New Quebec government has to make 'major change' if it hopes to meet emissions targets, environmentalists say

Quebec environmentalists are urging the new provincial government to come up with a clear plan to curb greenhouse gases in the wake of a gloomy international report on climate change.

CAQ has promised to meet Paris agreement targets, but it's not clear how

Transportation now makes up nearly half of Quebec's carbon footprint, and vehicle emissions continue to rise. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Quebec environmentalists are urging the new provincial government to come up with a clear plan to curb greenhouse gases in the wake of a gloomy international report on climate change.

François Legault's Coalition Avenir Québec has committed to meeting the emissions targets outlined in the Paris agreement but has not said how that would be accomplished.

During the election campaign, the CAQ scored lowest among Quebec's four main political parties in a report card prepared by environmental groups.

In particular, the party faced criticism for its commitment to build more suburban roads and a third link across the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City.

The CAQ's plan for public transit, which includes the extension of the Metro's Blue line and a tramway in the Montreal's east end, but no new Pink line, wasn't as ambitious as those of its rivals.

Patrick Bonin, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Canada, said massive investments in public transit are necessary for the province to achieve its Paris agreement targets.

"I think the CAQ has to make a major change if they want to respect this promise," said Bonin in an interview.

Quebec's cap-and-trade system, established in 2013, has helped curtail emissions produced by industry, environmentalists say, but those generated from transportation — such as cars and trucks — have continued to rise and now account for nearly half of the province's total output.

That's part of the reason Quebec isn't on track to meet the levels it committed to under the Paris agreement.

By 2030, Quebec's emissions are supposed to be 37.5 per cent lower than they were in 1990. They are currently only about a quarter of the way there, at nine per cent below the 1990 level.

A report issued Sunday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change detailed how Earth's weather, health and ecosystems would be in better shape if leaders across the world could somehow limit future human-caused warming to a half a degree Celsius.

But meeting the more ambitious goal of slightly less warming would require immediate, major cuts in emissions, the report said.

Sidney Ribaux, executive director of the environmental non-profit organization Équiterre, said Quebec's Paris targets are close to what the report recommends on a local level. The goal now, he said, is to ensure they are met.

"Are we doing enough at this point? No," he told CBC Montreal's Radio Noon Tuesday.

"What this report is basically saying is, 'That's good, but we need to go much faster.'"

A record heat wave in southern Quebec last July was responsible for up to 70 deaths in the province. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Like Ribaux, Bonin is hoping to see the new government act quickly, on a track different than the one seen during the campaign.

Legault said repeatedly that selling Quebec hydro power to the U.S. is one of the best ways Quebec can help curb emissions internationally — a claim contested by environmentalists who want to see more money in public transit.

During the campaign, Legault also disputed a body of academic research that has demonstrated expanding highways is not a solution to congestion and, in fact, only creates more traffic.

In a statement, the CAQ said it is studying the new international report "carefully," and it will offer more specifics once it officially takes the helm and names its cabinet next week.

"During the campaign, we committed to meeting the greenhouse gas reduction targets adopted by the international community," the statement said.

"We also intend to promote technological and regulatory innovations in this direction, and to promote the export of clean electricity to our Canadian and American neighbours, in order to replace production from gas, coal and nuclear power."

With files from Associated Press


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