For a few days now, the provincial political parties meeting in congress have adopted their GHG reduction targets for 2030. On the side of the critics, we seem to confuse courage and unrealism. With the provincial elections looming on the horizon, Quebec’s political parties have started to formulate their environmental platforms, of which climate ambition and targets will be one of the main highlights.
The targets made public so far have already elicited many reactions. For some, Quebec’s current target is not high enough, while for others, going further would be technically, financially and economically unrealistic.
So let’s talk about realism. Commonly, it is defined as an “attitude which takes into account reality as it is”. The reality, currently, is that the efforts promised by the government of Quebec and those around the world are leading us to a global warming of more than 3 ° C by 2100, while the limit of 1.5 ° C, considered as the critical threshold not to be exceeded to avoid any major runaway of the climate system, could be reached as early as 2025. That’s the reality. The reality is also that at this very moment, vulnerable populations, in Quebec and elsewhere in the world, are already suffering or dying from the consequences of the climate crisis. One need only look to British Columbia to realize that we are no longer talking about an abstract thing that should hit us in fifty years or so. This is the reality now.
A question of justice
The current target of the Government of Quebec (37.5% reduction in GHGs by 2030) ignores not only science (which states that we must collectively reduce global GHG emissions by 45 to 55% by 2030 to stay below 1.5 ° C), but also questions of equity. On the one hand towards future generations – go tell your young people that we were not up to the task because the task was not “realistic” -, but also towards the populations who contributed the least to the creation. climate crisis and who bear the brunt of it. Remember that Canada is the largest emitter in the G7 and that its GHG emissions have only increased in recent years. Quebec and Canada have historically developed and enriched themselves by polluting disproportionately compared to other countries. It is therefore their duty to repair accordingly.
This fair contribution by Quebec to the international effort to fight the climate crisis was calculated by the Climate Action Canada Network and evaluated at a domestic reduction of 60% of its GHG emissions by 2030. The science-based targets and those based on equity are similar. We can question them as much as we want, this reality will not change.
Whether it is the IPCC or the various scientific groups that project scenarios putting us on the path to 1.5 ° C of warming, the science is clear: it is still possible to stay below this ceiling. But who said the challenge posed by the climate crisis was going to be easy? Anybody. Science demands ambitious measures that are part of a global societal transformation, absolutely necessary to prevent humanity from suffering the worst disaster scenarios. The targets that Quebec should adopt are perhaps not realistic in the reality as we know it now, but it is precisely this reality that must be transformed.
The economic argument
The economic argument does not hold water either: the costs of inaction are much higher than those of ambition. Now is the time for the new social contract. A Quebec government that remains locked in a short-term ideology and that directs according to political cycles and not according to science will not protect us in the face of the triple crisis of biodiversity, climate and public health.
So, what is more realistic, between the catastrophic scenarios projected if we choose the status quo and the courage to take up the greatest challenge facing humanity in the 21st century?e century?