From Activist to Minister: A Look Back at Guilbeault’s First Year on the Environment

However, Mr Guilbeault, who chooses as often as possible for train instead of plane, he agreed to travel by air to London only. So he and his team traveled the rest of the way, 555km, by train, producing less than a sixth of the CO2 emissions.2 they would have generated if they had traveled by plane.

Although somewhat surprised, his team members quickly realized that some things would be done differently now that they had an environmental activist as their minister.

Guilbeault, 52, has become the first professional environmental activist, a skilled lobbyist dedicated to pressing the government to do more for the environment, to become the one in charge.

I think the Prime Minister wanted to have an activist in this position to show that he was committed to doing what he had promised Canadians on the campaign trail, which was to do more for the climate, nature and all environmental issues, and to do . faster. »

a quote from steven guilbeault

Mr. Guilbeault’s appointment had also been seen as a ray of hope by several of his allies.

He understands the magnitude of the challenge that lies ahead. We don’t need to spend hours explaining to him what’s going on, so he changes a lot of things.says the CEO of the Environmental Defense Canada group, Timothy Gray.

series of measurements

During his first full year in the Environment portfolio, Mr. Guilbeault submitted at least eight important files related to climate change and nature protection.

Among these files are the culmination of new laws on the use of single-use plastics, on electric vehicles and on methane emissions, in addition to the publication of the long-awaited national adaptation strategy.

In April, it published the first national plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which outlines the steps the country must take to achieve its goals in this area by 2030.

In addition, during the last weeks of the year it participated in the organization of the COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal, during which 196 countries managed to agree on a plan to stop the destruction of nature.

We use all the regulatory tools at our disposal to ensure that we use both the carrot and the stick to achieve our goals.illustrates Minister Guilbeault.

The oil challenge

Pumping outlets in northern Alberta.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Genevieve Laurent

Despite these recent achievements, Mr. Guilbeault is quick to point out that he still has a lot on his plate. Furthermore, several of these new measures must always pass the reality test. In particular, he will have to find a way to get the government to limit emissions from oil and gas production, which will necessarily mean new conflicts with the Alberta government.

Representatives of the oil and gas industry declined to comment on this dossier, although they meet regularly with Mr Guilbeault and have already told him that they would not be able to achieve the targets he had tentatively set for them by 2030.

The minister chided some companies for making record profits due to the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on world oil prices. But he listened to his concerns, opened the door for some flexibility in goals and even approved a new oil production project in April, the kind of thing he had fought against throughout his career.

By far the most difficult decision I had to make was Bay du Nord. Without a doubt. That day was extremely difficult. »

a quote from steven guilbeault

This megaproject off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador is expected to produce more than 300 million barrels of oil over its lifetime.

a heartbreaking moment

Plastic bags in the trunk of a car.

Ottawa bans six single-use plastic products.

Photo: Canadian Press/Mark Baker

For Caroline Brouillette, Director of National Policy at Climate Action Network Canada, the approval of this project is proof that there one of the most famous environmental activists as a minister it is not even enough to prevent oil exploitation.

It was truly a heartbreaking moment.he laments, adding that Mr. Guilbeault is, in theory, someone who should have said no to this project.

In May, an alliance of environmental groups sued to revoke that approval. Among the groups involved is Équiterre, which Guilbeault helped found in 1993.

If Mr. Guilbeault maintains that he has not lost any friends, he claims to have heard their great disappointment in his decision, which he made with great reluctance, by his own admission.

Remember that even if the use of coal disappears, all projections show that oil and gas will be necessary for decades to come. Bay du Nord went through a federal approval process and, following required reviews, it was recommended that the project be carried out under strict environmental conditions, including zero GHG emissions by 2050.

The other challenge: communication

Steven Guilbeault interviewed in front of a dozen microphones.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change of Canada, Steven Guilbeault, at COP15 in Montreal

Photo: Canadian Press/Graham Hughes

Over the next year, Mr. Guilbeault wants to make progress on issues like limiting GHG emissions from oil and gas, clean electricity regulations, and obligations to transition to electric vehicles.

He also acknowledges that he will have to communicate better with Canadians.

For years, the Conservatives have campaigned in the public eye against the liberal carbon pricing system by focusing on its costs and largely ignoring rebates, which for most Canadians are more than they can afford, according to Guilbeault.

It also underlines that the fact of being able to convey a sense of urgency to the population without depressing people represents a good challenge to take on.

I think what we’ve collectively failed to do in our communications is help people see hope and understand what we’re trying to do.he explains.

And what we’re trying to do is build a better world for everyone.

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