Earlier in my writing on Climate Change politics in Canada, I was struck by the sharp disconnect between Climate Change politics at a federal level (see Derek’s article for example on Canada’s Tar Sands) compared with its movement at a state level. It’s not just that states have been quicker in passing legislation, have advocated stronger proposals that will come into effect sooner, and supported more comprehensive approaches but that states have also been bolder and more imaginative in their vision.

From the Western Climate Initiative, of which, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec (the actual subject of this post) are full members, to British Columbia, which has regardless of its potential frailty a Carbon Tax already in place, Ontario has perhaps the boldest of all the provinces with its Green Energy Act and right to connect.

So where does this leave Quebec?  Quebec has not been slow in the move towards GHG reduction and made its centre-piece move in 2006 in its “Quebec and Climate Change, A Challenge for the Future” (contrary to the name Quebec began taking action that same year). The plan is ambitious in its goals, as well as rightly lauded at the time for being comprehensive at an early stage in the global Climate Change debate by Environmental Activists.

So what did Quebec promise?

Quebec outlined 24 measures necessary to reduce GHG emissions, broadly falling into reduction, transportation, energy efficiency, research and public awareness and adaptation.

The highlights are as follows:

  • To aim to increase energy efficiency in public building by 10% by 2012.
  • To continue to invest 5 million annually in public transport and to increase public transport’s share of total transport. As well as supporting alternative transport (e.g. bikes)
  • By 2010 to implement vehicle GHG emissions standards (including 5% ethanol mix by 2012)
  • Boost investment in building standards
  • Increase renewable energy output (particularly hydroelectricity and wind power)
  • Promote emissions reductions in the industrial sector.

All of this has the aim of saving 14.6 Mt of CO 2 by 2012, taking Quebec’s predicted emissions down from their then predicted path of 96.9 Mt of CO2 to 82.3 Mt of CO2, or 6% below their 1990 levels.

In addition to these bold targets  Quebec through the WCI (previously mentioned) has also signed up for a regional Cap and Trade in conjunction with Ontario among others, to be implemented as early as 2010, capping off (pun…intended) a  remarkably comprehensive effort to tackle Climate Change.

Yet Quebec has even more surprises in store for those willing to look. Quebec, as it’s A Challenge for the Future will tell you, has the lowest per capita carbon emissions in Canada, at only 12.1 tonnes, compared with a Canadian average of 23.1 tonnes. Just in case, you had missed how important and impressive Quebec is to Canada’s Climate Change efforts, the plan helpfully notes that if Quebec’s figures were excluded from Canada, Canada’s average would rise above the US average!

How they achieve this goal, is tied into Quebec electricity production, which is only responsible for 1.6 % of their emissions, with 96% of Quebec’s energy coming from non-emitting (or as Quebec calls it “renewable”) sources of energy, I pick my words carefully because by far Quebec’s largest source of electricity is hydroelectricity which is not viewed by the US as renewable.

Quebec may well win its fight to have hydroelectricity as renewable, their abundance of energy has already seen them link up with Ontario to provide electricity during Ontario’s summer (when it’s demand peaks) and Ontario provide to Quebec in winter when the latter’s supplies fall. As well as shoring up their internal market for energy, Quebec has long eyed the US energy market for current and future export and if a Climate Change bill passes this year Quebec’s hand could be strengthened as Northern US states reach out to provide energy from non-emitting sources. It’s a promising future for Quebec, and can only be a positive when a green future is strongly tied in with domestic economic potential.

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