had to make hard choices.

And while we recognize how daunting today’s environmental challenges can be, I am encouraged by what I have heard this week in Europe and in Brussels today. By sharing our experiences and expertise we can work towards global solutions.

Each country can, and must, make progress on its environmental challenges. 

But it is by working together, as a global community, that we can truly make headway. And Canada is certainly looking forward to continuing its collaborations with international partners, like all of you here, to advance our shared goals.

Once again, thank you and I'll now take your questions.

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