Experts: Quebec’s Plan for a Green Economy


Published: 20Nov2020

Premier François Legault announced his government's long-awaited plan to tackle climate change on Monday, November 16, after one of the main elements was revealed over the weekend: a ban on the sale of new gas-powered vehicles, starting in 2035. The government is devoting $6.7 billion over the next five years to deal with climate change. The bulk of that money will go to subsidies for the purchase of electric vehicles. (CBC News)

Here are some experts from McGill University that can provide comment on this issue:

Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Associate Professor, Institute for Health and Social Policy and Bieler School of Environment

Anyone with an intermediate understanding of sustainability could tell you there are notable problems with this policy. Flashy targets and subsidies are the way Canada has effectively ignored climate for decades. In contrast, Quebec has the opportunity to put into place equitable, effective, and positively-oriented alternatives."

Chris Barrington-Leigh is an Associate Professor cross-appointed to the Institute for Health and Social Policy and the Bieler School of Environment and an Associate Member in the Department of Economics. His research makes use of subjective well-being reports to address the relative importance of social and community-oriented aspects of life as compared with material consumption.

chris.barrington-leigh [at] (English, French)

Jeffrey Bergthorson, Associate Professor and Panda Faculty Scholar in Sustainable Engineering & Design, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Our transition to a low-carbon society, powered by renewable electricity, will bring significant economic and environmental benefits for Québec and Canada. This low-carbon society requires carbon-free fuels for heavy duty transportation, remote power generation, and seasonal energy storage. We must look at all of the options, from hydrogen to ammonia to even using metals, including aluminum and iron, as recyclable fuels.”

Jeffrey Bergthorson is an Associate Professor and Panda Faculty Scholar in Sustainable Engineering & Design in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research program is aimed at the development and validation of models for the combustion properties of alternative and sustainable (bio-derived) fuels through a complementary experimental, computational, and analytical modeling approach.

jeff.bergthorson [at] (English)

Kirk H. Bevan, Associate Professor, Department of Mining and Materials Engineering

The plan is a good start, but it needs to be coupled with developing Quebec as an economic powerhouse in sustainable energy production and utilization (for example in technological exports), as well as taking a world leading role in all aspects of sustainable energy technology research and development. Ideally, our energy technology export industry should an equal powerhouse to our aerospace industry in 20 years. This is where the global economy is headed, and we need to be at the forefront.”

Kirk H. Bevan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering. His research focuses on computer-aided modelling, electronic materials, energy, nanomaterials and surface science.

kirk.bevan [at] (English)

Sylvain Coulombe, Full Professor and Gerald Hatch Faculty Fellow, Department of Chemical Engineering

Quebec’s green economy plan is a major step in the right direction. Perhaps not ambitious enough, but pragmatic and evolutive. The massive electrification of the economy should be seen and conveyed to Quebecers as an echo of the large hydroelectric projects of the 1960-1980 period. These projects mobilized and galvanized the entire province, made us proud, and created expertise and technologies that are exported across the globe.”

Sylvain Coulombe is a Full Professor and Gerald Hatch Faculty Fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Associate Vice-Principal, Innovation and Partnerships in the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). His research interests include the use of advanced materials for energy, electrical-to-chemical energy conversion, engineering for the circular economy and plasma engineering.

sylvain.coulombe [at] (English, French)

George Demopoulos, Gerald Hatch Professor and Chair, Department of Mining and Materials Engineering

The plan announced by the Government of Quebec seeks to balance the imperative of climate protection with a strong economy. It looks to capitalize on Quebec’s hydro power to become a green energy-driven economy. This accelerated move towards the electrification of transportation and the targeted development of the industrial sector of batteries is very timely and opportune. Green hydrogen provides another exciting prospect. Overall, the green plan works towards a sustainable economy with strong research and innovation capacity – the assured way forward for a prosperous advanced society.”

George Demopoulos is a Gerald Hatch Professor and Chair of the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering. His research focuses on hydrothermal processing of inorganic materials, comprising both hydrometallurgical processes and aqueous chemical processing of advanced materials.

george.demopoulos [at] (English, French)

Dror Etzion, Associate Professor, Desautels Faculty of Management

Quebec’s green economy plan is both narrow and uninspiring. It is narrow because it focuses primarily on transportation, virtually ignoring other greenhouse gas emitting sectors such as buildings, agriculture and manufacturing. It is uninspiring because it imagines a transportation future that is no better than our current one. A car-centric province with endless traffic jams, agonizing road-rage and sprawling development is dismal, and experiencing it through the windshield of an electric car is nowhere near enough to make it pleasant. It’s time to integrate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with comprehensive, inspiring policy choices that will promote innovation and improve the quality of Quebecers’ lives.”

Dror Etzion is an Associate Professor of Strategy and Organizations at the Desautels Faculty of Management and an Associate Member of the Bieler School of the Environment. His work suggests that managing for sustainability through local, open, emergent initiatives increases the recruitment of diverse stakeholders, fosters creativity, and yields impactful outcomes.

dror.etzion [at] (English, Hebrew)

Raynald Gauvin, Full Professor, Department of Mining and Materials Engineering

Quebec has everything it needs to empower green energy. Moving towards electric vehicles will significantly reduce oil consumption in Quebec. We have all the necessary minerals to make lithium ion batteries used in electrical vehicles. Starting from the mines all the way to the battery factories in Quebec, we can create a strong green energy economy. Moreover, these batteries are needed to store electricity produced by solar cells and wind turbines, which will be important in countries where electricity is produced by coal or oil. Moving forward with a strong Quebec battery industry is clearly the way to go.”

Raynald Gauvin is a Full Professor in the Department of Mining and Materials Engineering, where he holds the Henry Birks Chair in Metallurgy. His research interest include developing new methods to characterize the microstructure of materials using high resolution scanning electron microscopy with x-ray microanalysis and Monte Carlo simulations.

raynald.gauvin [at] (English, French, Spanish)

Sébastien Jodoin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law

The latest plan for a green economy is a missed opportunity for Quebec. To do its part in the fight against climate change and respect the human rights of its citizens, Quebec must adopt more ambitious measures to initiate a faster transition to carbon-neutrality.”

Sébastien Jodoin is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law and an associate member of the Bieler School of Environment. He holds the Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Human Rights and the Environment. His research focuses on legal and policy solutions to complex environmental and social problems that cut across multiple fields and levels of governance.

sebastien.jodoin [at] (English, French)

Nicolas Kosoy, Associate Professor, Department of Natural Resource Sciences

Quebec’s 2030 Plan for a Green Economy focuses almost entirely on electrification and expansion of the electric grid to underserved communities, while it fails to address the so needed reduction in demand. Moreover, far away impacts of electrification such as pollution from lithium mining are not even considered. The province deserves an economic plan that ensures basic human needs for the long term and avoids technological fixes such as green hydrogen. This only reinforces the idea that we can constantly grow our energy supply, as if tapping renewable energy sources produce no impact environmentally and socially.”

Nicolas Kosoy is an Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resource Sciences. His current research focuses on the interface of climate, energy and land-use governance, including the analysis of Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), as well as alternative economic models and plural values as it characterizes degrowth research.

nicolas.kosoy [at] (English, Spanish)

Audrey Moores, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry

The Quebec government's green plan is an undeniable step forward that builds on a strength of the province: its large hydroelectric park. However, sustainable development is much broader than just the issue of CO2 emissions and transportation. In particular, the issues of waste, pollution, and the intelligent use of biomass are the major forgotten issues of the November 16th announcement.”

Audrey Moores is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry. A leading expert in the field of catalysis using metal, metal oxide and biomass-based nanomaterials, with a special emphasis on sustainable processes and use of earth abundant starting materials, she held the Tier II Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry from 2007 to 2017.

audrey.moores [at] (English, French)

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