Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Essay by the Quebec Government on Its Cap-and-Trade System and the Western Climate Initiative Regional Carbon Market: Origins, Strengths and Advantages

Academic journal article UCLA Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Essay by the Quebec Government on Its Cap-and-Trade System and the Western Climate Initiative Regional Carbon Market: Origins, Strengths and Advantages

Article excerpt

SYNOPSIS I. INTRODUCTION II. REDUCING QUEBEC'S GHG EMISSIONS III. JOINING THE WCI IV. WHY A C&T SYSTEM? A SURVEY OF ITS ADVANTAGES V. THE QUEBEC 2013-2020 CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION PLAN VI. A BRIEF HISTORY OF QUEBEC'S IMPLEMENTATION OF ITS CAP-AND-TRADE SYSTEM VII. LINKING WITH CALIFORNIA VIII. QUEBEC'S C&T SYSTEM--AN OVERVIEW IX. THE STRENGTHS OF QUEBEC'S C&T SYSTEM    A. Accurate Data    B. A Strong Price Signal Sent to the Economy Through a Floor Price.    C. ... and a Ceiling Price    D. Avoiding Carbon Leakage    E. Avoiding Over-Allocation    F. Avoiding Market Manipulation    G. An Offset Credit System Based on Rigor and Environmental    Integrity    H. A Flexible System That Allows for Long-Term Planning.    I. ... and For Covered Businesses to Grow    J. Solid, Predictable Financing X. IN CONCLUSION 


Climate change is one of the most important challenges facing the earth in the twenty-first century as it poses an important threat to human health, human settlements, biodiversity, the economy, and, of course, the environment. Climate change is mainly induced by human activity and the best way to tackle it is to put a price on the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which are the main pollutants responsible for the phenomenon. The Quebec population and its elected officials widely agree with these statements and have supported this position for several years.

Back in 1992, the Quebec government adopted an Order in Council declaring it was adhering to the objectives and principles of the united Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Three years later, Quebec got an early warning of what climate change could lead to as a massive rainstorm flooded the region of Saguenay for three consecutive days, destroying homes, bridges, and roads. This was followed in 1998 by an ice storm in the Montreal area that cut off power in the city for days and in its suburbs for weeks. These are examples of events that have increased the level of awareness in Quebec about the importance of acting on climate change and prompted successive governments to make this issue one of their top priorities.

The Quebec government's first strategic move was to try to better understand what impacts climate change would have in the medium- and long-term in Quebec. A research cluster on climate change, called The Ouranos Consortium, was then launched, which today assembles almost a hundred scholars.

Within a few years, these scientists were able to draw a picture of what Quebec would have to expect from climate change, such as heat waves and floods in summer, and less snow and frequent thaws in winter. For a Nordic territory, the news of lost economic activity in the wintertime was badly received.

With this picture in hand, the Quebec government decided that staying within its comfort zone was not an option. GHG emissions had to be reduced, and Quebec society had to prepare itself to tackle the impacts of climate change.


On the mitigation track, Quebec had the advantage of starting on the right foot since it had already one of the lowest carbon footprints in North America thanks to early investments in hydroelectricity. (2) Today, ninety-eight percent of the electricity and about fifty percent of the total energy used in Quebec comes from renewable sources, mainly hydraulic and wind energy. (3) This means that Quebec needed to focus its attention on its highest GHG-emitting sectors where reductions are notoriously difficult to achieve, namely in industrial processes, buildings and mostly transport.

To that end, the government devised its first Climate Change Action Plan covering the years 2006 to 2012 and, in order to finance it, began imposing a carbon levy on fossil fuels--a bold move that no one had yet dared to make in North America. (4) Quebec therefore became the first jurisdiction on the continent to send a carbon price signal throughout its whole economy. …

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