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Speech

Notes for Remarks by
The Honourable Peter Kent, P.C., M.P.,
Minister of the Environment
Calgary Chamber of Commerce
Calgary, Alberta
January 26 2012

It’s great to be here today at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce...

I know some of you heard from my esteemed Cabinet colleague, Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources, yesterday evening. I’m here today to assure you that I’m not among the environmental radicals on his watch list.

Coming from Environment Canada--a department that is principally devoted to developing, implementing and enforcing national, science-based environmental regulations and standards.

That said, I’m here today to explain to you how and why Environment Canada is a strategic partner to everyone in this room... everyone who does business in Calgary, in Alberta, in Canada.

I’m not here to kill your buzz. I’m here to generate buzz of a different sort...

Let me explain.

In the year since I became Environment Minister, we’ve reviewed and renewed our approach as a government department: we are still environmental regulators, but we better understand what we need to do to enhance our efficiency--and yours.

At Environment Canada, we frequently talk about our role as a “world-class regulator.” Well, an important characteristic of any world-class regulator is to optimize its effectiveness through efficiency.

So, while our commitment to protecting Canada’s natural heritage is absolutely firm and unwavering, we’ve stepped up our effort to ensure that we are working to improve environmental performance in a way that supports jobs and economic growth.

What does that mean?

First and foremost, it means that we have looked--and will continue to look--at the ways we can ensure the integrity of our many standards and criteria while making the processes around them more streamlined and more transparent.

In particular, we recognize the importance of avoiding yet another regulatory patchwork, one that puts undue burden on industry and governments alike.

That can be a tall order in a country that divides federal and provincial jurisdictions to such an extent--especially when it comes to the environment. But we’ve now signed Agreements in Principle on climate change with three provinces agreeing to co-operate and co-ordinate efforts on key policy instruments.

Those agreements are important steps forward.

The new Single Window Reporting system also makes it simpler for industry to report and submit their greenhouse gas emissions data to Environment Canada and provincial partner programs like Alberta’s Specified Gas Reporting Regulation.

At a time of great economic turbulence, the Government of Canada is determined to do what we can to create a greater degree of certainty for business... to establish realistic timelines... to cultivate the conditions that encourage responsible, sustainable investment--and all the jobs that are created by that investment.

In practical terms, that requires eliminating duplication, reducing those murky areas of overlap and obfuscation. It’s the equivalent of installing bright lights along a rocky path to make progress safer and swifter.

As a nation, our collective prosperity depends on the development of our natural resources in the context of a modern, predictable and rigorous regulatory system.

On the domestic front, for example, Environment Canada is looking at all the options for modernizing the system of environmental assessment for project reviews. Our goal, one that underpins the One Window initiative, is “one project, one review”. That reduces expensive duplication but if anything, it makes that one review more focused and more stringent.

Of course, this isn’t something that happens overnight and we’ve been laying the foundation for these enhancements since 2007 when the federal government created the Major Projects Management Office.

In 2009, we reduced the regulatory burden under the Navigable Waters Protection Act and, in the 2010 budget, we put the pieces in place for a review of Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, soliciting the input of a wide range of stakeholders.

That same scrutiny, that same focus on practical possibility has also framed Canada’s environmental engagement on the international front.

Coming out of the United Nations climate change conference in Durban last month, my early Christmas present to myself--and to Canada--was to exercise our legal right to get out of the Kyoto Protocol which, with all its deficiencies, did not work for Canada.

For all the headlines and righteous indignation that it generated, I have to say it really wasn’t a tough decision--especially when framed by those parameters of efficiency and effectiveness.

As we said from the outset, the Kyoto Protocol did not represent the path forward for Canada. The Durban Platform is a way forward that builds on our work at Copenhagen and Cancun.

It was abundantly clear that the Kyoto Protocol could not--and would not--accomplish that because it covered less than 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and excludes the world’s largest emitters.

Our national position is consistent and clear: we support the establishment of a single, new international climate change agreement that includes greenhouse gas reduction commitments from all major emitters.

Not only that, but we had a solid alternative plan in the Cancun Agreements we struck at the United Nations meeting at the end of 2010. The outcome at Durban this past December built on that foundation and demonstrated that there was a way forward that met Canada’s straightforward criteria.

It sounds considerably less painful than it was, but at Durban all 195 participants agreed to launch a new round of negotiations that will include all major emitters and will include the key elements and spirit of the Cancun Agreements.

Now that’s a deal that can finally get some traction.

Although the annual United Nations climate change summits certainly seem to consistently generate the most media attention, it’s not very representative of the full extent of our international environmental engagement... or our broader plan on a number of related fronts.

For example, as part of Canada’s commitment to support climate change action in developing countries, we’re contributing $1.2 billion in new and additional project funding over three fiscal years ending in 2013.

We are fully-engaged in the Major Economies Forum, a group of 15 nations that includes all major emitters and that convenes regularly to discuss climate change and related environmental issues.

We also work closely with our continental partners, the United States and Mexico. Last fall in Mexico, for example, we played a lead role in advancing work on short-lived climate forcers, pollutants like methane and black carbon that have a major impact on near-term global warming. Reducing these pollutants can yield significant near-term climate and public health benefits, especially in the Arctic.

At home, we continue to pursue a sector-by-sector strategy that will see us meet our target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020--a target we share with the United States.

To move us toward that goal in an orderly and efficient way, we started with the transportation sector, the largest single-source of greenhouse gas emissions. Along with the United States, we tightened vehicle emission regulations... and we also made our gasoline and diesel greener with a higher renewable fuel content.

The next sector we addressed is coal-fired electricity generation. It’s a critical one for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for protecting air quality that’s so vital to human health.

This is certainly a complex file. We need to bring about some major changes to a multifaceted sector without disrupting supply or distorting prices. Yet, the profile of the sector is quite dramatically distinct in each provincial jurisdiction.

Through our extensive consultations, we’ve come a long way in addressing a range of stakeholder concerns, including provisions that minimize stranded assets and maximize system efficiencies, while supporting technology development and keeping emission reduction targets in sight.

The new standards are on track to be published this year and to take effect on June 15, 2015. They will minimize costs and provide investors with certainty, which in turn will enable the industry to grow.

But even before we’ve closed the coal docket, we’ve already started the ground work to develop regulated performance standards in other major-emitting industrial sectors.

We’re looking at how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy-intensive operations like oil sands extraction, upgrading, refining, and natural gas and conventional crude extraction and processing.

Our process includes extensive consultation with the industry to ensure that the proposed regulations accomplish the objective of reducing greenhouse gases, without curtailing competitiveness or diminishing the case for capital investment.

As for the oil sands, Environment Canada continues to work closely with both Alberta and the oil sands producers to monitor the environment and collect the data required to shape the standards that will ensure this resource is developed in a sustainable, responsible way.

We’ve got a solid, respectful working relationship with our provincial counterparts in Alberta. I think we’ve both come to appreciate that the only way to get where we need to go is to co-operate and collaborate at every turn.

A great example of this collaboration is the implementation of the Integrated Environment Monitoring Plan for the Oil Sands. This plan was released last July to advance a world-class monitoring system based on a comprehensive approach that covered water, air and biodiversity.

Since then, the Government of Canada and the Province of Alberta have been working constructively towards putting that plan into action. We are all aware that the scope and scale of our shared challenge requires a shared effort.

By working together strategically... by avoiding duplication... we are able to execute that smarter, streamlined regulatory approach I outlined earlier. Alberta and Canada will benefit from the results.

The improvements to our efficiency, the reinforcement of our focus and our goals are all important measures when it comes to conserving our environmental legacy and our national prosperity for generations to come.

But by all means, the most important element of our success is our willingness and our ability to work together with all of you.

As members of this Chamber of Commerce, you are on the vanguard of many of the challenges we face as an environmental regulator. By consulting with one another, by sharing information and resources, we are all better off.

And so is Canada’s future.

Thank you.