Greenwashing for the masses: The Premier’s message on the eve of Copenhagen


A screenshot from the Government’s website on Quebec’s position at the Copenhagen climate talks

Premier Jean Charest is spreading the gospel about Quebec’s ‘avant garde’ approach to reducing climate change-causing emissions.

The Premier’s message on ‘Quebec vers Copenhague’ speaks of  Quebec’s achievements in developing a ‘modern economy’ that will allow for Quebec to become a ‘world power’ in the domain of ‘green energy’.

Notably, the Premier has announced that emissions will be reduced 20% as of 1990 levels, which is the most ambitious target set by any North American jurisdiction. This is possible because Quebec’s economic growth has not required new GHG producing power plants, thanks to the vast reserves of hydro electric energy up north.

Missing from the Premier’s message is ANY message about reducing road transportation-related greenhouse gases, which account for about 30% of total emissions. (The Premier also failed to mention that transportation emissions are increasing fastest – 25% between 1990 and 2005 – mostly because Quebeckers are driving larger vehicles greater distances than ever before.) And of course, there was no mention of all the government’s economy-stimulating, but traffic-generating highway projects, like the Turcot Interchange, the highway 25 extension, the extension of the 13 to Mirabel and the ‘modernization of Notre Dame’.

The omission of this more honest portrait of Quebec’s greenhouse gas situation would be forgivable were it not for the ludicrously transparent greenwashing in its place. A particularly comical example of this is the “camionnette électrique Nemo” pictured above, carrying a load of gardening materials in… of all auto-oriented places, Laval.

Maybe the PR team on this one thought that visitors to the website wouldn’t bother to read the caption. Or perhaps they imagined that this sod-carrying ‘green truck’ could supplant existing mental images of Laval, with its car-dependent commuters jamming up the 15 south because they don’t care to take their chances on the AMT trains (like all casinos, odds generally favour the house).

While all efforts by government’s to curb greenhouse gases should be supported, this website is really an insult to the intelligence.

A piece of advice for our Premier on the eve of the Copenhagen summit: either hire a PR team that green washes a bit more subtly. Or better yet, take this opportunity to target the province’s real sources of greenhouse gas emissions.


  1. Hmmm, I feel like you are being a little unfair with the Laval-gardening thing.

    I am totally on your side that public transit and walkable neighbourhoods are the way to go, but Laval exists. You can’t erase it, and you can’t criticise a small effort. Things are slowing changing, even in Laval.

    By the way, I’ve never lived in Laval.

  2. Le commentaire sur Laval est aussi gratuit et a l’air d’une vendetta. C’est dommage, parce que j’en oublie tout le reste de ton propos.

    Laval est une abomination en terme de consommation d’énergie. Mais on trouve de ces modèles rétrogrades en France et dans les pays scandinaves, qui sont les pays les plus pro-actifs en matière de changements climatiques. Faut-il en déduire que la France est hypocrite, qu’elle fait du «green washing», uniquement parce que le Périph’ existe?

    Fallait-il cacher Laval dans la pub? En faire une belle avec Khadir et Bergeron qui vont à vélo dans une rue du Plateau? Ç’aurait été plus hypocrite, à mon sens.

  3. I think Samuel made an excellent point: it is extremely important for Quebeckers to realize that we are deluding ourselves with our home-grown ‘green economy’, but the remark about Laval diverted the focus from that. Too bad.

    Maybe we don’t have the oil sands here, but our general energy consumption patterns are no better than in Alberta!

  4. Also missing is any reference to the recent climategate scandal, but that’s understandable. The government excels at making themselves look like they’re actually doing something. Greenhouse gas emissions are causing a global heatup. Right. And H1N1 is a deadly pandemic. Riight.

  5. I like the comment about Laval. It doesn’t pussyfoot around the fact that the low-density suburban model is a major problem, both with regards to the environment and the creation of livable city centres.

  6. Soup, right and 50 MILLION PEOPLE did not die from the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. And we, humanity, are not hurtling through the fog towards a very big cliff. We don’t know where the cliff is, and it may not be as steep as we think, but we sure as hell don’t know what we are doing to the planet. Perhaps it would be a good idea to take the foot off the gas pedal and slow down a bit? There is no planet B!

  7. Patrick:

    A problem to who?

    To the “gérant d’estrades” of this blog? or the tens of thousands of people who have moved away from Montréal to Laval (and other suburbs) last year alone?

    The people want to live in places like Laval, you have to accept the will of the majority. Can the model be tweaked, yes it can and should, but does comments like yours and others are constructive and needed on this blog? Not really.

    Have a nice day,


  8. La personne qui a écrit cette article est vraiment condescendante et snob, dommage.

  9. Hey LE GROS, c’est pas si pire être condescendant et snob.

    En fait, mon commentaire n’est vraiment pas constructif, mais je cherchais juste une manière d’écrire «Hey LE GROS».

  10. It’s time to stop differentiating between Laval, Montréal, Longueuil. The areas of Laval and the South Shore closest to the island have much more in common with central Montréal than do the West island and RDP. This is all one metropolitan region and we have to work together in order to come up with strategies and solutions for the future. I’m happy to see a camionette in Laval and hope to see more!

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