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Equiterre’s year in review: 2012

Equiterre’s year in review: 2012
Quebec moving forward, Canada lagging behind the rest of the world


Montreal, December 21, 2012 – Overall, in 2012, several environmental issues evolved favourably in Quebec while Ottawa amputated Canadian environmental laws and continued to lag behind almost every other industrial nation internationally.

Quebec continues to show environmental leadership in 2012

Earth Day rally: unprecedented turnout
As a result of several years of advocacy and mobilization by groups like Équiterre, Quebeckers have demonstrated once again how important environmental protection is to them. On April 22, Earth Day, an estimated 300,000 citizens gathered in the streets of Montreal in response to the call issued by Equiterre and other groups. The rally was the largest of its kind in the history of Quebec and Canada.

Political consensus on climate change in Quebec
At the unveiling of the 2012 -2013 budget in the spring, the Quebec government announced an investment of $ 2.7 billion in the Action Plan on Climate Change 2013-2020. In December, the new government continued the work of the latter by adopting the decree that will make Quebec the first jurisdiction in North America, along with California, to establish a carbon market.

This political consensus on climate change was also confirmed during the elections. The six major parties all committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions with precise and ambitious targets.

A shift away from nuclear power
After the election, the government quickly announced that they would shut down Quebec’s only nuclear reactor, Gentilly -2, in Bécancour. This decision opens the door to a more aggressive energy efficiency strategy.

Citizens concerned about tar sands
Across Canada and even North America oil sands continued to raise the concerns of citizens and environmentalists. Tens of thousands of citizens were mobilized against proposed pipelines to transport this oil towards the west, south and, recently, towards the east. Nevertheless, the federal government continued to support this dirty oil that emits 80% more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.

In February, the Court of Quebec ruled in favour of Équiterre and put a temporary stop to efforts by oil and pipeline companies to bring oil from tar sands through Quebec en route to foreign markets, by upholding a decision requiring Montreal Pipe Line Ltd. to protect farmland in Dunham where they want to build a new pumping station.

In the spring, Enbridge went before the National Energy Board to seek permission to reverse the flow of oil, increase the capacity of the pipeline and transport heavy crude between Sarnia and Westover, claiming that this reversal project was intended to meet the fuel needs of Eastern Canada. Approval was granted in July, but in October, new information obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act confirmed that the company’s goal is and has always been to use this pipeline reversal project to ship tar sands crude to the United States.

November ended with Enbridge’s official application to the National Energy Board, asking for permission to reverse the flow, increase the capacity, and transport heavy crude in the section of the Line 9 pipeline that extends from North Westover, Ontario to Montreal, a request that could open the door to bringing heavy crude from Alberta’s tar sands to the U.S. and other foreign markets via Ontario and Quebec, exposing residents to an increased risk of more severe oil spills, and threatening Quebec’s hard-won efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

Federally, a different story: grim outlook for the environment

C-45 and C-38: two laws meant to facilitate major oil and mining projects
To speed up these pipeline projects, and in spite of opposition from social and environmental groups from across the country, the so-called budget omnibus bill, C-38, passed into law in June. This one piece of legislation – more than 400 pages and 753 sections long – repealed the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, scrapped the National Round Table on the Economy and the Environment, and established arbitrary timelines of two years or less on reviews of proposed pipeline projects, regardless of complexity or size. In the fall, a second omnibus budget bill, C-45, brought in more changes weakening the laws on environmental assessments and compromising water, air and citizens’ quality of life.

Slow progress internationally

Despite the Canadian objections, international discussions have progressed in 2012, albeit very slowly. In June, world leaders gathered for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) to discuss the major social and environmental issues facing the planet. Though the meeting, held once every decade, did not result in new commitments, it still allowed countries to reiterate previous commitments such as reducing subsidies to fossil fuels.

One small ray of light at Doha climate talks
Six months later, negotiations on climate change continued at the UN Conference on Climate Change (COP18 / CMP8) in Doha, Qatar. The simple fact that these negotiations continued without interruption for the past 18 years is in itself a victory from a diplomatic standpoint. Progress at the Doha meeting was slow but taking into account Canada and its allies’ regressive positions, this evolution was welcomed.

Coming up in 2013

In 2013, Equiterre will continue to watch pipeline company Enbridge closely in its continued efforts to bring polluting tar sands crude through Quebec. Equiterre will be asking the Quebec government to hold its own consultations for an in-depth study and evaluation of the project.

The environmental group will also ask the Quebec government to adopt a plan to meet its ambitious new targets for reducing oil dependency by 30% by 2020 and by 60% by 2030.

Equiterre will also continue to push the Quebec Government to ban all use of pesticides for aesthetic purposes.

If you would like more information on Équiterre’s reactions to these issues in 2012, please refer to the following press releases;

Carbon market: Équiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation salute decision by Québec government.

Enbridge officially announces the arrival of the “Dirtiest Oil on the Planet” in Quebec on its way to export

RIO+20, a missed opportunity

Court of Quebec sends oil company back before farmland protection commission

Doha : Canada ranked as worst performer in the developed world on climate change

For information:
Loïc Dehoux, Équiterre
514 605 2000