Montreal

Valérie Plante takes aim at fossil fuels with divestment, fuel-heating plans

Montreal's mayor is aiming to gradually phase out fuel-burning heating systems and urging pension fund managers to divest from fossil fuels. Both pledges, however, aren't likely to have an impact any time soon.

City aims to become carbon neutral with series of pledges; opposition says they don't go far enough

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante wants the city to eventually become carbon neutral. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is aiming to gradually phase out fuel-burning heating systems and urging pension fund managers to divest from fossil fuels.

Both pledges, however, aren't likely to have an impact any time soon on the city's attempt to curb carbon emissions.

Plante plans to draft a law next year "prohibiting oil heating systems in new constructions in the Montreal agglomeration" by 2030, she said in a statement Monday.

On Tuesday, Plante announced she had "invited" managers of city pension funds to divest from fossil fuels.

At a news conference, she acknowledged the gesture was symbolic, given that her administration doesn't have control over the funds.

To phase out fuel-burning systems, the city plans to gradually remove them from municipal buildings and help homeowners transition to alternative heating systems, she said.

Ultimately, her administration wants to eliminate the use of all fuel-burning heating systems, including natural gas, by 2050 to achieve "carbon neutrality," meaning a net zero carbon footprint.

How, exactly, the city will assist residents in making that "gradual transition to carbon neutrality" is still under discussion, the mayor said.

"The city now wants to encourage Montrealers to make the transition to a heating system other than heating oil."

Plante said heating oil alone accounts for 28 per cent of the residential sector's greenhouse gas emissions and 14 per cent of the commercial and institutional sector's emissions within the agglomeration.

Doesn't go far enough, opposition says

In an email, Romain Bédard, a spokesperson for the opposition at city hall, Ensemble Montréal, said Plante's fuel proposal doesn't go far enough. 

Bédard said his party tabled a motion last fall proposing the city immediately block oil-burning heating in all new constructions, and by 2028 for all buildings. 

He said Plante's pension announcement amounts to a publicity stunt, given that she has "absolutely no control over what she is announcing."

According to CAA-Québec, between 1960 and 1980, nearly 80 per cent of Quebec homes were heated with oil.

In the decades since, electric heating has become increasingly popular, dropping the number of homes heated with oil to less than 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, Énergir, the main supplier of natural gas, said it has more than 205,000 customers in the province, including a number of schools, hospitals and stores.

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