The Quebec Liberal Party has always held that economic development must take place with due regard for the environment. Our natural heritage being a central part of Quebec’s identity, it is easy to justify this position. With its rich biodiversity and ecosystems, our province deserves our utmost care more than ever before, if we want our posterity to inherit a healthy environment.
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Liberal governments: always on the leading edge in the sustainable development of Quebec society to protect the environment
Let us go back to the 1970s, when Robert Bourassa’s Liberal government launched the development of hydroelectricity with the James Bay project, an investment whose harvest we are reaping today, while the PQ opposition denounced the project, preferring to bet on the development of nuclear power in the St. Lawrence valley. The economic development option promoted by the Parti Québécois would have engendered significant environmental costs for Quebec, while the forward-looking Liberal vision has allowed to sustainably combine economic development and environmental protection. To this day, the strength of our energy sector, especially our hydroelectricity, is the pride of our society and raises Quebec’s profile in North America while generating substantial revenues.
Aware of the need to sustainably develop our society, in recent years, Liberal governments have been resolutely aiming to respect the commitments set out in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. In 2012, Quebec had as an objective to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 6% against 1990 levels. The government has respected, and even slightly exceeded, the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol by reducing its GHG emissions by 8%. This success earned our former leader and Premier Jean Charest applause from the international community when he received the “Climate Change Leadership Award“. Along these lines, Quebec is aiming for a reduction of its GHG emissions to 20% below 1990 levels for 2020 and 37.5% for 2030, the most ambitious target in Canada, while committing to a reduction of 80 to 95% by 2050, as part of the Under2 MOU.
The cap-and-trade system for GHG emissions allowances, also called a “carbon market,” is Quebec’s spearhead in the fight against climate change. The North American carbon market, bringing together California and Quebec, is the only model in the world that is jointly managed by subnational governments of different countries. The income generated in Quebec by auction sales held to this day amount to $1.6 billion. The Ontario government is working actively to join Quebec and California’s carbon market in 2018.
The carbon market is a tool for sustainable development, the cornerstone of an integrated environmental approach aimed at encouraging more effective GHG emission reduction projects to make the transition to a low-carbon economy that is less dependent on hydrocarbons.
True to its proactive nature, the Liberal Party has also developed new instruments intended to respond decisively to the challenges posed by sustainable development, such as the Green Fund created in 2006. Well anchored in the institutional landscape, the Fund’s governance was reformed on June 7, 2016, to make sure that it respects the tenets of “rigour, transparency and accountability.” The Liberal government is committed to ensuring that the money assigned to the Fund is effectively used in programs to fight against global warming.
Today, and contrary to first impressions, Plan Nord, initiated by Jean Charest and revived by Philippe Couillard, plays an important role in the protection of our land. One of Plan Nord’s three strategic goals is the protection of the environment and the preservation of Northern Quebec’s distinctive biodiversity. To do so, it allows for the establishment of mechanisms that will devote 50% of the Plan Nord territory to protecting the environment, safeguarding biodiversity and purposes other than industrial ones by 2035.
With the challenges we are faced with, we intend to direct Quebec toward a circular economy. Based first and foremost on the cooperation of economic agents, this type of economy intends to promote economic growth based on the optimal use of natural resources while minimizing waste. To this end, our province has made significant progress in the area of waste management. It is therefore our duty to encourage investments that will modernize this sector throughout the province. This way, all regions will benefit from innovative know-how. The circular economy will enable Quebec to bank on all its potential by building on an innovative and sustainable model for the management of residual materials aimed at reducing waste. This type of economy is likely to create thousands of jobs in the preservation of our natural capital in Quebec.
Leadership that is recognized on the international stage
Quebec Liberal governments were recognized for their actions in environmental matters in the form of the Climate Change Leadership Award, given to Jean Charest. A forest in Adelaide, capital of South Australia, was also named in his honour. The Premier of South Australia at the time, Mike Rann, when referring to Quebec and its Premier, said that in nine years, he hadn’t met anyone as inspiring as Mr. Charest when it comes to environmental issues, that he was presented with this award for his international leadership and for his policies at home, and that his record was by far the best in North America (La Presse, December 7, 2010).
More recently, during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), Philippe Couillard’s government received the congratulations of former Vice President of the United States and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore, who said that the people of Quebec “are becoming known as true heroes in the world’s effort to solve the climate crisis.” According to him, Quebec is “leading the way” and Philippe Couillard’s government has demonstrated “fantastic” leadership (Radio Canada, December 5, 2015).
In August 2015, the Liberal government announced, with its partners the State of California and the Netherlands, the creation of a new international alliance on electric vehicles, aimed at promoting intergovernmental collaboration to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles throughout our province, once again demonstrating that Quebec, with this government, is ahead of the curve when it comes to the decarbonization of transportation. As a result of this announcement, which was in line with the vision of our province being propelled into the economy of the 21st century, Quebec became the first Canadian province to implement a ZEV standard by adopting a bill to this end in October 2016.
Additionally, the Secretary General of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Angel Gurría, observed that the Quebec-California carbon market is the only one whose operation is exemplary.
As Paul Simons, Deputy Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, stated during COP22, “Quebec should be cloned for what it does to combat climate change.”
Finally, in its editorial of January 19, 2016, the New York Times confirmed Quebec’s leadership and its status as a pioneer in the fight against climate change by assessing the cap-and-trade system for GHG emissions allowances that it introduced and linked to California’s similar system.
Questions and answers
A: The PLQ is at the forefront, in particular, because:
- It chose a green source of energy, hydroelectricity, when its opponents, including the Party Quebecois, were betting on nuclear (1970s).
- “Quebec managed to reduce its GHG emissions by 8% against 1990 levels as of 2012, surpassing the objective that it had fixed for that date by 2%” (Radio Canada, December 5, 2015).
- It initiated the adoption of the carbon market, which aims to reduce GHG emissions by putting a price on them (explanatory video).
- It introduced several initiatives to protect Northern Quebec.