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Jean Charest

06 December 2010
Jean Charest
  • What are your predictions concerning COP16 negotiations?

No-one can predict with absolute certainty the outcome of the negotiations currently underway. However, we should be careful not to raise expectations too high, as was the case last year in Copenhagen. The Kyoto Protocol was part of a long process to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Current negotiations must likewise be viewed from that perspective, particularly since they deal with a far greater number of issues, and developing countries now have a much more significant role in this UN process.

In Copenhagen, in December 2009, and during the latest negotiation rounds of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the Parties appear to have made considerable progress regarding adaptation, technological transfers to developing countries and REDD+. We hope the Parties will at the very least succeed in adopting decisions in these areas. We also think that the parties must operationalize other aspects of the Copenhagen Accord, particularly the annual mobilization of 100 billion U.S. dollars, beginning in 2020, to help developing countries with their GHG emissions adaptation and mitigation activities, as well as the establishment of financial mechanisms to manage that aid.

A global GHG emissions reduction agreement seems more difficult, but Québec is in Cancun to demonstrate that federated states and regions are not waiting to see signatures at the bottom of an international climate agreement to take concrete action on the ground. We have already introduced a number of frequently innovative policies and programs and we intend to continue our efforts regardless of the outcome of negotiations in Cancun.

  • What is Québec’s position on climate change?

Québec is a true leader in the area of climate change, both within the Canadian federation and as a federated state in the international arena. As early as 2006, the Québec National Assembly endorsed the principles and objectives of the Kyoto Protocol and the UNFCCC. That same year, we published a 2006-2012 Climate Change Action Plan that provided for the implementation of several measures for reducing Québec’s GHG emissions to 6% below the 1990 level by 2012. Additionally, in Copenhagen, we announced that we were preparing a second action plan for 2013-2020 aimed at reducing our GHG emissions to 20% below the 1990 level. The target is extremely ambitious, since 98% of the electricity produced in Québec and nearly 50% of the energy consumed there already come from renewable sources.

Quebec also maintains that the text of a future international agreement on climate should recognize that federated states, by virtue of their experience, knowledge of the territory, closeness to the issues and expertise, play a crucial and decisive role in establishing, formulating and implementing policies and instruments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping civil society adapt to climate change. Québec is therefore asking all governments and other parties to the UNFCCC to support all wording in the negotiating texts that indicate this.

  • What are your expectations regarding your participation in the Climate Leaders Summit?

It was a great pleasure for me to agree to co-chair the Climate Leaders Summit once more this year. I’m looking forward to seeing my counterparts again. Like Quebec, they are particularly active in climate change. I am also anxious to meet new leaders. Each edition of the Climate Leaders Summit provides a unique opportunity to discuss best practices, share ideas and build relations. This year, I expect that Summit participants will reaffirm their commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, continue to encourage the dissemination of clean technologies and make increasingly forward-looking commitments. We are aware that federated states and regions today are an inspiration for many of the parties to the UNFCCC on climate change, as they continue their crucial talks to reach a comprehensive agreement that we all hope will be ambitious and legally binding.

  • What are you planning to do for the advancement of the ‘billion tree campaign’?

Québec has committed to participating in this initiative announced at the Climate Leaders Summit held in Copenhagen in 2009 and, earlier this year, I signed a statement on behalf of the Québec government reaffirming that commitment. Québec has thus pledged to plant 100 million new trees over the coming years. In its 2010-2011 budget, my government released the funds needed for financing this project.

  • What commitments has Québec made since the last Climate Leaders Summit?

The government that I head also earmarked funds in its 2010-2011 budget for establishing and implementing an industrial policy for the development of electric vehicles, including the development of electric buses in Québec. In February, 2011, we will be in a position to release an action plan that will propose one of the world’s most ambitious targets for the deployment and use of electric vehicles. In fact, we want to make electric vehicles the central focus of Québec’s green technology revolution. There are already several companies in Québec that manufacture urban and long-distance buses. We also have companies that build electric motorization systems and manufacture lithium batteries. In addition, our lightweight automotive parts industry is flourishing and aluminum production is growing. The 2010-2011 budget also provides for similar investments in Québec’s aviation industry aimed at developing highly energy-efficient aircraft engines.

Finally, the 2010-2011 budget sets the stage for the development of carbon certification in Québec, a first in North America. It likewise prepares the way for establishing a database on the life-cycle of products. Both factors are essential to the development of a green economy.

  • What are you asking negotiators to do in Cancun?

To rise above their national interests and take the interests of the entire planet into consideration. The impacts of climate change will make no distinction between countries and so we must work together to mitigate them as much as possible.


Jean Charest was first elected to Canada’s Parliament 25 years ago, holding the position of Minister for Environment, amongst others. As Canada’s Minister of the Environment from 1991 to 1993, Jean Charest tabled Canada’s Green Plan for a Healthy Environment – the first-ever national blueprint for putting sustainable development into practice in Canada. In 1992, he announced the first Canadian “Global Warming Science Program” and was the head of the Canadian Delegation to the Earth Summit in Rio. In 1993, he negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement side accord on the environment. He has been Premier of Quebec since 2003.

Premier Charest was a driving force in partnering with The Climate Group to set up the first Climate Leaders Summit in Montreal in 2005, to emphasize the role played by subnational governments in taking the concrete steps required to fight climate change. He continues to be an advocate for regional and international cooperation on environmental issues, and has attended many international events, such as the Climate Leaders Summit in Copenhagen in 2009, Climate Week NYC and the upcoming Climate Leaders Summit in Cancun.

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