Net-zero Emissions Future—Inquiry

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Cityscape of Vancouver, British Columbia

Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable senators, I rise to add my voice to Senator Coyle’s inquiry on Canada’s transition to a net-zero emissions future. Thank you to our colleague for initiating this urgent conversation. The transition must include, to quote Senator Coyle:

. . . finding innovative and effective ways to ensure the people, communities and regions most closely impacted by the transition to a net-zero economy are considered, have a voice and are supported.

Coming from Saskatchewan and Treaty 4 territory, I agree. Our federation must prioritize the inclusion of Western Canada, Indigenous nations and all regions in net-zero solutions and economic opportunities. A fair transition must be a whole‑of‑nation priority and effort with no one left behind, tailored to the unique advantages and challenges of every region, all towards economic benefits across the country. By working together, our federation can achieve a successful green transition, supporting the prosperity of Canadian workers and their families, the well‑being of our grandchildren and future generations and Canada being all it can be.

Today I’ll add to this climate inquiry my view on three topics. The first is Canada’s path to net-zero emissions, the second will be Saskatchewan’s unique contributions and challenges and the third is Indigenous environmental leadership and stewardship.

Senators, I begin with Canada’s path to net zero. On climate action, we must succeed. Science requires limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. This is the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

To put the 1.5-degree target in perspective, 2023 was likely the warmest year in the last 120,000 years based on scientific evidence. This past summer, Canada experienced terrible wildfires, floods and drought, all worsened by climate change. As of September, 44 million acres of forest burned across Canada, negating the carbon stored in the trees and the soil. That’s 8.5 times the normal rate. Fire forced the evacuation of Yellowknife, flash floods hit Nova Scotia and droughts struck the Prairies. Climate disasters also struck globally, including extreme heat and fires in Europe, forcing evacuations in Greece; the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century in Hawaii, with drier conditions due to climate change; and floods in Libya, with nearly 4,000 people killed and over 9,000 missing.

Such events will worsen, even if we meet our goal. To save a livable earth, humanity must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Canadians must do our part by meeting this goal domestically, and by supporting international efforts to fulfill the Paris Agreement. We are making progress. Canada’s 2022 overall emissions were 6.3% below 2005 levels, despite a population increase of 24% in the same period. Reductions are, therefore, evident and achievable.

However, our country’s target for 2030 is to reduce emissions 40% to 45% below 2005 levels. On that, we have a long way to go, and we’ve seen some setbacks. Canada’s 2022 emissions increased 2.1% compared to the previous year, mostly due to a cold winter, increased oil and gas production emissions and increased building heating requirements.

Looking ahead, Parliament has passed laws designed to deliver results over time. Two planks of the country’s federal climate plan are the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act adopted by Parliament in 2018, and the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act adopted in 2021.

Of course, all targets and policies must consider factors unique to each region. With the first plank, carbon pricing incentivizes economic decisions to reduce emissions against an escalating cost of such pollution. It’s basic economics: When the price goes up, demand goes down.

We, therefore, can expect improved results over time if existing laws remain in place. The 2021 statute brings transparency and accountability to the plan to meet our targets. This is the sensible approach to a problem we must solve, while concurrently providing certainty for businesses and consumers investing to reduce emissions.

Notably, federal carbon pricing was preceded by our country’s first output-based carbon pricing in Alberta in 2007 for large emitters, followed by Quebec introducing the first carbon tax later that year. I encourage Parliament’s focus on climate action. In 2021, I voted for the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, along with three quarters of this Senate.

Of course, the details of carbon pricing must remain subject to periodic evaluation and potential adjustments. Together, our federation must deliver fair outcomes, sector-specific strategies and overall results.

I note that the federal government plans to engage the provinces, territories and Indigenous organizations in an interim review of federal carbon pricing by 2026. The review will ensure alignment of pricing stringency across Canada, as well as evaluating impacts on interjurisdictional and international competitiveness. This is a responsible approach if outcomes are based on meaningful consultation with all partners.

We need to set goals and policies from the outside in if we want everyone throwing their collective shoulder behind the wheel and pushing in the same direction.

I trust that all members of the federation will engage to represent the voices of their people, nations and regions. Let’s not forget this country was built largely on compromise and cooperation. The next lift needs to include meaningful advance consultation.

Senators, I turn to Saskatchewan’s unique contributions and challenges around climate action. Our areas of strength include the world’s first clean coal power station at the Boundary Dam, preventing 5 million tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere since operations began — the equivalent of removing over 1 million vehicles from the road for a year.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage technologies, including the Petroleum Technology Research Centre’s award-winning Aquistore, demonstrate effective carbon storage in the world’s first CO2 storage site in a deep saline aquifer.

Flood and drought mitigation and water management through the proposed expansion of Lake Diefenbaker irrigation support sustainable agriculture, food processing and food security.

Protein Industries Canada is our plant protein supercluster, which is a great segue to another strength: the refinement of biofuels, including diesel and aviation fuel, at new refinery assets under way.

Soileos is a new, sustainable, non-polluting and climate-positive micronutrient fertilizer that assists farmers in boosting their yield, while returning carbon to the soil and enhancing nutrient cycling.

There are critical minerals, including uranium from the world’s largest high-grade deposits, to fuel regional and other reactors, and small modular reactors with Estevan and Elbow identified as potential sites in our province.

With its many climate change strengths, Saskatchewan also faces unique challenges in achieving a green economy.

Earlier this month, during Senate Question Period, I asked about the federal proposal to achieve a net-zero energy grid in Canada by 2035, with Minister Guilbeault having announced draft regulations in August. I raised the point that Saskatchewan has no access to large-scale hydropower to support intermittent renewables like wind and solar. In contrast, 80% of Canada’s population is already served by clean hydropower. Ergo, not one size fits all, and it will be extremely difficult and costly for Saskatchewan to meet the deadlines of 2030 and 2035 on a comparative basis.

While Saskatchewan can meet the 2050 net-zero goal, some compromise and collaboration would be required and useful on the road ahead toward 2050.

I was pleased to hear Senator Gold indicate that the federal government is committed to working with its partners to address unique challenges. I interpret that to include Saskatchewan, a partner in this great federation, where we strive to have none left behind.

Collaboration must be the approach of any federal-provincial government of the day — based on a shared commitment to effective climate action.

We should also expect collaboration with Indigenous nations. This leads to my final topic: How Canada can benefit from Indigenous environmental leadership, including Indigenous values, jurisdiction and resources essential to clean technology.

On the land and waters that we now call Canada, Indigenous peoples have practised sustainability and respect for nature since time immemorial. Indigenous environmental leadership begins with traditional wisdom. The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated:

Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians, from an Aboriginal perspective, also requires reconciliation with the natural world. If human beings resolve problems between themselves but continue to destroy the natural world, then reconciliation remains incomplete. . . . Reciprocity and mutual respect help sustain our survival. . . .

In 2021, Parliament upheld Indigenous inherent rights and jurisdiction by adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into federal law. This shift unlocked huge opportunities for Indigenous leadership to contribute to effective climate action. As I noted in our debate on the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, reconciliation and environmental stewardship are connected.

In 2020, Mongabay, an environmental science publication, reported that globally Indigenous people currently manage or have tenure on 40% of the world’s protected areas and remaining intact ecosystems. With meaningful jurisdiction, Indigenous leadership can make a critical difference around the world in preserving biodiversity and vital ecosystems, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Here are a few examples of Indigenous-led conservation efforts that contribute to Canada’s nature-based climate solutions by sequestering carbon in soil and plant life.

In 2019, Thaidene Nëné came into existence as a 14,000‑square-kilometre national park reserve in the Northwest Territories, co-managed by the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation and the Canadian government.

Other examples include the 64,000-square-kilometre Great Bear Rainforest in B.C.; the 29,000-square-kilometre Pimachiowin Aki in Manitoba and Ontario, being the largest protected area in the North American Boreal Shield; and the 108,000-square-kilometre Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut.

Senators, many Indigenous nations are shifting to clean energy. For example, this year in Saskatchewan, the Meadow Lake Tribal Council opened Canada’s first Indigenous-owned bioenergy facility to heat 5,000 homes using wood waste from a nearby sawmill.

In 2021, also in my province, the Cowessess First Nation unveiled a new solar project aiming to become Canada’s greenest First Nation with 800 panels installed on five community buildings.

In northern B.C., the coastal nation of Kitasoo/Xai’xais owns and operates their own small storage hydroelectric plant, delivering clean energy to the community year-round, along with a solar installation on their school roof.

Other nations in the region are also exploring similar projects to replace diesel generation.

According to the Indigenous-governed not-for-profit organization Indigenous Clean Energy, nearly 200 medium to large renewable energy projects with Indigenous involvement are now in operation, or in the final stages of planning or construction across Canada. In addition, 1,700 to 2,100 micro or small renewable systems are now in place with Indigenous leadership or partnerships.

Further opportunities exist for Indigenous-led climate action through responsible development of critical minerals required for clean technology, along with additional solar and wind sites.

Last year, the Royal Bank of Canada reported that Canadian Indigenous territories hold at least 56% of advanced critical minerals projects, 35% of top solar sites and 44% of better wind sites. As I said in May as the sponsor of a government bill advancing economic reconciliation, business leaders and investors should run, not walk, to consult Indigenous nations on such opportunities.

Senators, to conclude, climate action is the only path to a bright future for our grandchildren and future generations. Time is running out. Our generation must not fail young people and those yet to come, nor can we fail our fellow creatures.

Our chamber’s influence can help foster collaboration in our federation on the net-zero mission. To that end, I thank Senator Coyle for helping to keep climate action top of mind, particularly in a time of war, unthinkable terrorism, inflation and many other geopolitical challenges.

Make no mistake: Progress is achievable. Canadians must press on together with our brothers and sisters around the world to save our only home, Mother Earth.

Thank you, hiy kitatamîhin.


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