"Place people and the planet before oil and gas company profits": MP Jenny Kwan speech on NDP motion

May 17, 2022 - I make a speech on the NDP's Opposition Day motion calling on the government to: (a) stop using Canadian taxpayers’ money to subsidize and finance the oil and gas sector, including by eliminating financing provided through Crown corporations such as Export Development Canada, and excluding oil and gas companies from the $2.6 billion Carbon Capture Tax Credit, by the end of 2022; and (b) re-invest savings from both these measures in renewable energy and in help for Canadians struggling with the high cost of living. Canadians are paying almost $2 per litre of gas at the pump, while oil and gas companies are making record profits. Meanwhile Canada spends 14 times more on financial support to the fossil fuel sector than it does for renewable energy, even though it has failed to meet any of its climate targets to reduce carbon emissions over the last 40 years. There is no Planet B. We must do everything we can today to ensure that the planet will be inhabitable for future generations. The government must do the right thing and place people and the planet over oil and gas company profits now.:

 

Jenny Kwan (NDP) Vancouver East, BC

"Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the motion put forward by my colleague, the member for Victoria.

The NDP motion calls for the government to stop using Canadian taxpayers’ money to subsidize oil and gas companies, and to instead reinvest that money into renewable energy and measures to help Canadians with the rising cost of living.

The motion could not have come at a more desperately needed time. This week, constituents in my riding are paying over $2 a litre for gas at the pump. Many of the people scraping together the necessary funds to pay for fuel are essential workers, small business owners, families with young children and people with mobility challenges who need to drive for their livelihoods or to access essential goods and services.

Canadian families are already struggling with sky-high housing costs and income precarity exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. Even before the rise in gas prices, people were living paycheque to paycheque and struggling to make ends meet. Retirees and people on fixed incomes have not seen a rise in income to account for the rise in living costs.

By glaring contrast, the oil and gas companies are making record profits, while being heavily subsidized by taxpayers’ money. This grossly unjust situation is a direct result of the government’s heavily misaligned priorities. The NDP motion calls on the government to fix this dire situation and place people and the planet before oil and gas company profits.

As Canadians are struggling more than ever, we are also faced with the most urgent crisis of our time: the climate change crisis. The most recent IPCC report states:

It is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems.

It goes on to say:

Societal choices and actions implemented in the next decade determine the extent to which medium- and long-term pathways will deliver higher or lower climate resilient development.... Importantly climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near term.

A new climate update issued by the World Meteorological Organization pointed out that there is a fifty-fifty chance that the annual average global temperature will temporarily reach 1.5°C above the pre-industrial level for at least one of the next five years, and this likelihood is increasing with time.

Let us just think about that for one minute. They are saying that we are not going to meet our target. I should not need to remind anyone in this house of the importance of the 1.5° mark. Climate scientists have long established that holding global warming to 1.5° could limit the most dangerous and irreversible effects of climate change.

Our global temperatures have already risen by 1.1° since pre-industrial levels. We are already feeling the devastating effects of climate change. B.C., my province, has just experienced one of the most challenging years of extreme weather in recent memory, with a heat dome that shattered temperature records and killed hundreds of people, followed by weather bombs that destroyed critical infrastructure, livestock and agricultural lands with record precipitation and floods. For days, B.C. was cut off from the rest of Canada by rail and road because of the damages from the unprecedented floods.

Left unchecked, extreme weather connected to climate change will continue to wreak havoc on Canadian lives and livelihoods.

Around the globe, we are witnessing how climate change has caused substantial damage to terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and ocean marine ecosystems. We are seeing glaciers melt, mountains change and permafrost thaw in the Arctic ecosystem. Let us be clear: This is the result of human-induced climate change. That is why we must fight the climate crisis like we mean to win.

Despite the urgency of the climate crisis on our doorstep, Canada has failed to meet any of its climate targets to reduce carbon emissions over the past 40 years. In fact, not only has Canada repeatedly failed to meet its climate targets, Canada is also one of the few wealthy countries where carbon emissions continue to rise. Industrialized and wealthy nations are responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world, but the effects of climate change impact developing nations and indigenous peoples the hardest.

Climate justice is justice, period. Continuing to subsidize oil and gas companies while delaying the economic and infrastructure overhaul and transition to green energy is the very opposite of climate leadership that Canadians and the world so desperately need. The new carbon capture tax credit is, in effect, a $2.6-billion subsidy to oil and gas disguised as a so-called climate solution by the Liberal government. It is the wrong path to take.

Earlier this year, more than 400 Canadian climate scientists and academics pleaded with the finance minister to scrap the plan to create the carbon capture tax credit. Professor Christina Hoicka, from the University of Victoria, stated that carbon capture is expensive and unproven in its effectiveness in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Julia Levin, senior climate and energy program manager, stated that by relying on unproven “techno-fixes”, the government is “gambling with our lives.”

Carbon capture projects exist at the demonstration level only, and have not successfully been deployed at the scale needed to make them part of a viable pathway to reach net-zero by 2050. More than 80% of the carbon capture projects attempted in the United States have ended in failure. Shell's Quest carbon capture facility near Edmonton is emitting more greenhouse gas than it captures.

Across the board, scientists are calling for the government to invest in proven climate solutions, including renewable energy, efficient affordable housing and the electrification of transportation as the way to go. The choices we make today will have a lasting impact on future generations.

It has long been my belief, and the NDP's belief, that a just transition must not only create a healthier environment, but also create better opportunities and improve affordability for Canadian workers and families. A just transition creates good jobs in the renewable energy sector and supports workers and communities in transitioning to jobs in this sector.

Canada could become a world leader in renewable energy development. Investing in energy-efficient home retrofits and affordable energy-efficient new homes, as well as investing in a robust electric public transit system, would make life more affordable for Canadians and reduce emissions. In other words, a just transition would help to build a stronger, resilient economy. It is an opportunity that any government that values people and the planet would jump on. Instead, Canada is spending 14 times more on financial support to the fossil-fuel sector than it does on renewable energy.

The Liberals promised a just transition act in 2019, but have failed to deliver and were recently rebuked by the Environment Commissioner for their lack of a plan to support workers and communities through the transition to a low-carbon economy. At the same time, oil and gas companies are making record profits, and Canadians are being decimated at the pump with record-high prices while the world is on the brink of a climate disaster.

The majority of Canadians are concerned about climate change and affordability as the cost of living continues to rise. If the Liberals eliminated the tax credits for oil and gas exploration and development right now, it would bring in almost $10 billion over the next four years. Instead—"

 

https://openparliament.ca/debates/2022/5/17/jenny-kwan-1/

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