The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many flaws in our societies, and in particular in our economic model. The climate crisis, the aging of the population, the increase in inequalities have for years accentuated the pressure to change perspective. Fortunately, there is no shortage of ideas, nor of initiatives, and on this front, Quebec has little to envy the others. Today: decarbonisation, fourth of six texts.
“Carbon neutral in 2050.” The objective is ambitious, but must absolutely be achieved to slow down and stop the train of climate change. Humanity is approaching the wall still too quickly. Canada picked up on that rallying cry this fall, although it is not known how it will meet its target. Other countries, cities and companies, which have made the same commitment or even promised to do better, are already at work.
Aiming for the carbon neutral economy is, despite what some prophets of doom believe, an opportunity, an opportunity to change the economic model so that it is more respectful of the planet, but also more efficient and resilient. And no, it is not synonymous with unemployment or impoverishment. Even companies that have taken the train can gain by the exchange.
To arrive safely, however, multiple strategies must be implemented by governments, businesses and citizens to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated especially with fossil fuels. The famous energy transition is also at the heart of the Quebec government’s latest sustainable development plan released this fall, which focuses more than ever on the electrification of transportation.
It’s not for nothing. “Today, in Quebec, 50% of the carbon we emit comes from oil, the most expensive source of energy and it is linked to an incredible loss of productivity in the Quebec economy,” explains Pierre-Olivier Pineau , professor at HEC Montréal and holder of the Energy Sector Management Chair. “Quebecers have larger and larger vehicles and more and more vehicles per 1,000 inhabitants, which is costing us more and more in congestion, rutted roads, urban sprawl and, of course, in infrastructure. ”
A supporter of “smart decarbonization” which would also focus on saving energy and reducing the number of vehicles, he underlines the relevance of targeting transport. This sector is responsible for Quebec’s inability to meet its GHG emissions reduction targets. “If we miss our 20% target in 2020, it is only because of individual transport and goods. […] Paradoxically, and this is not well known, in Quebec, the sectors where we observe real reductions in GHG emissions are the industrial sectors. Taken as a whole, they exceeded the 2020 target, ”continues the researcher.
Video: Quebec retreat on the complete reopening of libraries (Le Devoir)
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How to break the second wave?
Despite the closure of schools and non-essential businesses, cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in Quebec. Experts are sounding the alarm. We must give a boost to curb the spread. Le Devoir took stock with experts from various fields in the field on possible solutions that the government could take to slow the increase in cases. Holiday Gatherings Benoît Mâsse remarks that the “notion of a family bubble has been broadened quite a bit during the holiday season”. “That’s a lot of people who cheated a bit,” he says. If stricter measures are put in place, the population will have to be convinced to adhere to them, he emphasizes. Relaxation among caregivers According to Dr. Marie-France Raynault, the staff in hospitals shows “a very clear relaxation” in health measures. At the CHUM where she works, employees do not respect physical distancing during breaks. Reopening of schools All stakeholders consulted say they want the students to return to class as planned next week. “Our first choice is to be in school, even if we are aware of the health context,” says Nicolas Prévost, president of the Fédération québécoise des directions d’études. We can see that the absence of our students affects their chances of success or their motivation. The manufacturing sector worries Dr. Marie-France Raynault believes that the screws must be tightened in the manufacturing sector, especially in slaughterhouses and food processing plants. According to her, the Commission for standards, equity, health and safety at work should revoke the license of delinquent personnel placement agencies which transport, for example, their employees “in a bus, well packed”.
COVID-19: England returns to total containment
Faced with the alarming spread of the new variant of the coronavirus, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the reconfinement of England until mid-February. The highest level of restrictions imposed on nearly 80% of the English population was not enough to stem the spread of the new variant (50 to 70% more contagious, according to British scientists). With more than 75,000 dead, the UK is one of the countries in Europe most bereaved by COVID-19 and the trend has worsened in recent weeks. In English hospitals, the number of patients with the virus – nearly 27,000 – “increased by nearly a third” in one week. “We must therefore enter a national confinement that is strong enough to control this variant” —Boris Johnson As during the first containment in the spring and unlike the second in November, schools will be closed and will switch to distance education from Tuesday. The confinement is to come into effect from 12:01 am on Wednesday. If the conditions are met, the confinement will be lifted in mid-February, by which time, Boris Johnson hopes, all those over 70 will be vaccinated.
Death of a girl in Laval: the neighborhood in shock
The peaceful rue de Bouthillier in Laval has turned into a crime scene since a 7-year-old girl was found lifeless. The tragedy that shook the family of Afghan origin is still considered a “suspicious death” according to police and no arrests have yet been made. Police are unable to confirm whether the girl died of abuse. “There are currently 12 investigators on site with forensic identification who are crime scene experts. It should be understood that investigators are working very hard to understand the circumstances surrounding the death of the young girl. », Explains Stéphanie Beshara, public affairs officer at the Laval Police Department. The latter says that an autopsy should be done on the young victim on Monday. “The autopsy will really allow us to know what exactly happened and what caused the death of the young girl. When officers arrived at the scene, six family members, in addition to the victim, were at the scene, police confirm. The latter were all met with an interpreter during the night, as they speak Farsi. They are all considered “witnesses” at this stage of the investigation.
And if businesses large and small have done so, it is because it is profitable in most cases: energy savings, productivity gains through the adoption of more efficient processes, recycling of residual materials and creation of shorter supply chains. All this, by frequently adopting strategies specific to the circular economy.
The Quebec iron and steel sector, for example, is in the process of drawing up a portrait of its entire value chain in order to identify, among other things, the possibilities of circularity allowing a reduction in GHG emissions. The initiative is supported by the Government of Quebec through the Green Fund.
It is not always simple or easy to make these meshes, warns Mr. Pineau, however. “Big companies are looking for projects that are profitable with a short-term return on investment. They are reluctant to change their processes for fear of experiencing supply disruptions. […] They also want to protect their competitive advantage and may resist disclosing certain information. ”
The slow return on investment can actually be a drag when the costs associated with modernizing existing machinery, as may be the case in older foundries, are high, explains Céline Bak, President of Analytica Advisors who advise companies in the development of their decarbonization plan.
But things are moving. Last fall, a new investment of 875 million was announced for the construction of a biofuels plant in Varennes by the firm Enerkem, in partnership with Shell, Suncor, Proman and Hydro-Quebec. The Recyclage Carbone Varennes project will convert more than 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable residual materials and residual forest biomass into biofuel, using an electrolysis process using hydroelectric energy.
As a fossil fuel producer country, Canada cannot achieve a carbon neutral economy without government support, notes Mme Bak, who for years portrayed the Canadian cleantech sector. Particularly in producing regions, although Alberta has one of the best wind and solar potential in the country.
The decarbonization of the economy is an emergency, insists the economist François Delorme, teacher at the University of Sherbrooke and collaborator of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). “We already know what to do, but the longer we wait, the more the cost of inaction increases, and that every year. We cannot shovel the problem forward. The climate problem is the only one where we cannot push back the wall. It is a unique problem in economics and that is why we cannot only within the framework of the existing economic paradigm. ”
“There is a very strong link between GHG emissions and the linear economic model”, underlines Daniel Normandin, director of the new Center for Intersectoral Studies and Research in Circular Economy (CERIEC), of the École de technologie supérieure. .
The adoption of new models could therefore be a game-changer. A study carried out for the Club of Rome and published in 2016 showed that the five European countries examined would benefit from adopting an economic model favoring the circular flow of resources. This would promote job creation, reduce GHG emissions and improve their trade balance.