Premier Couillard of Quebec: Between now and 2020 we can't afford to stop acting on climate

8 December 2015

Philippe Couillard, Premier of Quebec

PARIS: At COP21 yesterday, Climate TV spoke live to Premier of Québec, Philippe Couillard about what role he sees state and regional governments such as Quebec having on the international climate talks, and what action over the next five years will look like for the province.

The interview took place at the launch of the Compact of States and Regions' first Disclosure Report. The Compact is a reporting mechanism for leading state and regional governments to submit climate targets, which Quebec reports to. The new report reveals that collectively, the 44 governments' emissions reduction plans total 12.4 GtC02e by 2030 – a figure greater than China’s annual emissions.


Quebec, a co-chair of The Climate Group’s States & Regions Alliance which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has long led the way on climate action. Currently it has targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 37.5% below 1990 levels by 2030, and in 2014 set up a pioneering carbon market that was last year linked with California to become the biggest in North America.

This week Quebec also announced a contribution of $25.5 million for developing nations to act on climate, using revenue generated by its own carbon market. Speaking at the media announcement in Paris, Mark Kenber, CEO, The Climate Group said Quebec’s contribution should be seen as a catalyst, because it is an example of how “billions from governments will unleash trillions in climate adaptation and mitigation from the private sector."

In our exclusive Climate TV interview, the Premier of Quebec explains one of their biggest drivers for action such as this is the fact climate impacts are already being felt in the province through extreme weather events, coastal erosion and permafrost in its sub-arctic region.

Because of these visible climate effects, Premier Couillard says there is strong public support for acting urgently to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate – but he warns that isn’t the case everywhere, including at the COP21 meetings. “People know we need to act. And we’ve done so. We have set up ambitious targets and a cap and trade system with California, Ontario and soon Manitoba.

“But the world also needs to get into motion and I think this [COP21] meeting is particularly important of course. I hope it is going to be game changer this century; [a century] which I think will be dedicated to the theme of climate change.”

On the subject of negotiators’ drive to make progress in the final days of COP21, the Premier asserts: “We must have ambition. Let’s go further than we even think we can go.”

But it’s not just national governments that have the power to reduce emissions enough to move the global economy toward its goal of keeping below a 2 degree Celsius rise by 2050. Premier Couillard believes ‘non-state actors’ such as businesses, cities, states and regions can use their more flexible political positions to provide an example for national governments to follow.

“It’s up to us, for states and regions, to move forward as we’ve done from the start. This States & Regions Alliance has provided bottom-up energy to the movement of climate change while some of our national governments were not that active,” he states.


Premier Couillard encourages forward-looking governments to not lose steam once a global pact is agreed by the end of this week, as it is the crucial five years until 2020 when the deal actually kicks in where leaders have the opportunity to lock in the sub-2 degree pathway. He urges other sub-national governments to remain “at the forefront of the struggle, because between now and 2020, action has to continue.””

Reiterating the urgency of such action, Premier Couillard concludes: “States and regions are taking action, have been taking actions and were there – we have always been there –when some of our national states were not up to par. We will be continuing our action because between now and 2020 we cannot afford to stop.

"So let's go forward, bottom-up from the regions, up to the larger states."

  • You can watch more of our exclusive video interviews with climate leaders and experts by following the hashtag #ClimateTV on social media.

Text by Clare Saxon Ghauri, video by Ilario D'Amato

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