15 June 2010
Honourable senators, I rise to make a few comments in follow-up to
Senator Lang, Senator Banks and Senator Angus, Chair of the Energy
Committee. I echo their sentiments and underline several points. I will
make a couple of other observations.
This was a great international conference of 80 countries, as Senator
Lang mentioned. It was not only an international conference, it is
internationally renowned. It is held every second year in Vancouver,
Canada, and is a powerful conference and trade show. It includes
outstanding renowned speakers from business, non-governmental
organizations, community-level organizations and industry. Private
sector people in particular are an overwhelming presence at this
conference. They are there for no other reason than the economic
development opportunities, the business deal potential that can be found
in the environment and the potential for environmental enterprise and
business at this time.
It was pointed out to me at the conference that there is now an
international market for green products totaling $7.7 trillion per
year. That is worth 50 per cent of the entire economy of the United
States of America. On the floor of this convention, one had the sense
that there were thousands of people attending who understood that fact
implicitly and explicitly.
The trade show was a particularly interesting feature of the
convention, not something one often finds at a convention of this
nature. To see the remarkable inventions that are emerging that are
commercial and are making money was inspiring. These inventions come
from around the world and many people are looking to sell them here in
Canada, which in some respects is a vacuum for these products. To see
the level of international development, commercial products and the
results of research was also inspiring.
It was inspiring to find ourselves in the setting of Vancouver,
British Columbia. Both the city and the province are outstanding in the
leadership they provide, not only in Canada but throughout the world, in
terms of environmental leadership, environmental focus and objectives,
and environmental progress. Vancouver's mayor spoke at the opening
plenary session of the convention and made the point that Vancouver is
committed to being the greenest city in the world. Vancouver is
currently the greenest city in the country and it wants to be the
greenest city in the world by 2020.
I had a chance to chat with the premier of British Columbia. It was
inspiring to see his vigor and excitement about what was going on in
Vancouver. Admittedly, this was immediately after the Olympics, but so
much is occurring. The province has a zero-carbon footprint objective
for their government. They have set up the Pacific Carbon Trust to
develop the credits and the business that can reduce and offset the
carbon that is being emitted in their governmental operations. The
government has established a dedicated, specific cabinet minister with
responsibility for climate change. That may be one of the first such
appointments in North America or in many parts of the world.
British Columbia has a price for carbon. The province has a carbon
tax. I do not know what percentage of the Canadian population British
Columbia makes up, but that percentage, B.C. alone, is under a carbon
We were right beside the major convention centre, which in and of
itself is an icon to practical, environmental policy application, with
its grass roof that provides all kinds of environmental benefits, among
many other elements of that building.
I want to make a number of observations. First, I want to recognize
the work of Senator Richard Neufeld once again in being part of this
tremendous environmental progress and energy development in a positive,
sustainable way when he was the Minister of Natural Resources.
I also want to give credit to Joyce Murray, the Liberal member of
Parliament in the other place who was Minister of the Environment for
part of that era. She and Senator Neufeld undoubtedly worked well
together and have accomplished a great deal, within a structure where
there is real leadership and where things can truly be done.
I will make some general observations. The name of our report is
Beyond the Science, to capture the idea that people are not
debating the existence of climate change any longer. They accept that it
is occurring. They know that human activity is creating climate change
and that they have to do something about it. However, they know that
they can also, if I can put it this way, take economic advantage of
climate change in the development of the new economy that Senator Lang
referred to. However, they are looking for collaboration amongst
government, businesses and individuals; and they are looking for
leadership, particularly from government, so they can achieve a level
playing field as well as some security and some sense about where they
Presenters at the convention made the point that we have to look not
only at how we are developing energy products and their emissions, and
using them, but also the relationship among consumers, consumption and
sustainability. We cannot lose sight of that relationship. This point
relates to issues such as how to build buildings that require less
Presenters pointed out — and this is important for all of us who
understand and appreciate Jane Jacobs and the role of cities in the
economies of the 20th and 21st centuries — that cities are the natural
and central drivers and the foci for this kind of green economic
There was a good deal of support for carbon capture and storage, with
recognition of the challenges there but a general sense that carbon
capture and storage is one important technology that needs to be
undertaken and perfected.
Anthony Cary, the British High Commissioner to Canada, a powerful
speaker on the topic of climate change, made the important point, which I
had not heard before, that every stage of carbon capture and storage is
proven technically; the stages only have to be integrated and brought
to a commercial level.
We need to treat talent as we treat other resources. This idea stuck
in my mind. We need to treat talent in a way that ensures its
sustainability. We cannot think that in acquiring the specialized
technical personnel that we will need for a future economy, with their
backgrounds and expertise, that we can always look to other countries to
find them. We have to develop and nurture such talent here in Canada.
That point has been made by the leader of my party that there will be
many jobs for which there are no people. We need to address that
shortfall now. That same point was made at the convention by significant
people in the business world and elsewhere.
The chief executive officer of Masdar, which is a power corporation
in the United Arab Emirates, is taking responsibility to build a new
city in the United Arab Emirates that will be carbon neutral, and he is
selling and marketing this idea around the world. This country is not
without carbon energy products. They have built their economy and their
lives on such products. However, they can see the future and the
possibilities. The CEO of Masdar gave a powerful presentation to say
that they are finding a way to provide all the energy for this new city
through renewable sources, and not through traditional carbon-emitting
HSBC Bank is the first major financial institution that has become
carbon neutral. This bank is not a small organization. If British
Columbia can become carbon neutral with their government and if HSBC
Bank can become carbon neutral in their business, it seems to me that
the Government of Canada should set this goal with our operations as
It was interesting to hear the debate after the panelists had
spoken. Among many of the interesting points made, one was that there
should be a common-sense element to sustainability. One person put it
this way: If dumping things on the ground is wrong, then dumping things
in the air is equally wrong.
Another presenter said: There is no time. We are running out of time
to deal with climate change.
I will add a corollary to that statement: We are running out of time
to be in a position to capitalize on all the economic opportunities that
will exist as countries begin to look at how to deal with climate
change. We need not to be left behind.
This conference was worthwhile for all the participants from our
committee who attended. I thank the Standing Committee on Internal
Economy, Budgets and Administration for providing us with the resources
to attend, and I ask them to consider that we have much more work to do
and that we need their support in the future.