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"Canada did what?" The top five environmental stories of the year

Actu - Garçon estomaqué

The fresh sting of the Kyoto pull-out.

Disappointment in Durban.

Traffic jams in Montreal.

What do these issues have in common? They got you talking. It’s your interest that fuels the fight against climate change.

Every year at this time we look back at the big climate change stories of the year. How do we know if a story is “big”? If it matters to you.

1. Canada breaks promise, abandons Kyoto

This December, our phone lines lit up with calls about Canada’s decision to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. “What can we do?” you asked.

One answer? Change focus.

The provinces and the territories alone could make significant reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions. We need to encourage efforts like Quebec’s, which has:

  • recommitted to its own ambitious reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions
  • set a start date for its carbon market, a promising new trading initiative that will provide market-based encouragement for companies to reduce their own emissions

Takeaway» In the absence of clear federal leadership on the environment, inspired action by other levels of government may be the way forward.

2. DiSappointment in Durban

The longest conference in the history of UN climate summits failed to result in an agreement that would prevent a catastrophic 4 degree Celsius increase in the average global temperature.

Is all hope lost?

In a word: No!

This conference may not have produced a satisfying agreement, but delegates did put forward some innovative new proposals that, if applied, would keep the temperature increase below a more survivable 2 degrees Celsius.

Takeaway» Durban reaffirmed that there is hope in the fight against climate change.

3. Montrealers demand better traffic planning: the ongoing saga of the Turcot Interchange and its implications for the rest of Quebec

Montreal’s crumbling highways made headlines across the country this year, as the province reviewed plans to rebuild the city’s infamous Turcot interchange. As members of the Turcot Watchdog Committee, we urged the government to emphasize public transit and active transportation.

Did we get the results we want?

Not quite. The government could still do more to:

  • promote public transit
  • reduce traffic congestion
  • reduce air pollution

But… the committee’s efforts have raised government awareness of these issues, which may positively influence planning for other upcoming roadwork projects.

Takeaway» Today’s battles are tomorrow’s victories.

4. Greater Montreal takes baby steps against urban sprawl

This autumn saw the proposal of a new land-use plan for Greater Montreal, which is home to almost half of Quebec's population.

The plan includes some good points, such as:

  • quotas for public-transit-oriented housing developments
  • a moratorium on the rezoning of farmland (which makes up half of the territory!)

But... we would have really liked to have seen:

  • bigger quotas
  • a longer moratorium

Takeaway» The provincial government is beginning to get it: you want more thought put into urban planning. But there’s still lots of room for improvement. We must continue to speak up.

5. You asked for a shale gas moratorium, we got a temporary reprieve in the form of an environmental impact study, it’s a start

Equiterre joined Quebecers earlier this year to oppose shale gas drilling and development in the province. The government finally responded by commissioning a study of the issue. It’s important not to get complacent, though. We remain vigilant.

Takeaway» Equiterre is your environmental watchdog, keeping an eye on the issues that you care about even as they fall off the front pages. We couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for your support! 

And best wishes for a socially and environmentally responsible 2012.