Quebec is at a turning point, getting ready to permanently end fossil fuel production and exploration in the province. Bill 21 —which would be the first of its kind in the world— was introduced by Quebec’s Minister of Energy and Natural Resources on February 2 to stop all oil exploration and exploitation in Quebec. The provincial government, responding to public demand, is taking an important step to combat climate change. But all eyes are on Quebec right now and we must ensure that we do this right, in order to encourage other jurisdictions to follow suit.
In 2022, government leaders who consider themselves to be environmentally and socially conscious must be working to get out of fossil fuels, and Bill 21 is a clear indicator. But at what cost?
Bill 21: A double-edged sword
Bill 21 is the result of the tireless efforts of citizen groups across Quebec, and the many activists who have been fighting for our health, our safety and our environment initially welcomed this milestone with enthusiasm and relief.
Our excitement, however, was short-lived. The Minister announced that Bill 21 would cover 75% of the costs of cleaning up the wells that had been abandoned by the oil and gas industry. So not only would Bill 21 be compensating the oil and gas industry, but the burden would be on the taxpayers to pay for the clean up — all to the tune of $100 million!
Giving $100 million to the very industry that created the climate crisis would set a dangerous precedent that neither Quebecers nor the planet can afford.
So how do we improve it?
Public funds should be invested in energy transition efforts, not in fossil fuel subsidies. No new oil and gas production/development project should be approved, much less subsidized. Our leaders should allocate these millions of dollars to our infrastructure, to public health and towards an actual energy transition.
This past month, Équiterre participated in advisory hearings on Bill 21 and submitted a brief that contained the following key recommendations (which consider the current climate context, Quebec’s responsibility and reputation, and how this bill will impact communities and Indigenous peoples).
Équiterre recommends that:
- The government proceeds to adopt the bill without compensating oil and gas companies so as to avoid slowing down the energy transition in Quebec and worldwide;
- The bill be adopted in order to eliminate the harmful effects that the oil and gas industry has on affected communities;
- The government commit to meeting with Indigenous groups as part of its public consultations on the bill with the aim of fostering a closer relationship between the government and Indigenous peoples.
$100M: A political choice
Giving public funds to oil and gas companies is a political choice, not a legal obligation.
We must stop propping up fossil fuel companies. Handouts set a dangerous precedent that could significantly drive up the costs of the energy transition. If Alberta were to follow in Quebec’s footsteps, imagine how much its government would have to spend to get out of fossil fuels!
The Quebec government must adopt a version of Bill 21 that doesn’t compensate oil and gas companies. And it must do so before the next election.
The Legault government must not give in to blackmail from companies who are soliciting millions of dollars of public funds as compensation. We are unwavering in this demand.
No more gifts to oil and gas companies!See summary