While newly-elected Premier François Legault muses about offering “the deal of the century” to neighbouring provinces and states interested in buying some of Quebec’s surplus electricity, his Coalition Avenir Québec government is facing extraordinary pressure to deliver on an ambitious plan to tackle climate change.
Legault “sees Quebec’s hydropower as an economical energy source and a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping the states and provinces meet their climate change goals,” and as a source of “green energy” in spite of the dramatic environmental impacts of new dam construction, iPolitics reports. He’ll be promoting hydro in New England during his first official visit to the United States and sees a “win-win relationship” in selling power to neighbouring provinces and states, and “even the Midwest”.
But while he extends his gaze beyond his province’s borders, he won’t want to miss developments in his own back yard.
At a news conference yesterday at Quebec’s National Assembly, more than 200 MNAs and defeated candidates from the province’s three opposition parties “formed a common front,” CBC News reports, “joining forces to call on the new government to take swift action in the fight against climate change.” In a signed declaration, the MNAs affirmed that “global warming is a matter of national security, public health, prosperity, conservation of biodiversity, and safeguarding our territory,” and called for a government commitment to the “socio-economic transition” that will be needed to reach ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.
The group was pulled together by Quebec citizen Alexandre Thibodeau and included Liberal MNA and climate change critic Marie Montpetit.
“We wait for Mr. Legault to show us what he is going to do, not say—what he is going to do for the environment,” Montpetit said. “We are waiting for real action.”
“We can be a leader, but we have to invest in that,” agreed Québec Solidaire co-leader Manon Massé. “If we get together, we can have more solutions.”
“We will listen to his inaugural speech,” Thibodeau added. “We are waiting for an answer.”
Meanwhile, it’s only taken two weeks for about 214,000 people to sign the province’s Pact for Transition, calling on the Legault government to “stop all new fossil fuel exploitation in the province, abolish fossil fuel subsidies, ensure that Quebec reaches its climate target of 20% less greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 compared to 1990 levels, and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2040,” National Observer reports.
“The idea is to make François Legault feel that the whole population is listening and waiting for a response to our demands,” explained Isabelle Dupras, a spokesperson from The Planet Goes to Parliament, the group that organized a 50,000-strong climate action rally in Montreal earlier this month.
“We are hoping the weight of the numbers and public opinion will make a difference on the laws and the decisions made by our government at every level,” agreed theatre director Dominic Champagne, the instigator behind The Pact for Transition.
“The Pact is answering to a huge need coming from the population,” he added. “It’s really about trying to understand and put into practice what scientific reason is calling on us to do. We are the contemporaries of a major collapse of life all over the planet.”
A spokesperson for Environment Minister MarieChantal Chassé told CBC she has every intention of taking on climate change, contending that past Liberal and Parti Québécois governments failed to meet their climate targets. “We share the people’s concerns about climate change,” Chassé said in a statement, and “our government intends to put in place effective and efficient measures that will allow Quebec to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.”
But Observer notes that Coalition Avenir Québec “plans to extend four major highways in Quebec and repeatedly said on the campaign trail that the best thing Quebec can do to fight climate change is to sell hydroelectric power to fossil fuel-dependent jurisdictions outside Quebec, such as the United States and Ontario.” The party “also said it would be open to evaluating oil resources on the shale-rich island of Anticosti in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and would not rule out fracking in areas of northern Quebec where there was ‘social acceptability’.” Legault has since declared that Quebec is “not open to fracking in shale gas”.