Quebec, Canada

Country: Canada

Population: 8 326 089 (2016)

GDP per capita USD: 36 946 (2015)


Québec is a province of Canada located in the northeast of North America. The largest of the Canadian provinces, it is ranked second in terms of population with 8.3 million inhabitants. The Constitution Act, 1867 which provides for the exclusive distribution of legislative powers between the federal parliament and provincial parliaments, does not specifically address the environmental field. Environmental protection is therefore a subject that is not exclusively within one or the other order of government and that is related to several constitutional powers, some of which are federal and other are provincial. Consequently, each order of government can legislate on environmental issues when it comes to matters within its constitutional powers. The interventions of the federal parliament in environmental matters relate to their powers in specific areas, such as fisheries, navigation and aeronautics, criminal law, indigenous lands and interprovincial and extraterritorial issues. Provinces mainly rely on their powers with regard to property and civil rights, municipal institutions, local works and undertakings, intra-provincial transport and natural resources. These important constitutional foundations allow provinces to intervene in the protection of air quality and climate change. In addition, provincial interventions in this area can have an encompassing character. Because of these extensive responsibilities, Québec has been very active in the fields of sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity.

Sustainable development

With the entry into force of its Sustainable Development Act in 2006, Québec adopted a new institutional framework to ensure greater coherence in the government’s actions regarding sustainable development. This Act establishes 16 principles of sustainable development, inspired by the Rio Declaration of 1992, which the government must take into account when implementing its decisions and policies. The Act also imposes an obligation on the government to follow and periodically renew sustainable development strategies, which provide broad orientations for governmental actions. The Act also provides for the development and implementation of Sustainable Development Action Plans by all Québec government ministries and agencies (involving more than 130 public organizations). Québec is almost half way through its second Sustainable Development Strategy, which covers the period 2015-2020.

Climate Change

Québec is the Canadian province with the lowest GHG emission ratio per capita (10 tons in 2014), Quebec has a GHG emission reduction target of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and of 37.5% below 1990 by 2030. Québec has also adopted a long-term vision by signing the Global climate leadership Memorandum of Understanding (Under 2 MOU), thus pledging to reduce  its  GHG  emissions  by  80-95%  by  2050,  as  the Intergovernmental  Panel  on  Climate  Change advocates for industrialized states.

To reach these targets, Québec is implementing several policies and measures contained in its 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan. At the heart of this plan lies Québec’s cap-and-trade system which started its operations in 2013, and which was linked to California’s system in 2014 thus creating the biggest carbon market in North America and the first to be designed and operated by subnational governments of different countries. In September 2017, Québec, California and Ontario signed an agreement to officially integrate their cap and trade systems on January 1st 2018, thus creating the second largest carbon market in the world.

The Government of Québec decided to invest all the revenues from the fossil fuel levies and the carbon market to finance the 2006-2012 and the 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plans. Private citizens, companies, municipalities  and  government  bodies  have  access  to these  funds  to  help  them  reduce  their  energy consumption, innovate to improve their energy efficiency, and adapt to climate change. Between 2006 and 2020, it is estimated that 4.5 billion dollars will have been invested in Québec’s economy through the measures set out in these action plans.

Energy Policy, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

2016-2030 Energy Policy

In 2016, Québec launched its 2016-2030 Energy Policy. The Energy Policy aims to decarbonize Quebec, stimulate innovation and develop its green economy with the help of ambitious targets: 1) reduce by 40% the amount of petroleum products consumed; 2) enhance energy efficiency by 15%; 3) increase by 25% overall renewable energy output; 4) increase by 50% bioenergy production; and 5) eliminate the use of thermal coal.  The first Action Plan (2017-2020) to implement the Strategy was published in June 2017.

Renewable Energy

Québec has one of North America’s smallest carbon footprints for electricity generation. More than 99% of the 202 Gigawatt/hour generated in 2015 comes from renewables (hydroelectric and wind).

During the last decade, the Government of Québec continued the development of its hydroelectric, wind and residual forest biomass power capacities. Since the publication of the 2006-2012 Climate Change Action Plan, the wind generation increased by 2000% and residual biomass use increased by almost 500%.

Thanks to the investments made over the years, Québec has a significant quantity of green energy at its disposal, energy it can use to reduce its own GHG emissions, or to help its neighbors reduce their own. This is an important asset in the context of the global fight against climate change and considering the need to increase energy security.

Green  electricity  is  also  a  powerful  economic  development  tool all  across  Québec,  as  it  provides thousands of direct and indirect jobs and supports the economic growth of businesses, municipalities and First-Nations communities.

Energy Efficiency

For more than 15 years, Québec has made significant investments in energy efficiency and has helped companies convert to greener energy sources. Under Québec Energy Strategy 2006-2015, energy distributors and the Government of Québec invested more than 1.4 billion dollars to generate recurring energy savings in the order of 41.7 million gigajoules (GJ). In its 2016-2030 Energy Policy, Québec will continue its efforts and increase energy efficiency by 15%.

Sustainable mobility

The Government of Québec invested nearly $800 million between 2006 and 2014 to support mass transit. As for the electrification of transportation, the government’s goal is to have 100 000 electric vehicles on Québec roads by 2020. To accomplish this, a budget of $420 million has been allocated to the Transportation Electrification Action Plan 2015-2020. In enabling the replacement of petroleum in transportation by locally-produced, low-cost renewable energy, the electrification of transportation has a promising future in Québec.

The Government unanimously adopted in 2016 an Act to increase the number of zero-emission motor vehicles in order to reduce greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions.  As a result, like 10 U.S. states, including California and several northeastern states, Québec has invested itself with the power to adopt a regulation commonly called the “ZEV standard,” which encourages automakers to improve their ZEV offer.


Over the past 15 years, Québec has developed cutting-edge expertise in climate modelling, in assessing climate change impacts, and in designing adaptation solutions. This expertise has grown immensely thanks to the Ouranos Consortium, a leading research organization created in 2001 with the continuous support of the Government of Québec, and also through research activities conducted in a range of organizations, government departments, research centres, as well as the private sector. Québec now has regional climate scenarios at its disposal, which are used to forecast more accurately how climate change could affect the province. This information is crucial to Québec’s mitigation and adaptation efforts.

This valuable expertise is increasingly being used, both within Québec and abroad, by companies and municipalities seeking to reduce costs related to climate change. As an example, the five biggest cities in Québec are using this expertise to develop climate change adaptation plans. Québec is aware that strong global cooperation is essential for meeting the climate challenge and is answering the call from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for increased funding to fight climate change in developing countries that are most vulnerable to its impacts. To that end, Québec launched the International Climate Cooperation Program that supports, through technology transfer and capacity building, cooperation projects between Québec’s academic, international cooperation and private sector communities on one hand, and designated Francophone countries on the other.


Québec also formally endorsed the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1992, and is currently working to meet the objectives of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. In October 2013, it published its Government Biological Diversity Guidelines as a first step to reaching the Aichi Targets. The new approach was the result of consultations between various government departments and civil society actors, and is based on the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable development, all of which considered fundamental and indivisible. These three issues are subdivided into seven major government guidelines, which are based on the twenty Aichi Targets, and enable action on all of its fronts. The guidelines constitute proactive tools for mainstreaming biodiversity in all government areas of endeavour.

Since then, Québec has continued its biodiversity efforts and numerous actions are currently under way. In particular, Québec has made ambitious commitments regarding protected areas in order to meet international targets. It is committed to protecting 17% of its land mass and interior fresh water areas by 2020, including protecting 20% of its territory located north of the 49th parallel, which accounts for nearly 1.2 million km2, as well as 10% of its marine areas. Biodiversity issues have also been incorporated into major government strategies like the 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan and Government Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, the 2015-2020 Government Sustainable Development Strategy, the Plan Nord for 2035, the Maritime Strategy for 2030, and the 2015 Sustainable Forest Management Strategy.



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