Environmentalists and Business Leaders Unite Ahead of Premiers Meeting in Quebec City

Old Coins

By Arman Kazemi

April 23, 2015

Quebec City became a focal point of Canada’s environmental movement last week, as three large events – a grassroots protest march, a green economy business roundtable, and a premiers’ meeting to discuss climate change – all converged on the provincial capital.

Activists marched through Quebec City, to pressure Canadian Premiers to act urgently on climate. Meanwhile, a group of almost 200 Canadian business leaders, union organizers, economists and entrepreneurs met to show a unified front in favour of smart climate policy ahead of the premiers’ summit the next day.

Organized by Quebec’s Alliance for a Green Economy, or SWITCH, the Canadian Roundtable on the Green Economy met to discuss key actions that Canadian provinces could take to “accelerate the country’s shift towards a green economy.”

The various parties agreed that smart environmental policy and economic prosperity go hand in hand. Provinces that recognize this trend are those that will be ahead of the curve as climate change continues to disrupt the global economy.

“There’s momentum in favour of accelerating the transition to a green economy,” said roundtable co-chair Sophie Brochu, President and CEO of Gaz Métro. “It’s clear that many within civil society and industry across Canada are ready to do their part, and that they see the transition to a green economy as an opportunity to create wealth while also protecting the planet,” she said.

The environmentalists and business representatives also agreed on the need to regulate polluters through carbon pricing schemes like those in place in British Columbia, Quebec, and most recently in Ontario.

Indeed, part of the purpose of last week’s roundtable was to recognize the Ontario government for its recent decision to join Quebec and California’s cap-and-trade market as part of the Western Climate Initiative, which would expand cap-and-trade’s reach to jurisdictions that account for more than three-quarters of the Canadian population.

Not surprisingly, the Canadian business leaders present at the roundtable agreed with mainstream economic thought regarding carbon pricing as well. Just last week, a panel of Canadian economists released a series of policy frameworks as a roadmap for provinces to implement their own carbon pricing mechanisms and help curb some the country’s heaviest polluters.

“There is growing interest from businesses and governments in carbon pricing,” according to Steven Guilbeault, one of the roundable’s panel hosts on carbon pricing.

“The Government of Ontario’s decision to join the Western Climate Initiative is good news and will certainly lead the way for other provinces to do the same. This is more tangible proof of the momentum we’re seeing across the country,” he said.