Five environmental issues to watch in 2022

Raising Canada’s Climate Ambition

With the appointment of Steven Guilbeault as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Trudeau government has raised high expectations among those who hope that Canada will acquire the necessary means to sufficiently reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. (GES) to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Key elements of the federal climate plan will also be on the menu for the coming months : GHG emissions cap for the oil and gas sector, reduction of methane emissions and development of a plan to make the sale of “zero emission” vehicles compulsory by 2035.

In interview at Duty, Minister Guilbeault recently stressed that these measures, and those that will follow, must be deployed quickly to reduce GHGs by 40% to 45% by 2030, compared to the 2005 level. The Trudeau government is not closing down however, the door to new oil projects, particularly in the marine environment, off the coast of Newfoundland. But Mr. Guilbeault warns that any growth in oil and gas production is likely to come up against increasingly severe climate regulations, which should promote the economic transition of some provinces.

Caribou in captivity

The most recent inventories of the various populations of woodland caribou in Quebec show that the species is more threatened than ever. But the most desperate situations are those of the so-called “isolated” herds, namely that of Val-d’Or (seven animals), that of Charlevoix (17 animals) and that of the Gaspé (32 to 36 animals).

In any case, they are doomed to disappear, unless ambitious measures are taken to restore their degraded habitats and reduce predation. Concretely, logging, in addition to destroying the old forests necessary to feed the caribou, facilitate the arrival of predators, which has the effect of increasing the mortality of young caribou. While waiting to assess what happens next, the government plans to send all Charlevoix caribou into captivity this winter. In the case of those from the Gaspé, it is planned to capture only pregnant females, to send them to give birth in an enclosure.

The goal is to ensure that the fawns can spend their first months of life without risking being killed by predators. Meanwhile, the government has decided to postpone the presentation of a strategy for the protection of the species until 2023. Faced with Quebec’s inaction, the Trudeau government is considering intervening to prevent the disappearance of the woodland caribou in the province.

An environmental study for the third link

Regardless of the opposition to the third link project and whatever the environmental impacts of this new $ 10 billion highway axis, the Legault government has promised that it will move forward. It must, however, go through an environmental assessment process that will include a commission of inquiry from the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE).

We should also learn more about the impacts of the project in the coming months, when the Minister of Transport submits a “project notice”, which will be followed by a directive for carrying out the impact study. This will be produced by the SNCL-Englobe consortium, but it is not certain that the document will be completed and made public before the elections in October 2022. It is also unlikely that the independent review of the project by the BAPE be conducted before the next provincial election.

It will also be necessary to monitor the side of the Trudeau government, which has clearly indicated that the road tunnel will be the subject of a federal evaluation. The Legault government, which wants to obtain funding from Ottawa for the project, criticized this will displayed by the federal government. According to the Minister of the Environment Benoit Charette, “Quebec is the sole contractor for its environmental assessments and its infrastructure projects”.

How much public money for oil and gas?

The Legault government announced this fall that it will definitively close the door to all oil and gas exploration projects in Quebec, after more than a decade of debates, investments of millions of dollars of public funds and issues. securing abandoned wells in the area.

A bill must also be tabled this winter and it is expected that it will include provisions to compensate companies that still hold exploration permits. There is still, according to available data, a total of 182 permits held by ten companies. Even if they have not developed an exploitation project, they claim that the value of their losses is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions of dollars. What will the government do, which is already subject to legal actions from companies challenging the ban on hydraulic fracturing in the St. Lawrence Valley? We do not yet know, even if Prime Minister François Legault recently said he wanted to pay “as little compensation as possible”.

The Quebec Environmental Law Center believes that no compensation should be paid. To do this, it would have to be included in the bill, as the Charest government had done when it decided, in 2011, to put an end to oil and gas exploration in the fluvial portion of the St.Lawrence and on the estuary islands.

Radical changes to avoid climate sinking?

After the relentless observations, the solutions to avoid the worst. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to publish its draft report this winter, which will address the means to be implemented to “mitigate” the impacts of the climate crisis.

According to a leaked draft of the report, there is every indication that scientists should propose profound transformations in our societies. Noting that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will have to be reduced to zero in less than 30 years, the IPCC believes that this objective implies a marked decrease in the demand for energy and resources.

The report also highlights the need to densify cities, to build neighborhoods as a priority for active mobility and public transport, to protect green spaces in inhabited areas, to promote urban agriculture and to rely on various measures to adaptation, in particular green roofs and green walls. In short, scientists are finding that the vision of urban development that has dominated for decades, including in Quebec, must be shelved.

Finally, the IPCC calls for an unprecedented change in our diet, so that it is based on a “plant-based” diet. The environmental gains would be enhanced if we reduced “waste”, which represents more than a third of all world food production.

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