The Quebec government released a budget yesterday that doubles spending on climate change to C$6.2 billion over six years, beginning in 2021, using surplus power from provincial utility Hydro-Québec to drive a 37.5% emissions reduction from 1990 levels by 2030. But details of the plan are still months away, and two major environmental groups say it doesn’t go nearly far enough.
The province has seen a 9% reduction in its carbon pollution since 1990, including a slight increase in 2017, the Montreal Gazette reports. Now, with transportation accounting for 43% of total emissions, the government is allocating $3.8 billion for transit and personal vehicles in a plan that will focus on “electrifying transport, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from other sources, and helping the province adapt to climate change.”
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Finance Minister Éric Girard also introduced extensions to existing subsidy programs for electric vehicles, at up to $8,000 each, and off-oil conversions for home space and water heating, and tipped several other investments in Montreal-area natural environments, air conditioner and appliance recycling, flood risk mitigation and mapping, and municipal emergency preparedness and prevention, the local paper says.
But “Quebecers will have to wait for many of the particulars. The government’s detailed plan—an ‘electrification and climate change framework policy’—will only be made public in the coming months.”
Now in its second year, the province’s Coalition Avenir Québec government “largely ignored climate change until now,” the Gazette notes. “It barely mentioned the issue during the 2018 election campaign that brought it to office, and it had not previously made it a priority in government.”
But “polls indicate it’s a major concern among Quebecers. And the government wanted a new focus after divisive and tumultuous debates over secularism and immigration during its first year in power.”
In addition to transportation funding, the budget sets aside $1.3 billion for carbon reductions by large businesses and $310 million for owners of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
While the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and the Union des municipalités du Québec both endorsed the plan, Greenpeace Québec and Nature Québec flagged major gaps.
“The right signals are there, the money is there,” said Chamber President Michel Leblanc, and the business subsidies are “enough money, because the private sector would not be able to move faster than that.”
“I still don’t see the basis of a serious climate change plan,” countered Greenpeace campaigner Patrick Bonin. He said the budget contains too much funding for EV and big business subsidies, allows road spending to continue exceeding transit, and should put more emphasis on curtailing urban sprawl and encouraging active transportation.
“Too little is being invested in the residential sector, in adaptation, sustainable agriculture and food, restoration and conservation of natural environments, protection of drinking water sources, urban greening, and public awareness of the importance of fighting against the environmental crisis,” added Nature Québec Director General Alice-Anne Simard.
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