Summit for a Just Energy Transition—Government Must Play Its Role as Orchestra Conductor

Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux, Confederation of National Trade Unions

[Translation by Gene McGuckin]

Montreal, May 25 2018/CNW Telbec/--Employers, investors, civil society, union and environmental organizations, as well as the chief of the Quebec and Labrador Assembly of First Nations gathered yesterday and the day before in the framework of a historic summit. Bringing together close to 300 people at Montreal’s Convention Palace on the theme of just energy transition, they have sent out an urgent call to the Quebec government, inviting it to play its role as orchestra conductor to effectively make this a reality.


Participants coming from a variety of viewpoints released a clear joint report which stresses the urgency of the situation. “The energy transition has indeed already begun, and Quebec, despite its values and the resources at its command, is falling behind. It is necessary to act decisively, because this issue goes well beyond the sphere of employment and concerns all of society,” asserted the panelists at a round-table discussion yesterday afternoon.


That the need to make the just energy transition is an issue of prime importance to the public is a widely agreed. “We must seize this opportunity to define the society that we want, because it is also about the issue of social justice,” several speakers asserted. There was talk, notably, of the need for education, sensitization, and training, which this crucial issue raises. This summit sees itself as a unifying platform of Quebec’s driving forces—economic, social and environmental, of First Nations, and of all the inter-sectoral groups interested in this unavoidable issue of a just energy transition. The co-organizers, speakers, and participants launched a call in preparing the summit to unify for a just energy transition in order to think about and plan an energy transition which would be lasting and just for everyone.


The days have been marked by panels, plenaries, and workshops aiming to inform people about the whole topic of just energy transition, to prepare and adapt the concept of just energy transition to the Quebecois reality, and to allow participants to have a voice. That was an opportunity to describe the current situation and the clearly insufficient government action with regard to climate change and to better identify the concept of just transition, to discuss the challenges and obstacles in the financial industry in implementing a just transitions, and to make public the recommendations of the multi-sectoral work group on the impacts of energy transition on the work force and workplaces of Quebec, leading up to 2030.


“Based on these two days of presentations and debates, we ask that all political organizations running in the next electoral campaign not only take a position on the question of a just energy transition, but also that they undertake to include concrete proposals to implement it in their platforms,” concluded the co-organizers of the event.


Below is the call that was sent out for the summit: Appel – S’unir pour une transition énergétique juste

The struggle against climate warming is the principal environmental, social, economic, and democratic challenge of the Twenty-First Century. To solve it, the countries of the world have met within the framework of the Paris Accord in 2015 for marshal the necessary efforts to limit global warming to less then 2◦C, even 1.5◦C. Our society has everything needed to make this major transition toward a more just society and a low-carbon economy a great success beneficial to all, assuming that we start planning it starting now and work towards it in concert.

Quebec has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 and by 37.5% by 2030, in comparison with 1990. The most recent available data indicate that Quebec’s efforts on this a progressing too slowly to reach these targets. To make up the shortfall, much more serious means than those use until now must be put in

This is why we are inviting civil society, the economic sectors, and the government of Quebec to the necessary turn without delay. To implement a planned, concerted, and just energy transition appears to us as the first step to bring about a society and an economy that are green, viable, and durable.

The Inevitable Energy Transition

In order for Quebec to reach its targets and fulfill its undertakings, a profound transformation of our society and our economy is required. This demands changes in our ways of occupying and managing land, of transportation, of construction, of production, and of consuming energy, goods, and services.

The most important of these requirements consists of undertaking the move from a polluting economic structure to a low-carbon economy, while ensuring the energy security and sovereignty of  Quebec. From this point of view, it is necessary to reduce waste, gain energy efficiency, and considerably reduce our dependence on hydrocarbons, in favour of the renewable energies with which Quebec is generously endowed. To cut our carbon emissions and struggle against climate change we must also green our living spaces, as well as better protect and conserve the forests we have inherited.

Quebec has everything necessary to succeed in this energy transition and to allow each of its regions and its communities to meet the challenges each faces. Our society enjoys huge hydro-electric and wind-power capacities, an abundant biomass to use over the long term, great geothermal and solar potential, some of the best materials and technologies available, and a diversified industrial structure. As well, it can count on a flourishing and innovative entrepreneurial spirit, on a large capacity in engineering and the development of clean technologies, on its solid financial institutions, on infrastructures and centres of cutting-edge research, and on a capacity for quality development and innovation. Finally, Quebec is rich in learning institutions and international reputation, in an educated population and a highly qualified workforce.

Strong in these assets, our society has many times shown its capacity to transform challenges into opportunities for social and economic progress. Faced with the inevitable energy transition, it is thus advantageously positioned.

Unify to Plan the Change

As with every major transformation, the energy transition includes a huge potential for economic and social development. But if it not planned, it can be a source of injustice and social inequalities. As it will have various impacts, depending on the communities and sectors of activity, some will benefit from advantageous opportunities, while others could be subject to negative blows and be weakened.

We are convinced that to be viable and durable, the transition toward a green, low-carbon economy must include justice for everyone. Quebec then must ensure that no one is left behind.

To this end it is urgent that all efforts come together in order to plan this transformation of modes of energy production and consumption in a way that maximizes the positive effects for the benefit of the whole of society. That requires supporting and sticking together with the businesses, the organizations, the communities, and the workers who will be subject to negative effects of the energy transition, in order to all them to overcome and adapt to change.

In Quebec and elsewhere many past experiences of major economic changes show us the path to follow: plan for the long term, foresee the needed measures for adaptation, mitigation, reconversion, industrial diversification and modernization; foresee the needed adjustments in professional competences and prepare programs of education and transition for the workers; stick together with the impacted communities in their efforts to adapt to the new reality.

In this large economic and social construction site the government of Quebec thus has an essential and unavoidable role that it alone can play: to assure the legislative, regulatory, administrative, fiscal and budgetary framework within which the collective effort will be able to be deployed effectively. From innovative industrial polices , from programs of  education and transition for the workforce of sectors affected by the transition, a fiscal model encouraging effectiveness rather than waste can only come from a resolute and visionary government.

For the energy transition to succeed and make the best of it for the whole society, to place our economy on the path of durable prosperity, the laisser-faire method is no longer an option. The state and its partners must play a leading role.

Let’s Undertake a Just Transition Together

Before the climate urgency and the inevitability of energy transition, we, the signatories of this call, appeal to the driving forces of Quebec and its leaders to unify to formulate a forward-looking project, inclusive and structured, for our society, to put forward the framework of a social pact in favour of a green economy.

We meet together to immediately engage in a social dialogue aiming to plan and pursue a just energy transition which will be just for everyone. With this in mind, we call on the unons, the businesses, the communities and all the groups forming civil society, and the economic milieux to share their ideas, their energies, and their resources to launch and ensure the success of the necessary energy transition which must allow Quebec to honour its commitments to struggle against climate change.

We also urge the present government and all political parties that will take part in the next general election to detail how they intend to plan and launch a energy transition which is fair and favourable to everyone as soon as possible. With this goal in mind, we encourage the parties to participate in, and follow, the social dialogue and to rapidly put propose the social, economic, and environmental supports and safety nets required to adapt businesses and union organizations, as well as communities impacted by the energy transition.

We face a collective and historic duty. Together, let’s use Quebec’s energies to win the struggle against climate change.