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Québec Seeks to Adopt California GHG Vehicle Standards; Levy Carbon Tax

The projected impact of the new action plan on GHG emissions in Québec. Click to enlarge.

The government of the Canadian province of Québec has launched a 24-point, six-year action plan to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in key sectors such as energy, transportation, industry and agriculture, and to adapt to the effects of climate change in others. Among the actions are restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and a carbon tax.

Although Québec has the best record in Canada with regard to GHG emissions, its emissions have risen 6.6% since 1990. The plan aims primarily to reverse this upward trend by adopting actions that will enable the entire economy to improve its competitiveness and decrease its dependence on fossil energy.

The government forecasts that in the aggregate, the new actions will enable Québec to set an achievable reduction objective for the next six years of 10 Mt of CO2-equivalent (CO2e). Hitting that number will lower the level of GHG emissions to 84.0 Mt of CO2e in 2012, or 1.5 % below the 1990 level. Canada’s Kyoto commitment is a reduction of 6% below 1990 levels.

Transportation is the sector in Québec that emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases, accounting for 37.4% of the total. Emissions from the sector are continuing to increase, despite current efforts to cut emissions, including: investment in and encouragement of public transit; more efficient use of multimodal transportation for shipping; changes to registration fees to reduce GHGs and the polluting emissions of vehicles; and an inspection program to keep vehicles operating more cleanly.

The new action plan—Québec and Climate Change, A Challenge for the Future—outlines a series of additional actions to be taken in the transportation sector, including:

  • Implementing new standards restricting the emission of greenhouse gases from new cars similar to the standards set by the state of California for limiting the GHG emissions of vehicles. The government projects that such restrictions could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,700 kt CO2e in 2012. This represents the second-largest single reduction resulting from any of the actions outlined, behind only the capture of biogas from landfills (2,500 kt).

  • Setting a minimum 5% ethanol component for total fuel sales by 2012. The Québec Government intends to encourage local production of ethanol from forest biomass, agriculture and municipal waste, and not from grain corn. “Although technologically more difficult, it is environmentally and economically more profitable for Québec.” The government wishes to have an ethanol manufacturing demonstration plant using biomass in operation around 2008. Avoidance/reduction potential in 2012: 780 kt.

  • Encouraging municipalities to implement idling-restriction laws. A few municipalities in Québec, including Montréal and Québec City, are already regulating idling within their jurisdictions. (Montréal’s by-law limits idling to three minutes.) The government wants other municipalities to follow suit. Avoidance/reduction potential in 2012: 210 kt.

  • Further encouraging the development and use of public transit. The government will encourage the development and use of public transportation by, among other things, financing the creation of reserved lanes and adopting preferential measures for public transportation, the purchase of electric or hybrid buses, the addition of commuter trains, and the improvement of metro infrastructures. It will also encourage increased use of public transportation over other forms of transportation. Avoidance/reduction potential in 2012: 100 kt.

  • Encouraging the development and use of transportation alternatives such as car-sharing, carpooling and active transportation (cycling, walking, etc.). To promote cycling, as an example, Québec sees a need to develop safe bike paths that run from residential neighborhoods to the work areas, like the city cores, industrial parks, shopping centres, and facilities within the education networks. Avoidance/reduction potential in 2012: 30 kt.

  • Encouraging the implementation of intermodal projects for transporting merchandise. The Ministère des Transports, which will be responsible for this action, will seek a better balance between the different transportation modes in Québec’s existing network, while aiming to protect the environment, maintain security and ensure adequate road management. It will also encourage increased used of public transportation over other forms of transportation. Avoidance/reduction potential in 2012: 80 kt.

  • Implementing a program to support the marketing of energy-efficiency technology in the transportation of merchandise. Between 1990 and 2003, GHG emissions generated by heavy-duty vehicles increased by 41%. With this action, the government will encourage the introduction of new technologies in energy efficiency and the reduction of GHG emissions of trucking companies. The financing program will facilitate access to the best performing operating assistance systems (OAS), electric feed systems, onboard computers and new more energy efficient engines. With regard to maritime and rail transport, the government will focus on investments to improve technologies and techniques designed to make ships and locomotives more efficient. Avoidance/reduction potential in 2012: 900 kt.

  • Mandating the use of speed-limiting devices on all trucks, and setting the maximum speed at 105 kmh (65 mph). The regulation will cover all heavy-duty vehicles registered in Québec. Avoidance/reduction potential in 2012: 330 kt.

The total projected reductions or avoidance in 2012 from the transportation sector comes to 4.13 Mt, or 42% of the total programmatic reductions (9.890 Mt).

The carbon tax. Funding for the action plan is to come from a carbon-tax levied on the polluter-pays principle, and will take the form of a royalty on hydrocarbons. The government expects the tax to raise about C$200-million a year over six years. Proceeds will finance a C$1.2-billion Green Fund.




Any idea how much the carbon tax will be per pound or kg?

Michael G. Richard

"Any idea how much the carbon tax will be per pound or kg?"

They're actually just asking for CAN$200 million/year from oil & gas companies. I think that's regardless of how much they are selling.


They're only "asking" for the money? I suppose one of the ways to reduce GHG emissions it to raise taxes so much that any remaining industry in your province closes down and flees to more tax-friendly locations. All the jobs go with it, reducing transportation use, too.

Rafael Seidl

The mere mention of a tax evidently sends some Americans into a tizzy. Canadians are more like Europeans in this regard, they demand more public services and are willing to pay for them.

The proposed carbon tax is presumable set at a level low enough to discourage companies from leaving the province (as if you could move a refinery) and consumers from shopping for fuel elsewhere. Only if neighboring provinces adopt a similar tax philiosophy could the tax base be shifted further away from income and toward consumption.

Quebec is at a severe disadvantage regarding commute alternatives during winter. It remains to be seen if consumers will voluntarily leave their cars at home in summer.

A more effective way to reduce CO2 emissions over time might be to use tax credits to promote modern engine technologies that allow the block to heat up more quickly. This can be achieved with an insulated engine coolant tank in the inner loop or, by running the coolant through a heat exchanger in the exhaust during the cold start phase (after which it is bypassed). Also, many modern cars feature a heat exchanger in the oil carter. Some feature full engine heat management with a temperature sensor in the cylinder gasket and a water pump that can be deactivated.

Also, synthetic low-viscosity engine oils (e.g. 0W20 for Canada) can yield significant improvements in fuel economy. Care must be taken when switching the enngine oil in a used vehicle, especially if it has not received a full oil change recently. One option is to switch to a regular oil with detergent additives, drive that for e.g. 3000 miles to flush out any accumulated gunk and only then shell out for the expensive synthetic grade (full oil change, not top-up). That way, it will also last a lot longer. Avoid aftermarket oil additives. Always check the vehicle manufacturer's recommendation before changing the engine oil or extending the oil change interval.

Harvey D.

With provincial elections coming soon, the party currently in place is trying to find ways to attract the 'green' and 'soft' votes. Latest surveys revealed that GHG reduction is a top priority with the average voter. So here comes the campaign multiple wish lists and promises. Don't be fooled, very little will be done. Most election campaign promises do not survive too long.

Oil industry spoke persons has already stated that they should not have to pay the C$200 million/year carbon tax and that they will immediately pass it on to the consumers with added adminstrative and legal fees. They will certainly challenge it in courts and get it delayed for many months if not years. A $0.02/litre direct fuel carbon tax would give immediate results, more impacts and be much easier to collect, but is not as politically correct, especially in an election year.

We the consumers will accept a $0.25 to $.50/litre increase from the oil industry but NOT a $0.02/Litre carbon tax. It doesn't make sense but that's how we are and politicians know that.

One may say that the great Churchill was wrong, it seems that we can All be fooled All the times.

Michael G. Richard

Actually Cervus, pretty much all reactions in Quebec have been positive about this plan. The increase in price will be less than a cent per liter of gasoline, and people here are very supportive of Kyoto and pissed that the federal government is following in the footsteps of the USA and Australia.


Knowing a little bit how these kind of funds are handled in Canada and especially in Quebec, the money will be spent according to 1-2-3-4 rule: 10% stolen directly, 20% indirectly, 30% spent to cower up stealing, 40% just wasted.

In the case of global warming craze old Winston was right on the target: examples of US and Australia show that All can not be fooled All the time.

I am a big fan of synthetic oil too. The cheapest way is to buy it in Costco and handle it in garage to mechanics during regular oil change. Additional cost is less then 20$ per change, and it worth it in gold: 2-3% reduced fuel consumption, 2-3% increased torque/power, 2-3 times less engine wear, 50-100% longer oil change intervals, engine works quieter and smoother.
One of the ways to switch to synthetic is flush the engine with half the bottle of engine flush, change to semi-synthetic oil for regular oil change interval, then flush with remaining engine flush, and pour in synthetic. Not recommended to use first 10K on new engine to allow engine break-in. Not very effective in diesel due to higher contamination.


The stories that I have read on this (see Google news) imply that the the Quebec provincial government expects the oil companies to absorb this tax and not pass these charges to the consumer. There is zero liklihood of that.

If Kyoto is as popular in Quebec as I have read (and as Michael states above), would it not be more honest to simply tell consumers that this tax will be added at the pump and their heating bills. Then see if Quebec voters either support or vote against the government in the upcoming provincial election ( I think the PQ may support the carbon tax, so this might not be any large political risk).

Regarding negative political impact for the Canadian Federal goverment, it is too early to tell. Their issues with Kyoto are not new, but they still gained support (and 10 seats) in Quebec.


Andrey -
VW TDI's come with syntheic from the factory. 10k between oil changes. I've been using Mobil-1 in mine for 8 years now. :)

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