moved that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is an honour to have the opportunity to commence debate on Bill C-49 to amend the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act and the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act.
I am here today to deliver on the Government of Canada's commitment to working in close collaboration with the governments of Newfoundland and Labrador and of Nova Scotia to establish firm foundations for a thriving offshore renewable energy sector in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland and Labrador. This legislation is an important part of our country's future as we work to fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions and seizing the economic opportunities that can come from a transition to a low-carbon future.
Around the world, businesses large and small, and governments, are in a race to reduce carbon emissions and to seize the extraordinary economic opportunities associated with a low-carbon transition and, of course, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Global financial markets are playing a key role in this investment shift through their investment decisions. Successful businesses interpret and adapt to changes in the environment in which they operate. It is what their shareholders expect; it is what their employees depend upon.
The science of climate change is clear. The major cause of increasingly severe and frequent weather events and wildfires is, of course, climate change. Similarly, the science is clear about what must be done to avert the worst impacts of climate change. As a global community, we need to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and we need to make meaningful progress by 2030. We cannot get to net zero by 2050 if we begin our journey in 2040.
In 2019, Canada was one of the first countries to commit to achieving net zero by 2050, and we subsequently committed to meeting ambitious interim targets along the way.
That was just four years ago. Today, 80 countries are committed to achieving net zero. Progress has been made both here in Canada and around the world, but we all need to do more. Commitments are meaningless unless they are backed up by plans and actions. That is why Canada has developed one of the most detailed and, I would even say, one of the most comprehensive climate plans in the world.
Increasingly, governments are not the only ones taking action. Global financial markets are playing a crucial role in the transition to a low-carbon future through their investment decisions. The smart money, looking for long-term gains, is moving away from assets that will underperform in a low-carbon world.
Governments are certainly no different. To effectively serve their citizens, they must also respond to changing circumstances and then take decisive actions. The economic future of Canadians depends on our making the right choices to ensure that Canada will thrive in a low-carbon world. The good news is that Canada is very well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities. It is up to us as a country to make the smartest possible choices. Canada can choose to be a leader in this global economic shift or to let it pass us by. Going slowly and just hoping for the best is a choice, and a much riskier one; in fact, I believe it is a terrible gamble.
There are really two paths we can take. The first path accepts that climate change is a scientific reality that we can and must address. It understands that the world at large is moving in that direction, creating a shift in investment and innovation. The first path calls for a thoughtful plan for the future that acknowledges where the world is and must be headed and that seeks to take full advantage of the economic opportunities that are available through the transition to a low-carbon economy.
The second path starts with shrugging off the damage that climate change has already caused: the dramatic floods in our towns and cities, dried-up rivers, melting glaciers and the wildfires in our forests that folks here and across the country know very well. It pretends that climate concern is a fad that will fade and that we do not really need to do anything to keep our economy healthy for the long term. The second path presents, as I said, a terrible gamble that is effectively betting against the environmental imperatives that are all around us. It is one that would thus lead to both environmental and economic devastation.
This federal government has chosen the first path. There are five key things that we must prioritize if we are to seize the historic opportunities and go down this path. First is identifying and seizing key economic opportunities in every region of the country, which are made available via the global shift to a net-zero economy. These opportunities are in areas from critical minerals to batteries and EV manufacturing, from hydrogen to biofuels, and from small modular reactors to renewable sources of energy and a wide range of clean technologies. Second is a thoughtful approach to Canada's oil and gas sector and its resources, for which there will continue to be demand, albeit less demand, in a net-zero world. Third is building out a clean, reliable and affordable electricity grid. Fourth is advancing economic reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Finally, we must make more efficient and effective our regulatory and permitting processes.
Bill C-49 is about creating a clean electricity grid, seizing the economic opportunities of a low-carbon future and about the opportunities this entails for economic reconciliation with indigenous peoples.
As part of our broader plan, we need to build more clean power, certainly a lot more. While we are focused on deploying clean energy to reduce electricity-sector emissions, we must also expand the total amount of power on the grid. As we electrify much of the transportation and building sectors with electric vehicles, heat pumps and other technologies, we will need new clean power to meet this rising demand.
An abundant supply of clean energy is also at the core of accessing critical economic opportunities, like we have seen with Air Products in Alberta, Volkswagen in Ontario or Ford's new battery cathode facility in Bécancour. This all demands a decarbonized grid, but also a much larger grid. In fact, we will need to double, or increase by more, the size of our existing grid by 2050. Offshore wind offers opportunity for Atlantic Canada to not only feed the need for significant additional renewable energy for the electricity grid, but also would provide a major export opportunity associated with the production of zero-carbon hydrogen.
Bill C-49 is a critical piece of legislation to enable our offshore power potential to be realized, not only to meet federal climate targets, but also to achieve provincial power and economic plans. Last fall, Nova Scotia set an offshore wind target with a goal of providing seabed land leases of up to five gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, with the intention of using most of that power to support the production of hydrogen that will be used in Canada or exported. That is enough energy to power 3,750,000 homes.
Newfoundland and Labrador has high ambitions as well. During my last visit to St. John's for the Energy NL Conference, there was extensive interest from the private sector, workers and local levels of government in the opportunities presented by offshore renewables, including hydrogen production.
With regard to the hydrogen opportunity, it is an economic opportunity for Canada. It is also an opportunity to help our friends in Europe in their efforts to enhance energy security and to accelerate the move toward a low-carbon future. It is something that we discussed when Chancellor Scholz and Vice-Chancellor Habeck visited us last year, and it is something on which we continue to work actively with our friends in Germany.
Newfoundland's energy minister, Andrew Parsons, has said of Bill C-49 that he is “pleased that the federal government is moving forward legislative amendments to modernize the Accord Acts to enable new clean energy opportunities, grow the economy and protect the environment. This is consistent with [his] government's commitment to achieving net zero by 2050.”
Nova Scotia's ministers Halman and Rushton said that we need “modern, forward-looking solutions to achieve [climate goals].” They stated that “Amending the federal Accord Act is an important step so that we can safely and responsibly pursue renewable energy projects like offshore wind.”
Today, we are here to talk about a potential $1-trillion global industry, offshore wind. Canada must move rapidly to seize our share in this global economic opportunity. We know that we are in a race for investment, and that is why, in partnership with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, we have been working on this legislation while concurrently preparing for its implementation.
The proposed amendments to the accord acts are key factors in unlocking this potential. As we all know, the development of major projects requires a stable, predictable and credible legislative and regulatory framework, as well as oversight provided by a predictable and credible regulatory authority. We have both.
We have the accord acts, and we have the offshore regulators that are the result of enduring federal and provincial partnerships that have existed for more than three decades. The two historic Atlantic accords were signed in the mid-1980s, first between Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, then between Canada and Nova Scotia. These are historic accords that laid the foundations for the current system of joint management of the offshore accords. Under these historic accords, both provinces became equal partners with Canada in managing offshore energy, with revenues going to the provinces.
They also established two autonomous boards that were tasked with regulating offshore oil and gas projects. Through this bill we would expand their mandate to include the regulation of offshore renewable energy. The boards are already well accustomed to interpreting offshore energy legislation and enforcing standards that each project will be expected to meet.
It is time to look to the future and move forward with these important amendments. The accord acts are informed by years of engagement and collaboration with our joint management partners, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
There are several things these amendments would do. First, they would modernize parts of the land tenure process for existing offshore activities to better align with the international best practices and keep pace with emerging technologies. Second, they would leverage the boards wealth of expertise and modernize the accord acts so that the boards can take on the important responsibility of regulating Nova Scotia's and Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore renewable energy projects, very much including wind projects. This would allow the boards to implement and administer the proposed legislative frameworks around offshore renewables and ensure that best practices around land rights management are adopted specifically around land use planning, bidding processes, issuing licences for seabed use and providing authorizations for the development of offshore renewable projects.
The amendments would ensure that the accord acts align with the Impact Assessment Act, ensuring that the roles and responsibilities of regulators and the Impact Assessment Agency are further clarified for all parties and stakeholders. Also, with regard to the government's duty to consult with indigenous peoples, the amendments specify that the government would be able to rely on the offshore energy boards to consult with indigenous peoples and make accommodations to mitigate any adverse impacts to treaty rights and aboriginal rights.
This legislation is a critical part of Canada's ongoing work in the fight against climate change and it aligns with the actions taken by some of our peer countries. Several countries have taken the step of creating or broadening the authorities of existing offshore energy regulators. This is true for the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway and Australia.
Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are working to fight climate change and to seize the economic opportunities that can come from a transition to a low-carbon future. They are promoting the use of low-cost and low-carbon electric heat by the installation of heat pumps. They have joined with the Government of Canada on the Regional Energy and Resource Tables to ensure they are well placed to capitalize on economic opportunities, and they are initiating new, innovative, renewable energy projects. They are part of a push that is happening across the country to encourage renewable energy and clean fuels as well as create a thriving energy economy.
As I mentioned off the top, there is an alternative to our plan for the future. This is what I referred to earlier as the “second path”, which is one of hoping for the best. In my mind, this path ignores the very clear evidence as to how climate change is undermining the health and safety of people and of the planet. Burying one's head in the sand will lead to environmental devastation and economic stagnation as the world, very much including global investors, simply looks elsewhere.
Some in this country will try to tell us that one can fight climate change by simply relying on technology. I know that the Conservative leader is often fond of using the tag line “technology, not taxes”, by which he seems to imply that we can simply hope on technology to save us. However, I will tell members that is not a plan. That is a blind hope that comes from someone who has no background in technology, no background in energy and no background in climate issues.
I certainly am very well aware, given the time I spent in the technology industry, of the power of technology, but technology is not a climate plan nor is it a plan for the economy. A true plan requires thoughtful regulation, thoughtful investments and, yes, a price on carbon pollution.
This “hope for the best” approach will lead the Canadian economy down a path to obsolescence and the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in Canada's energy sector. Such an approach would create uncertainty and dissuade investment from coming to Canada, which is, of course, the opposite of what we need. Simple tag lines in place of serious policy do not serve Canadians well, which is why we are here today with serious policy that would create good jobs, fight climate change and unlock the full economic potential of the offshore.
Certainly, passing Bill C-49 would allow Canada to compete with our peer countries to seize our share of a massive global market opportunity. On the other hand, opposition to this bill would hold back our potential, prevent job creation in Atlantic Canada and send the wrong message to Nova Scotians and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we act in the best interests of the economic and environmental well-being of Atlantic Canadians by supporting Bill C-49. I sincerely hope that no one in this House will decide to go down the wrong path instead of working together to pass this legislation to bring our offshore into being.
In conclusion, all of these changes make sense. Offshore wind energy can and will contribute to this government's goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. It is a key part of decarbonizing the electricity sector and transitioning our economy towards electrical power, establishing our hydrogen sector and providing new, sustainable jobs in the offshore energy sector. I am confident that this bill is and will be a critical element and a key driver to achieving the future we all envision in this House, one that is sustainable, affordable and prosperous for all Canadians.