Canada and the clean growth century

Much has changed since Canada was founded almost 150 years ago. Our curiosity, intelligence, and determination have led us to build thriving communities, realize the potential of our natural resources, and create innovations that our ancestors could not have imagined.

But today, we confront an urgent challenge—a challenge that requires us to act quickly. Without immediate action, it will affect how and where we live, our quality of life, and our collective prosperity.

That challenge is climate change.

Month over month, year over year, decade over decade, temperatures continue to rise, heat records are broken and the effects that this has on the earth are troubling. We see the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change, as well as its devastating impact. Canada is not immune.

In Alberta and across the West, we see bigger wildfires that last longer than ever before. We see droughts in the Prairies and floods in the Atlantic provinces. Along Prince Edward Island, we see coastal erosion that is quite literally shrinking the province. And, in the Arctic—where average temperature has increased at a rate of nearly three times the global average—ice cover is rapidly thinning, putting lives and traditions at risk. Indigenous Peoples and northern communities are particularly vulnerable and disproportionately affected.

The impacts of climate change also come with huge financial costs. Insurance claims in Canada from severe-weather events averaged $373 million a year from 1983 to 2004. In the past decade, that amount tripled to $1.2 billion a year. By 2050, the costs of climate change could rise to $21 billion to $43 billion per year, according to estimates by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy in 2011.

Beyond a doubt, climate change is a challenge that must be tackled head-on and tackled today–by all of us.

This challenge also brings opportunity—the opportunity to build a more sustainable and prosperous future for our planet, and for our children and grandchildren.

In November 2015,195 countries adopted the historic Paris Agreement. For the first time, countries came together and agreed that each country must do its part to reduce carbon pollution and limit global average temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Canadian delegation included the Prime Minister and Premiers, Indigenous leaders, business and labour representatives, environmentalists, faith groups and youth from across the country—all united in the need to take action to address climate change.

A year later, it is clear that the commitment to climate action goes well beyond governments. Most strikingly, businesses around the world also recognize that the historic shift to clean energy is inevitable. They understand that the clean growth economy represents a future market worth trillions of dollars.

It is clear that the Paris Agreement sent a strong signal to the world and to the economic markets. The 21st century will be the clean growth century.

The proposition is clear: Canada can either act now – and take advantage of this global opportunity – or resign ourselves to being left behind.

And overwhelmingly, Canadians want us to take action to protect our climate and take advantage of the clean growth century.

The majority of Canadians understand that Canada—and the world—is moving to a low carbon future. They understand that this is a transition and that it will not happen overnight. They recognize that Canada’s resource wealth is still needed to fuel the clean growth economy. And they want to ensure that their family and all Canadians benefit from this transition.

Canadians expect pragmatic, flexible, and smart climate action.

Adopted on December 9, 2016, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is a plan to grow our economy while reducing emissions and building resilience to adapt to a changing climate. It is a blueprint to spur innovation and create good jobs across the country. It is fair and flexible, and recognizes the unique situation of provinces and territories across the country.

It is the result of a conversation with Canadians—young and old; scientists and environmentalists; members of business and labour organizations, faith groups and civil society—through town halls, roundtables, working groups and our online consultations. Indigenous Peoples also shared their knowledge and recommendations for climate action.

Pricing carbon pollution is central to this Framework and will reduce emissions and foster innovation—that is why it has support from business leaders across all sectors.

Carbon pricing is complemented with actions to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change across all sectors—from industry, to buildings, transportation and agriculture. This means using clean electricity to power our homes, workplaces, vehicles and industries, and using energy more efficiently. It means more resilient infrastructure and ecosystems that can better withstand changes to the climate. It means expanding protected areas and parks, and other conservation measures that will store carbon and foster adaptation to climate change.

This is a comprehensive plan. Combined, all of these measures will significantly reduce our country's emissions, make us more resilient to the impacts of climate change, foster innovation, grow our economy and create good jobs for the middle class.

Acting on climate change will make Canada more efficient and competitive. It will allow us to take advantage of the global market for low-carbon goods and services already worth $5.8 trillion and growing by 3% per year. Canadian innovations and solutions are already being exported abroad and deployed around the world. We are creating new markets and partners for Canadian businesses, while supporting global action to reduce emissions.

Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier once said, “It is often the mistake of nations that they do not apprehend fully the necessities of the situation. They fail in boldness.” As we stand at the dawn of the clean growth century, Canada will not only be bold – we will lead.

And we know these actions will leave a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren: The legacy of a strong and clean economy, prosperous and diverse communities, clean air and a healthy environment.

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change

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