By Marc Bonhomme – Reporting from Quebec
“Canadian wildfires have this year burned a land area larger than 104 of the world’s 195 countries. The carbon dioxide released by them so far is estimated to be nearly 1.5 billion tons more than twice as much as Canada releases through transportation, electricity generation, heavy industry, construction and agriculture combined. In fact, it is more than the total emissions of more than 100 of the world’s countries also combined.
“But what is perhaps most striking about this year’s fires is that despite their scale, they are merely a continuation of a dangerous trend: Every year since 2001, Canada’s forests have emitted more carbo n than they’ve absorbed. That is the central finding of a distressing analysis published last month by Barry Saxifrage in Canada’s National Observer, ominously headlined “Our forests have reached a tipping point””
While these fires are still going on in West ern Canada, it is ironic that the Canadian Prime Minister was one of 34 invited to ad dress the UN Climate Ambition Summit in New York this September 20th even though “the UN Under Secretary General for Communications, Melissa Fleming, emphasized at the outset that Canada is one of the countries to have increased its production of fossil fuels the most last year “. The result is that these GHG emissions remain more than 20% higher than in 1990. Is this invitation explained by the previous announcement of the end of “ineffective” subsidies that in no way cancel out either the loans to oil companies or the generous subsidies for GHG capture and sequestration?
“In the middle of the week of the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, the Trudeau government and that of Newfoundland and Labrador announced their intention to open thousands of additional square kilo meters of marine environments to oil exploration projects. […] Part of a block overlaps the most important marine biodiversity protection zone in the east of the country. More cynical, you die. This snub ridiculed these “more than 250 organizations from 30 countries [who] sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau asking him not only to keep his promise, but to reduce emissions from the fossil sector by 60% compared to the current level. from 2005, by 2030.”
As compensation, was it enough for Canada to make an ambiguous promise of a regulation on capping GHG emissions from the oil and gas sector before the end of the year and another on a future regulatory framework to reduce methane emissions by 75% while comparing oneself favorably vis à vis the Conservatives’ record? This capping regulation resigns itself in advance to the fact that the carbon neutrality of 2050 recommended by the IPCC UN would allow the production of 25 million barrels of oil per day, or a quarter of current world production. No wonder it excludes emissions from the combustion of exported resources and remains agnostic about the growth of oil and gas production, a responsibility placed on the shoulders of companies and provinces whose constitutional juris diction it is and knowing that Alberta and New found land and Labrador want to increase their production.
Al Gore’s praise earned the Prime Minister of Quebec an invitation to participate in this same Summit. If Quebec emits less GHG per capita than the other Canadian provinces, the credit goes to the national mobilization of the Quebec people in the 1960s and 70s who imposed hydro electrification in all directions… on the backs of the Cree, Innu and Anishinaabe peoples and disrupting the ecology of large rivers. It is also the contemporary Quebec people who have won the social unacceptability and then the ban on oil and gas exploration… just like the failure of this exploration.
The Quebec California carbon exchange generates a flight of capital to California, especially through dubious forestry credits. Emission rights are cumulative and too many were created in the first years, without counting the “compensatory credits” which add to them. HEC professor expert Pinault concluded: “Just as with the subsidies distributed through the programs, there will be no concrete and notable effect on Quebec’s GHG emissions. It will therefore not be with current programs nor with the carbon market that we will achieve our 2030 targets.” The result is a dissuasive carbon price that is less than the federal carbon tax. But the federal tax only modifies market price relationships without providing a single penny for climate programs.
Quebec’s total GHG emissions, after decreasing by 8% between 1990 and 2016, increased by 5% from 2016 to 2019 (the pandemic year 2020 is atypical). Without forgetting the industrial sector, it is still the transport sector, which is beating the pace, among other things because of more energy intensive vehicles and the continual urban sprawl against which the government does not want to crack down. The target of a 37.5% reduction in GHGs in 2030 compared to 1990, unchanged since 2015, lacks ambition vis à vis the 1.5°C target of the IPCC UN. Give n the responsibility of the formerly industrialized countries, it should be 65%65%. In addition, the measures currently planned by the Green Plan, according to Greenpeace, only allow to achieve at best 60% of its GHG reduction target for 2030.
Quebec’s per ca pita GHG emissions, between eight and nine tonnes per year of CO2 equivalent, are double the world average. “To hope to respect the most ambitious objective of the Paris Agreement, namely limiting climate disruption to +1.5°C, emissions per citizen should not exceed two tonnes. » It is however correct that hydroelectricity allows Quebec to emit, in terms of GHG emissions per capita from consumption, all production sources combined coming from both Quebec and outside Quebec, from half to two thirds of the Canadian average. On the other hand, “Quebec is a “leader” in terms of overconsumption of electricity. “We consume quantities of energy per capita roughly equivalent to the Canadian and American averages” [according to Professor Pineault], but also “nearly four times higher than the world average.”
The Quebec media barely point ed out that on the preceding weekend of the Climate Ambition Summit, “on Sunday September 17, some 75,000 people took to the streets of New York to demand more energetic measures against climate change. The pro test was “much more focused
on fossil fuels and industry than previous marches,” the Associated Press wrote. The next day, more than 100 protesters were arrested outside the New York Federal Reserve Bank, according to Inside Climate News. »
In Quebec itself, the mainstream ecological movement has abandoned the ritual climate demonstration at the end of September. The student climate movement is trying to reinvigorate itself and perhaps organize a demonstration in spring 2024. The radical anti-capitalist youth movement “ La Rage climatique ( Climate Rage ))” tried to fill the void by organizing a demonstration on September 29 in which hundreds participated while a round 60 000 post-secondary students were on strike on that day In the margin, the Climate Justice Workers (Travailleuses et travailleurs pour la justice climatique TJC) are trying to bring together climate activists, teachers an d other workers, and students to fight for their working place to be
ecologically upgrade d and convert from natural ga s to hydroelectricity.
This year, the probable “unlimited general strike” of the Quebec public sector, representing approximately 10% of the total Quebec workforce, will be at the centre of the social struggle. On September 23, there were a hundred thousand of them in the streets of Montreal. The ecological movement would do well to explain that the fight to improve the wages and working conditions of public service workers is in itself a climate struggle, more precisely an ecofeminist one. These jobs based on personal relationships require a minimum mechanical energy therefore fossil energy. Above all they boost the care sector of society while being an antidote to consumerism and productivism to the extent of the increase in caregiver patient and professor student ratios and a decent wage.