Quebec and Canada as a whole are not doing enough to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or to protect the environment in general, according to Steven Guilbeault.
The federal Minister of the Environment has drawn up a mixed assessment of the Legault government’s efforts in this area.
“I say that as a Quebecer, I expect my government, federal and provincial, to do more on these issues,” he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
However, when asked to rate the performance of the Legault government, Guilbeault was quick to point out the positive.
“First, on the issue of carbon pricing, we have long recognized at the federal level that Quebec is showing leadership in this area. This is why the Quebec system is moving to federal equivalence, and Quebec will be able to continue to use its own system,” he explained.
THE CARIBOU STILL IN DANGER
Guilbeault, who threatened Quebec by decree to impose protections on caribouwas also pleased to have reached an agreement with the Legault government at the last hour.
“I’m very happy that we were able to reach an agreement in principle on caribou protection just before the election,” he said. “I’m very excited to start working on this with my counterpart, [Quebec Environment] Minister Charette, for the implementation, obviously with the aboriginal nations of Quebec. »
However, the agreement in principle must still be detailed in a strategic plan, which Quebec plans to submit in the summer of 2023.
For the moment, the agreement does not contain concrete measures, but rather benchmarks aimed at maintaining two-thirds of the habitats of boreal caribou, mountain caribou and woodland caribou. The Charlevoix and Gaspé herds are particularly fragile.
Guilbeault indicated that he would use the Species at Risk Act to protect caribou if necessary, which would establish protected areas, particularly in the Pipmuacan and Montagnes Blanches sectors, which straddle the Côte-Nord and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean.
NORTH VS. SOUTH
The issue of protected areas, which affects logging, is at the heart of a showdown between public and private interests.
Indigenous and environmental groups have criticized the Legault government for favoring the protection of northern regions rather than those in the south, where forestry opportunities are more attractive to industry.
But Steven Guilbeault says Quebec is following the lead of others on this issue.
“This reflex of protecting land in the North more than in the South, where the land is already fragmented, where there are already significant conflicts of use, particularly in relation to urban sprawl, for example. This is a Canadian issue, not an issue that is unique to Quebec. »
UPCOMING FEDERAL URBAN PARKS
Guibeault said Ottawa wants to do its part in protecting the land by creating 15 urban national parks “to bring nature closer to people.”
“Not everyone can visit some of our beautiful parks [because] they are very remote and difficult to access.”
Discussions are underway with stakeholders in the Montreal region, including the regional environmental councils of Montreal, Laval and the Laurentians.
“We must protect what remains in urban and peri-urban areas […], but you also have to think about catering. Restoration, reforestation, it’s good in the North, but it’s also good in the South,” he added.
INSUFFICIENT COUNTRY-WIDE GHG EFFORTS
But at the end of the day, current efforts to curb climate change are insufficient, Guilbeault said.
“We sometimes hear that in Quebec, people say: ‘Yes, but we have a very good record.’ It’s great to have a good record, but what we’re doing, everyone, isn’t enough. Even the best in the world aren’t doing enough, and everyone needs to do more.”
“And that certainly includes Quebec and Canada,” he concluded.
His interview took place less than a week before COP27, the United Nations conference which opens on Sunday in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 2, 2022.