When your mission is to fundamentally change the systems on which our society is based, you can’t expect to see immediate results from your efforts. It often takes a few seasons before the seeds that we plant bear fruit. Our messages, recommendations and proposed solutions - we repeat them over and over again, and we don’t give up. We know that if we keep hammering away, our ideas will eventually get through.
In my role as Director of Government Relations at Équiterre, I'm encouraged by recent statements and reactions from some members of our provincial government. How can I be encouraged, you may ask? After a summer of unprecedented forest fires, floods and smog?
I'm encouraged because we’re hearing more and more of our recommendations being talked about by our decision-makers, in the media and around the kitchen table. We’re helping to advance the environmental discourse into the public arena - a crucial part of moving climate action forward.
It's unfortunate that we had to wait for the climate emergency to hit us in the face for the government to finally react and start talking about the necessary measures, but climate change is now dictating the political reality. It’s prompting awareness and significant changes.
A few examples:
- Benoit Charette, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks, recently announced that the government will be mandating a group of experts to come up with recommendations on the major challenge of adapting to climate change. At Équiterre, we've been calling for an adaptation strategy for several years. We’re continuing to push for one and we hope that this committee will help - and that it will be transparent and audacious. We need good intentions to translate into a concrete action plan.
- Éric Girard, our Minister of Finance, acknowledges that because of the fiscal impacts of the past year's extreme weather events, “we can’t afford to overlook this (…) there’s going to be more money for adaptation to climate change.” He’s even been talking about ecofiscal measures designed to change transportation habits and tackle GHG emissions from the transportation sector. (But that's the subject for another blog post.)
- Pierre Fitzgibbon, Quebec’s Minister of Economy, Innovation and Energy, realizes that the growth in the size of our automobile fleet is an aberration and that it needs to be reduced by half. Yes, we need options to replace fossil fuels for getting around, but we can’t replace every gas-powered vehicle with an electric one. The key will be to focus more on shared, collective and active mobility.
- François Bonnardel, our Minister of Public Security, who has been on the ground managing the impacts of severe weather events, from the major flooding in the Beauce region, to Fiona in the Magdalen Islands, recognizes that his department also needs to take urgent action on climate change.“The facts are clear: climate change is affecting us. We have to react, and we have to make the necessary investments in order to make Quebec safer,” he acknowledges.
This increase in government environmental awareness is strong, because it’s being motivated by the enormous amounts of money that are currently being paid out and will continue to be paid out because of the effects of climate change. It’s no longer just about protecting the environment; it’s also about protecting Quebec. And it’s getting expensive! It’s no longer just the Ministry of the Environment that has to deal with the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change. These are cross-sectoral issues that require cross-sectoral responses.
There’s a lot at stake right now for our province's future
Developing the car battery industry is not what’s going to save us. It’s the major decisions around how we plan to use and manage our land and our cities, so that every person, family, business, organization and political body is able to succeed and live well with a smaller environmental and energy footprint. It’s updating our priorities when it comes to decisions about our valuable renewable hydroelectric energy resources. It’s deciding what we do (or don’t do) with our nourishing and carbon-capturing forests, waterways, and farmland. We unfortunately can't do everything -- choices must be made.
The government is now more fully aware of the effects of climate change and is dealing with the shock. Its back is against the wall. We've got to keep pushing forward, hammering away, and maintaining the pressure. Because our ideas are making their way, and the government is realizing how important it is to pay attention to them.
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