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NDP bill on climate change proposes too slow a pace to reach carbon neutrality for Manitoba.


On Thursday March 5th, I spoke in debate on an NDP bill which would have Manitoba be carbon neutral by 2050.   Our Manitoba Liberal plan is to achieve carbon neutrality much faster.   My speech, from Hansard, is below.

Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to this bill which deals with how Manitoba addresses climate change.
      First of all, we believe, in the Manitoba Liberal Party, that 2050 is too slow
[for Manitoba to be carbon neutral].  We have committed and developed a green plan that Liberals would move much more quickly than that. It would reach carbon neutral by 2030.
      That is an aggressive target, but I believe that it is important that we have aggressive targets if we are going to be leaders, and I also believe that it's important to have aggressive targets because of the importance, the incredible importance of action here in Manitoba to show what can be done and to address the climate crisis that we have on a global scale. We have to save our planet. We have to do nothing less.
      As many, many students have pointed out at rallies here at the Legislature, there is no planet B. We need to make sure we're looking after the planet we have.
      We see that in order to reach the 2030 carbon neutral that we need to move from the current system of annual reporting to quarterly reporting. Quarterly reporting will give us much more timely assessment of what's happening and we'll be able to react more quickly.
      Currently, we don't get the carbon greenhouse gas production data from Manitoba usually until almost a year after the fact, and that's far too slow if we're going to be acting on a really urgent crisis situation that we have when we're dealing with climate change.
      Thirdly, we need in our accounting to measure not just the emissions of greenhouse gases, which are being done currently, but we also need to include the increases in carbon storage. This is very important because, on a net basis, we have to be dealing both with reducing emissions and increasing carbon storage, and we have to develop tax credits for both decreasing greenhouse gases and for increasing carbon storage, and this is particularly important in the agricultural area as an example, where there are many opportunities for storing carbon in soils, in wetlands, in trees. And we need to be able to work co-operatively with farmers and to demonstrate the tremendous benefits there are from storing carbon.
      The land itself is more productive when it has more stored carbon, and we have an important role for trees in the landscape, both in terms of storing carbon, but also in terms of storing–managing water. There is a tremendous difference on a section that has no trees and a section which has a lot of trees in terms of the runoff of water, and I can take the members opposite to a place near Russell where they demonstrated this very easily, and [where there were] huge amounts of erosion as soon as the landscape was cleared completely of trees. And we need to be cognizant of this and the importance of trees if we're going to manage water well, as well as for having a better situation in terms of greenhouse gases.
      We need to be able to measure this [carbon storage] accurately, on individual farms, so that we can have farmers get the credit for the measures that they're taking to be able to store carbon and whichever way that may be. We also need to provide credits so that people who are decreasing greenhouse gas emissions can see the results of those reductions in meaningful economic ways.
      This approach, as we have put forward, I believe, is vital if we're going to adequately address climate change and do it from a Manitoba perspective. We have put, as part of our action plan, instead of fighting every step with the federal government, being able to work with the federal government, and be able as a result to benefit from the ability to be able to use the dollars that are coming in, and collect it in carbon tax in part, to provide the carbon credits that I've been talking about, as well as continuing efforts which are being done at the moment to make sure that those who are less well off will get supported by having a net benefit from the carbon tax rather than a net expenditure.
      I need to talk as well about the boreal forest and how critical that is, and how critical our stewardship and a plan for stewardship for the boreal forest is, in terms of a climate change plan. There is evidence, I gather from studies of the boreal forest in the last few years, which suggest that instead of being a sink it may actually have become a net producer of greenhouse gas emissions as a result of all the fires.
      We need to develop a new approach to stewardship in our boreal forest. We need to be able to monitor the net storage of carbon in the forest and the net emissions in fires, which are not adequately reported currently. And we need to be able to have a stewardship plan which is going to move us forward and enable us to benefit from the fact that we have a large area of boreal forest, and that this boreal forest should be properly managed and with proper stewardship and with working together with people in the First Nation and Metis communities.
      We should be able to develop plans which will protect communities from forest fires, which are a major risk. We will also be able to have better stewardship, which not only manages fires better, but increases the level of sequestration in the forest.
      Very small changes–because there's a huge amount of store of carbon in the trees in the forest and in the peat moss, in the peat bogs–very small changes percentage-wise in the amount that is stored can make a big, big difference.
      And so this is an area where we need the research, the action, to be able to move us forward in a science-based way to be able to take advantage of the natural resources, in terms of what we are provided and Manitoba is gifted, and to be able to use not only the fact that we have a boreal forest but also the fact that we are generating a lot of hydroelectricity.
      And there needs to be an improved system for being able to benefit from carbon credits if we are sending electricity to Saskatchewan so that they are no longer using coal but are using electricity as a carbon source, electricity which is provided through hydroelectric power, which has very little in the way of carbon dioxide emissions, then we should be able to get credits for those. And those net reductions should be able to be counted in the Manitoba plan as well.
      I also believe that, from an agricultural perspective, we have not done nearly as well as we should have done in terms of addressing methane and nitrous oxide, and these two chemicals make up approximately 30 per cent of the greenhouse gas production in Manitoba. And until we get a serious plan to reduce the emissions of both of these, we're going to have a long, long way to go, in terms of reducing overall gases–greenhouse gas emissions in Manitoba.
      So agriculture has a very important role to play. It's generally said that agriculture produces about 30 per cent of the greenhouse gases. This is what the government has said but, in fact, this is wrong. There is 30 per cent which is produced through the production of methane and nitrous oxide and probably another 10 per cent which is produced by agriculture in trucks and tractors and heating barns and all sorts of other ways.
      And so we need to recognize and to work with people in the agricultural community much more effectively than either the NDP or the Conservatives have done to date. We need to benefit the agricultural community and show them what's possible, and get them involved in making a difference for all of us, in terms of climate change, and benefiting the agricultural community, in terms of the carbon credits which are possible.

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