ENvironment JEUnesse is the Quebec youth group behind the world’s latest intergenerational climate lawsuit. Their press release states: “On November 26 2018, ENvironnement JEUnesse, represented pro bono by the firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, applied to bring a class action against the Canadian government before the Superior Court of Québec today on behalf of Quebeckers aged 35 and under. ENvironnement JEUnesse alleges that the Canadian government is infringing on a generation’s fundamental rights because its greenhouse gas reduction target is not ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change and because it does not even have a plan that would allow it to reach this already inadequate target.” The law firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance provides legal details, and states that “The class action seeks a declaration that the Canadian government’s behaviour in the fight against climate change infringes on the rights of young people, as well as an order to pay punitive damages.”
ENvironment JEUnesse invites readers to join the class action suit, donate, and support the initiatives of other Quebec activists (Pact for the Transition , and the Déclaration d’urgence climatique ). The main website is in the French language, and a French language newsletter is available.
The National Observer broke the news with Quebec youth apply to sue Canada to get toughter carbon pollution targets” and Climate Liability News published “Canada Faces Latest Youth-Led Climate Lawsuit” . Both articles identify the Quebec lawsuit as part of a world-wide movement in where youth are suing their governments for their right to a future without climate catastrophe. The best known climate case of such cases is the Juliana vs U.S. constitutional “Trial of the Century” which began under President Obama and was scheduled to be heard on October 29. It is still under challenge from the federal government. There have also been youth cases in several U.S. states – most recently in Florida . In Norway, Nature and Youth Norway, in cooperation with Greenpeace, are currently appealing an unsuccessful court decision in January 2018, and the youth of Columbia achieved a successful decision in the Demanda Generaciones Futuras v. Minambiente case , in which the government was ordered to formulate plans to protect the Amazon from deforestation. ENvironment JEUnesse provides a summary of all related cases here
An article in the Montreal Gazette on November 12 describes the rapid rise of a new grassroots group in the province: in English, called “The Planet goes to Parliament”. Their demonstrations have been covered by the CBC– including a march of 50,000 people in Montreal on November 10, calling for the newly-elected provincial government to make climate change action an urgent priority . A report of an earlier march in October is here .
In addition to marches and demonstrations, over 175,000 Quebecers have signed the group’s Pact for Transition (English version here ), French version here ), which calls for “radical, co-ordinated and societal transformation” . The Pact first calls for a solemn personal pledge to change behaviours “to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.” It also calls for the government to: enact a plan by 2020 for reaching Quebec’s climate targets; commit to reducing emissions by 50 per cent by 2030; develop an energy efficiency and electrification strategy; rule out any exploitation of fossil fuels in Quebec; and make climate change the first consideration of every policy. Dominic Champagne, a theatre producer and anti-fracking campaigner, is being credited with launching the mass movement, and states: “This time it’s not just left-wing ecologists and artists. It’s way larger … This is really fulfilling an empty space on the political landscape.”
The Quebec government is now led by the right-wing Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) party, which had the weakest environmental platform in the election campaign; Québec Solidaire, a new left-leaning party, had the most well-developed and ambitious climate platform , and went from 0 to 10 seats in the new legislature. (See a WCR explainer here). Since taking power in October, the CAQ government announced the cancellation of the Apuiat wind farm , which was to be built in partnership with Innu communities. As reported by the Energy Mix ,the Chair and Vice-Chair of Hydro-Québec resigned due to the cancellation. Details about the Apuiat project are provided by CBC here (Oct. 20).
The Planet Goes to Parliament has announced plans for at least two more climate protests, in Quebec City and in Montreal, during the COP24 meetings in Katowice Poland in December. The group is thinking big, with a goal of 1 million signatories to their Pact – out of a population of 8 million in the province.
Citizens of Quebec will vote on October 1 in a provincial election, with the leading parties, the Liberals (led by Philippe Couillard) and the Coalition Avenir Quebec (led by Francois Legault) so far emphasizing their economic plans. It is the new, urban-based Québec Solidaire party which has raised the profile of the issue of climate change, with its proposal to ban the sale of new gas-powered vehicles by 2030 – as reported in “Quebec election promise to ban new gas cars and go electric draws praise and skepticism” in the National Observer (Aug. 28) . The article reports that, the 2030 ban of new gasoline-powered vehicles would be followed by a ban on the sale of new hybrid vehicles in 2040, with the goal of eliminating all gas and hybrid vehicles from Quebec roads by 2050. Quebec’s existing zero-emission vehicle law and regulations – considered trendsetting when passed in 2016 and 2017 – require 10 per cent of new vehicle sales to be low- or zero-emission by 2025.
The full program, Plan d’investissement en transport collectif (available in French only) was released on August 28, and further proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 48 per cent in 2030 and 95 per cent in 2050, compared to 1990 levels. As well as the ban of conventional cars, the party proposes increased spending on public transport infrastructure, and reduction of public transit costs by half. In launching the Plan, Québec solidaire co-leader Manon Massé said that it would make Quebec a world leader in the fight against climate change, and would be the most important social change in the province since the Quiet Revolution. She also forecast that the Plan would create 300,000 green jobs by 2030.
So far there has been little fanfare for climate change issues from the mainstream parties – a CBC special feature summarizes all four provincial party platforms on all issues, including the environment. The right-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec party did hit the headlines on August 16 in advance of the campaign start when it proposed the cancellation of the Apuiat wind project, a $600-million wind energy investment on traditional Innu territory. Reaction focused less on the attack on renewable energy than on what it reflected about the party’s attitude to Indigenous rights, as well as the comparison to the recent cancellation by Doug Ford of the White Pines wind project in Ontario.
The Quebec Federation of Labour released its own statement on election issues ; its statement on a green economy, including Just Transition, is available in French only, as Il faut adopter un plan québécois de transition juste vers une économie verte et « sans pétrole » .
For English-language coverage, see the National Observer ongoing special feature at Quebec 2018 , or the Montreal Gazette, a Postmedia company, which also maintains a special section of election coverage.
On April 17, Quebec’s Liberal Premier Philippe Couillard announced the government’s Vision 2030, a 12-year strategy to increase sustainable mobility. The official government information is available only in French, here . Information in the English language is available from the Liberal Party of Quebec press release , and a Montreal Gazette report. The government will invest $9.7 billion ($2.9 billion of which is new funding) to provide Quebecers with a 20% reduction in average commuting time, 20% reduction in commuting costs, and access to at least four types of sustainable mobility by 2030 for 70 % of the population. Investments will be made in a light-rail electric train line for Montreal and an extension of the métro’s Blue Line; as well as transit services to Montreal’s suburbs. (The government had already called for tenders for 300 additional hybrid buses for Montreal in January 2018). Future projects also include a tramway system for Quebec City, and transit alternatives for the regions, outside the two main cities. As environmental benefits, the province aims to achieve a 40% reduction in the amount of fuel consumed for transportation, with a 37.5% reduction in transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions over 1990 levels.
Although the majority of the plan addresses personal transportation, it also sets a goal to increase the goods shipped at ports and intermodal rail terminals by 25%, and promises an increase in the province’s annual sales of transportation equipment from $10 billion to $15 billion.
Premier Couillard is calling the initiative “the James Bay of our era” – referring to the transformative hydro development of the 1970’s.
On December 27, Quebec enacted a new Zero Emissions Vehicle Standard in the form of Final Regulations to Bill 104, An Act to increase the number of zero-emission motor vehicles in Quebec, (which passed in October 2016). The new Standard comes into effect January 11, 2018, and is meant to increase the supply so that 10% of new-vehicle sales or rentals in the province will consist of zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) or low-emission vehicles (LEV) by 2025. Earlier in December, the government had announced a committee to monitor implementation of the regulations, with representatives from the Corporation des concessionnaires automobile du Québec (CCAQ), the provincial Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change (MDDELCC) and the Coalition zéro émission Québec (CZÉQ), as well as environmental group Équiterre. Équiterre’s reaction to the new Standard is favourable ; the Global Automakers of Canada press release states it “needs more work”, reflecting the industry opposition reported in the Montreal Gazette when the regulations were first unveiled in July 2017. Full details and documentation are available from the Quebec government website in English and in French .