Environment: Legault's targets are compromised, says commissioner

Environment: Legault's targets are compromised, says the commissioner

Minister Benoit Charette and Prime Minister François Legault

François Legault’s government is headed straight for environmental failure and the fight against climate change and its targets are compromised, says the commissioner for sustainable development, Janique Lambert. The Commissioner urges Quebec to intensify its efforts… and its rigor.

In her very first report as Commissioner for Sustainable Development, Janique Lambert paints a bleak portrait of the efforts of the Legault government. Lack of supervision in the management of the new Electrification and Climate Change Fund (FECC). Lack of supervision regarding the spreading of road salts. Multiple postponements of the revision of the government's sustainable development strategy. And above all, failure of the objectives of the 2030 Energy Policy.

The transition from the Green Fund to the new Electrification and Climate Change Fund (ECCF) is of particular concern to the Commissioner. According to its audit, the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) allocated 80% of planned spending, or $5.4 billion, to various actions stemming from the 2013- 2020 on climate change. However, Quebec did not “preliminarily assess their performance” before committing sums. The commissioner also notes that “considerable” amounts continue to be paid without analyzes concerning several of the actions concerned having taken place.

Ms. Lambert also notes that the framework put in place by the ministry “does not ensure effective and transparent management” of the FECC, which has the effect of preventing the monitoring of the performance of actions financed by the Fund. “Nearly 90% of the actions in progress did not have target indicators or had inadequate indicators,” she warns following observations made in February 2022. In addition, she estimates that the MELCC “n 'do not exercise effective integrated governance to enable the coherence and coordination of actions at the government level in the fight against climate change'.

The Sustainable Development Commissioner's report echoes a recent analysis by HEC Montréal. This analysis also concluded that there was a lack of rigor in the environment and the targets probably missed in the Legault government’s Climate Change Action Plan.

The compromised 2030 horizon

The Commissioner for Sustainable Development is also targeting the 2030 Energy Policy. This came into effect in 2016 and aims to reduce GHG emissions by 37.5% by 2030 compared to 1990. Janique Lambert indicates that the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MERN) “has not taken all that is necessary to ensure the achievement of the targets”. She evokes a “lack of rigor” and judges that three targets of the policy are thereby compromised. These include reducing the amount of petroleum products consumed by 40%, eliminating the use of thermal coal and increasing the total production of renewable energy.

It also maintains that it is unable to assess the risk regarding the target of increasing bioenergy production by 50%.

And the measures that do contain adequate indicators – barely 24% of the 225 planned measures – do not necessarily perform well. Ms. Lambert remarks that these are seriously behind schedule in relation to what was provided for in the master plan.

Furthermore, Ms. Lambert pleads that the MERN “does not provide adequate information on the issues of energy transition” to decision makers. “The information […] is scattered in several reports and websites. [That] available in the annual reports of the management of the MERN is limited […] and does not allow to assess the progress”, she writes.

In addition, she is concerned about the repeated postponements of the review of the government's Sustainable Development Strategy. She fears that these will harm the credibility of the approach and the integration of the measures within the government apparatus, in particular because of a public consultation in the parliamentary committee which “risks being expedited”.

More details to come.

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