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Quebec’s Plan for a Green Economy: Four things you should know

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Quebec’s Plan for a Green Economy (PGE), anticipated as a response to the climate emergency, is a product of the collaboration of numerous task forces representing a diverse range of expertise: business people, industry, scientists, youth committees and environmental organizations, including Équiterre. Together, we recommended measures to the government that would help Quebec realistically achieve our GHG targets and limit the impacts of the climate crisis.

The result? What the Quebec government presented on November 16 is an economic recovery plan, greener than usual, but the climate is not a central element. It is not the plan that we needed to make the necessary transition to respond to the climate emergency.

1.What’s problematic?

The PGE and its implementation plan are designed to help Quebec reach its emissions reduction target of 37.5% below 1990 levels by 2030. To reach the target, Quebec must cut its GHG emissions by 29 million tonnes, but the PGE only plans for a reduction of 12.4 million tonnes - 42% of the necessary effort.

If the government does not propose concrete measures to make up for the shortfall, it will not only exacerbate the climate crisis and undermine our businesses’ economic potential, but it could also also have an impact on taxpayers’ wallets if Quebec eventually has to purchase emission credits on the carbon market.

Beyond that, the PGE represents a mere 1% of the Quebec government’s annual expenditure budget (2% if we add public transit infrastructure expenditures). Hardly a blueprint for a major green transformation...

2. What do we like about the PGE?

Electrification is a key element of the PGE, and transportation electrification in particular. And with good reason. With an abundant supply of 99% renewable electricity and a transportation sector accounting for 43% of our emissions, it only makes sense for Quebec to prioritize electrification in response to the climate emergency.

Banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles beginning in 2035 makes Quebec a leader among Canadian provinces, which could help pressure the federal government to move up its 2040 timeline for instituting the ban. That said, it should be noted that the electrification task force had recommended that the ban begin earlier, in 2030.

● With a target that 65% of all school busses in Quebec be electric by 2030, the school bus electrification initiative will showcase Quebec’s expertise (for example, the Lion Electric Company), generating economic opportunities.

● The Plan also encourages the electrification of taxis and buses, with an objective to electrify 55% of city buses by 2030.

3. What’s missing?

Generally speaking, there is an alarming reliance on technology in the PGE, instead of focusing on energy conservation and nature-based solutions. We cannot rely on technology to resolve the root problems of the climate crisis. Measures must be put in place to change perspectives and behaviours, and a climate governance framework is needed to ensure a consistent decision making process. Without that framework and without stringent measures, the PGE is not commensurate with the challenges posed by the climate crisis.

● Lack of ecofiscal measures
The PGE intends to put a lot of money into incentives but does not provide for restrictive measures to sanction polluting behaviours. It therefore does not benefit from ecofiscal measures, the best behaviour modification tools we have at our disposal, which also leave us with more money to fight the climate crisis. These measures can be implemented without increasing the tax burden on the general public, and without impacting the less fortunate. A survey by Équiterre and its partners, conducted earlier this year, shows that Quebecers are in favour of this type of approach.

Lack of timeline or target on several measures
○ The Plan does not include dates on which a heavy-duty zero emission vehicles (ZEV) standard is to take effect, nor a timeline for a regulatory proposal on the minimum volume of renewable fuel contained in gasoline or diesel.
○ No target is set for potential agricultural solutions (except for the reduction in nitrogen-based fertilizers, but this had already been announced in the Sustainable Agriculture Plan).

4. How can we improve the PGE?

The good news is that the PGE is an evolving plan that includes an annual review of its implementation plan. It will therefore be possible to make improvements and address the Plan’s shortcomings on an ongoing basis.

Rest assured that Équiterre and its partners will continue to pressure the government for a more ambitious version of this plan. Among other things, we will work for the inclusion of:
● ecofiscal measures (like the feebate system for vehicle purchases);
● a climate governance framework;
● notions of energy conservation and reduced consumption;

...with the goal of rethinking our systems and increasing our collective resilience and well-being.