MPs spent their first day back in Parliament after Thanksgiving break debating the perils of climate change.

The emergency debate was granted by House of Commons Speaker Geoffrey Regan just a week after the United Nations climate change arm dropped an explosive warning.

It bluntly said the world is on the precipice of major disasters if governments don't step up with a firmer plan to stop spewing so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The world has already warmed up about 1 degree C compared to the mid-19th century and is experiencing the effects of that, including more violent storms, more frequent flooding, longer droughts and more forest fires.

Each 0.5 C degree of warming raises those risks significantly, with entire ecosystems possibly being eradicated, parts of the planet becoming too hot to sustain life and island nations getting drowned out entirely by rising sea levels.

The report says the world needs to aim to hold the warming to no more than 1.5 degrees C but that marker will be upon us by 2040 if drastic, global action isn't taken.

Canada would need to cut its annual emissions almost in half from current levels within 12 years to meet that goal but currently aims to cut them by a little more than 25 per cent by 2030.

And the current climate plans — with carbon pricing, energy efficiencies, renewable power sources and technological innovations — don't even get Canada to the existing goal.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said last week her plan is to implement the existing climate framework and reach the current targets before looking at more ambitious measures.

"We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change and we're the last generation to be able to act," she said during the emergency debate Monday.

"If you have a child who is 10 years old today, we're talking about catastrophic impacts in 30 years, when they're 40 years, if we don't take action."

McKenna argued that climate change should be a non-partisan issue.

But while MPs from the NDP, Liberal and Green parties all asked Regan for the debate on the report of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Conservatives did not.

Conservative MP Gerard Deltell maintained his party agrees that action must be taken to reduce carbon emissions. But he said Conservatives believe that should be done through incentives and innovation, not through the Liberals' carbon tax that will hit ordinary Canadians on virtually everything they buy.

Moreover, Deltell argued that Canada's role in reducing global warming won't make much difference if the biggest polluters — China, India and the United States — are not taking steps to slash their emissions.

Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith deplored the "wilful blindness" of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, other provincial Conservative leaders and federal Conservatives, who are adamantly opposed to imposing a carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions.

Every Conservative MP "should be ashamed of themselves," he said.

New Democrats and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May argued the Liberal government hasn't done enough to meet its emission reduction targets, let alone meet the more stringent reductions required to keep warming to no more than 1.5 degrees C. They urged the government to take a new leadership role at the UN climate change meeting in Poland in December by ramping up its efforts.

"Preventing a single degree could make a life or death difference," said New Democrat MP Guy Caron.

May said the UN report is telling humanity: "You've got one chance to protect your kids' world, you've got one chance, and it's expiring in about 10-12 years, to hold global average temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees and if you miss that ... you end up in a situation where the worst case scenario isn't bad weather, it's the collapse of our civilization and the extinction of millions of species, potentially including us."

Investigative journalism has never been more important. Will you help?

Subscribe

Comments

I sincerely hope that this debate is followed by amended plans from all of the parties. Listening to the debate, I heard a lot of MPs just talking about how wonderful their actions have been, ignoring the fact that they don't come close to being enough. This kind of partisan talk will not get us where we need to go; if we can't work together, we are sunk.

I believe it is a severe misstatement to claim that "we are the first generation" to feel the effects of climate change. It might be more accurate to say we are the first generation to acknowledge our culpability in the many ills springing from our long standing exploitation of, and enslavement by, non renewable "cheap" fossil fuel energy. Coal use blackened the air, the environment, buildings and lungs of Europeans for generations before it's deadly smogs were curbed, but not eliminated. Instead we unleashed the "cleaner" burning of oil/gas - and the co2 continiued to rise - unnoticed, untested by the oblivious homo sapiens.

It is so far past the point when something should have been done that one has to laugh at the suddenly "woke" legislators - who are still in thrall to the "easy" money lining our pockets. This debate had better produce some immediate and effective action by Canada's law makers or all the slackers and laggards may find themselves out of office.

Not having listened to the debate yet, I think we Canadians are really privileged to have some brave representatives in parliament speaking up. However we must NEVER forget that each of us has an increasingly important DUTY to act! Parliamentarians of all stripes need to be reminded CONSTANTLY that they must make the necessary political changes, AND we citizens MUST change our habits to leave much smaller footprints on our earthly home!!

Memo to Trudeau and Notley- NO MORE PIPELINES!!!!

I watched over 3 hours of this debate and Elizabeth May's outline of the urgency to act now to decrease the disaster which will occur with missing the 50% target of current carbon output reduction was spellbinding. However I found that the Liberals fell back on the small but laudable changes they are attempting and the Conservatives simply took it as an opportunity to politically push their stance of resistance to carbon pricing. Several NDP MPs were also very supportive of inter-party co-operation and the urgency of acting in concert rather than opposition. I wish that Members would realize that "politics" must be put aside in this time of crisis and that as a people we would realize each of us must change our consumptive lifestyle. There really is no choice if we wish to see all species have a chance of survival in this century.

It looked like less than half of MPs were there. That in itself is an indication of the priority given to climate change by our federal politicians. A disturbing display of apathy.

I was appalled by the refusal of the members of her Majesty's loyal opposition (aka the Conservatives) to identify any plan to address this crisis, while vehemently opposing the Government's plans to take the clearly insufficient step of imposing a modest price on carbon pollution. The Conservative clearly have no regard for the interests of ordinary Canadians (who will be adversely impacted by the accelerating climate crisis). One gets the impression that they represent the interests of a fossilized, dying industry, rather than those or Canadians or the future of Canada.

This is no longer the party of Brian Mulroney. Perhaps it should be renamed the Trumpian Party?

By way of contrast, Elizabeth May’s remarks were inspirational, as were those of a number of NDP and Liberal parliamentarians.

There was a "debate" was there?

How exciting.

What a foolish species we are.

Mr. Trudeau is in the oil and lng/fracked gas business now. Taxpayers are supposed to pay carbon taxes while government increases the carbon footprint.

Today's must read