How Quebec’s climate change plan protects suburbanites from tough choices
The Quebec government’s vision of a greener future will look very familiar to us residents of the present.
In the vision that Environment Minister Benoît Charette outlined on Monday, Quebecers will still own cars. They’ll just be driving electric ones.
And Quebecers will still own spacious homes in the suburbs. They’ll just be living in more energy efficient ones.
But the future Quebec, as Charette has imagined it, will be different from the present in at least one major respect: the province will be on track to meeting its main climate change goal.
The $6.7-billion climate change plan that Charette announced on Monday was meant to detail how the province will reduce its carbon footprint by 29 million tonnes of CO2 over the next 10 years.
While that remains Quebec’s stated goal, the plan only identifies a series of measures that will result in a reduction of 12.4 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030, according to the government’s own accounting.
The 17.4-million tonne difference will be achieved through unspecified technological advancements and a contribution from the federal government, also unspecified.
The gap was glaring and left environmentalists calling on the government to specify how the province will meet its 2030 targets.
“By itself the plan won’t be enough to address the challenges presented by the climate crisis,” the climate advocacy group Équiterre said in a statement.
But many Quebecers may find something soothing about the plan. It sends the message that the climate crisis can be averted with little disruption to their lifestyles.
Rethinking the suburban dream
The capstone measure in the plan is the pledge to maintain the $8,000 subsidy that Quebecers receive when they buy a new electric car. Total cost: $1.3 billion over five years.
With that in place, the government believes it can have 1.5 million electric vehicles driving around the province by 2030.
Energy policy experts have pointed out the subsidy is, in effect, a massive cash transfer to the higher income households that can afford electric cars.
(An example provided by the government of how the subsidy works shows the benefits of buying a $56,000 Nissan Leaf instead of a $38,500 Altima.)