Renewable Industries Forum

October 17, 2017

The Honorable Senator Paul J. Massicotte:

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, bonjour, 

I’d like to start by thanking Renewable Industries Canada for inviting me again. I was already here in November of last year to talk about the importance of biofuels in the transition to a low-carbon economy. And I’m happy to be back today to continue the conversation and share my views about the latest federal government tools to tackle climate change. 

As a senator and deputy chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, climate change is one of my top preoccupations. As those following what’s going on on the Hill may know, our committee has been studying the effects of transitioning to a low carbon economy for a while now. Our final report is due for next June and will offer recommendations. We have already released two interim reports: one on the electricity sector and one on transportation. And we are about to release one on oil and gas. The goal of those studies is to identify and report on the costs and impact the transition to a low carbon economy will have on Canadian households and businesses; and how to best minimize those.

I apologize if I’m starting my remarks with a rather pessimistic statement, but after having heard dozens of experts in our committee on that issue in the past year and a half, I don’t believe that Canada — nor the world — will reach the 2030 greenhouse gas reduction objectives set in the Paris Agreement. That’s basically also what was confirmed by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in its fall report.

As such, the climate change consequences will even be more severe than projected. This of course, should not be an excuse to give-up and not do our part, to at least minimize the very serious effects of climate change. As a responsible country, we still must do our fair share. That’s why I definitely support federal policy mechanisms such as clean fuel standards and carbon pricing – whether a tax or cap-and-trade system.

If we are really serious about transitioning to a low-carbon economy, a steadily rising price on carbon, even beyond $50/ton is the key foundation of our strategy. As long as fossil fuels remain artificially cheap and profitable, their use will rise. Carbon pricing is the most powerful incentive for businesses and consumers to change their habits and ways of operating so that they reduce their carbon-footprints.

That being said, it is also pretty clear now that carbon pricing alone will not be sufficient in pursuance of Canada’s 2030 emissions reductions target. We still need additional measures to reduce our emissions by another 219 megatons per year. That’s why investments in alternative technology and innovation, such as renewable industries, are also critical.

Carbon pricing will obviously stimulate the growth of renewable industries, as businesses and consumers increasingly turn to biofuels. Provided that biofuels can be offered at a competitive price, of course. I understand that offering renewable fuels at a competitive price can be a challenge but this will be made easier as carbon prices rises in the next few years.

That’s where the Clean Fuel Standard comes handy. I really hope that its requirements to lower the carbon intensity of fuels will be strict enough to incent an increased use of biofuels. 

So all in all, with its objective to achieve 30 megatons of annual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the Clean Fuel Standard is definitely a good complement to an increasing carbon price. But again, even with this, I’m afraid it will not be enough. 

Thank you, merci.

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