Sierra Club of Canada: 1996 Rio Report Card

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1993 (not graded)

1994 Grade: D

1995 Grade: C+

1996 Grade: C+

The Quebec government is holding at its grade of C+, with efforts for biodiversity bringing up a poor mark for protected areas.

This year the Quebec government released a final Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan after public consultation. Reaction from Quebec's environmental community has been quite favourable. Clearly, the presence of the international United Nations Secretariat for the Biodiversity Convention, in Montreal and partially funded by the provincial government has had an impact.

Quebec also has the most recently minted of any province's endangered species legislation. (Only Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba have any legislation to protect species.) Currently, there are only nine listed species, and all plants. While the conservation community expects more plants to be added soon, and potentially two animals, there remains concern that the listing of species is too dependent on political discretion and the governments agenda. All promoters of projects are required to take into account the list of species at risk and submitted to the government authorisation.

While the government has created several new protected areas and ecological reserves this year, their progress over-all has been slow. Work is just starting to develop a map based on gap analysis to identify those ecological areas which have been adequately represented in a protected areas system and those which have not. Quebec has received credit though from World Wildlife Fund for its work in marine protected areas, particularly for their draft natural regions framework for the St. Lawrence River and the release of the management plan for the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park.

Until Quebec and its polluting neighbours upstream can successfully implement their clean-up strategies for the St. Lawrence, the beluga whales, the prime attraction of the Saguenay Park, are likely doomed. The park may be known, not as beluga habitat, but as a beluga hospice.

An encouraging sign are indications from the provincial government that tax laws may be reformed to encourage conservation on private lands. Such a step, and others, are essential if significant ecosystems are to be protected on privately held lands.

As in many provinces, however, the biodiversity picture gets less positive when one looks at industrial forestry practices. While Sierra Club gave the government credit last year for some restrictions on clear-cutting, the current rate of cut remains excessive. And clear-cutting, as in every province, is still the predominant approach to logging. Quebec has developed a whole new lexicon of terms, but removing all the trees on a site is clear-cutting -- no matter how you cut it. Recent protests by the Cree over clear-cutting in their territory point to the reality that as logging opportunities are exhausted further south, resource conflict will increase in the north.

As in Ontario, deregulation pressures are building. Quebec environmentalists are concerned that pressure from forestry and mining interests could lead to reduced environmental protection.


Quebec - Climate Change

1993 Grade: - 1994 Grade: D 1995 Grade: C+ 1996 Grade: D+

Carbon dioxide emissions (kilotonnes)
1990: 61,143
1994: 61,317
Increase: 0.3%

Reductions in some sectors mask increases in transportation related emissions: from 16,353 kiltonnes in 1990 for cars and light trucks to 17,513 kilotonnes in 1994, a 6.6 per cent increase. Because of Quebec's heavy reliance on hydro for its electricity, it's greenhouse gas growth is in the transportation sector.

Quebec's grade falls this year because of the weakness of its action plan and failure to move to reduce transportation emissions.

Quebec's Action Plan, released in spring 1995 is primarily voluntary and focuses on research and development. Regulatory initiatives include energy efficiency standards for equipment. The Energy Productivity Program which provides financial support for feasibility and demonstrations programs reports that $5 million in subsidies supported $110 million in energy savings. The overall weakness of the Plan, however, dictates the D+ grade for this report card.

This year's grade could change significantly, however, if the Quebec Government elects to follow the recommendations of the Consultation Panel of the Public Debate on Energy. The 13-member Panel comprised of representatives from the environment, labour, aboriginal, energy, electricity, renewable and consumer sectors has made released "For an Energy Efficient Quebec" April 2, 1996. The report is far-reaching and if pursued by the Quebec government, these recommendations could establish province as a national leader in sustainable energy development.

Key recommendations include:

  1. Establish an Energy Board with regulatory powers for the natural gas and electric sectors (and to a lessor extent, oil). The Board would have the power to establish rates and set safety standards. In addition, the Board would have the power to mandate integrated resource planning, a tool which would incorporate the social costs of energy consumption into decision making and energy choices. (The Quebec government is moving to establish a Board with regulatory powers.)
  2. Establish an Energy Efficiency Agency with responsibility for education, training, labelling, and revisions to codes and standards, including in transportation. The Agency would also have a role in financing community-based energy efficiency projects which would be awarded based on tender.
  3. Establish setasides for wind energy at Hydro Quebec.
  4. Introduce a Solar Rights Act (as in California) to guarantee homeowners unrestricted access to the sun's energy.
  5. Move toward full-cost pricing in the transportation sector using toll roads, higher registration fees and vehicle taxation based on vehicle efficiency. The Panel did not support higher taxes for gasoline. Revenues could be used to invest in public transit.
  6. Support development of a rapid transit system in the Quebec/Windsor corridor.

The City of Montreal is also considering making a commitment to reducing its carbon dioxide emissions 20 per cent by 2005.

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Copyright 1996 Sierra Club of Canada