Climate of Corruption: Inside Quebec’s $5.5 Billion Green Climate Fund

  • Date: 28/07/19
  • The Canadian Press

Quebec’s green fund was created in 2006 as a way of collecting billions in revenues and redistributing the money towards initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, the fund became a buffet for the pet projects of various ministers.

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When Ljiljana Latkovic was named to the council governing Quebec’s multibillion-dollar green fund in 2017, she thought she was going to use her science background to help choose projects aimed at fighting climate change.

Instead, Latkovic said she and the eight other council members were asked to sign off on proposals whose financing had already been approved by various government departments. article continues below 

Moreover, she said, in the case of many projects they were approving, councillors had no idea how the projectswere actually going to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that trap heat in the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise.

“My opinion is that the (environment) ministry didn’t care about the reductions,” Latkovic said in a recent interview.

Quebec’s green fund was created in 2006 as a way of collecting billions in revenues — in large part from the province’s version of a carbon tax — and redistributing the money towards initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But the so-called green fund has been widely criticized as a boondoggle.

Quebec’s new environment minister, Benoit Charette, is promising reform, but he has a colossal task ahead of him. The province’s past mistakes highlight the difficulties of managing a multibillion-dollar fund to which various government departments have access.

Instead of promoting projects with strict greenhouse gas emission targets, the fund became a buffet for the pet projects of various ministers, Charette said.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Charette said in an interview when asked whether the fund was being misused. “Certain departments helped themselves to the fund, so to speak, without a guarantee of results on investments. And the previous government let this phenomenon go on like that, which made things even more deplorable.”

Charette said despite the billions of dollars collected since 2006, the reduction in greenhouse gases “was very small across the projects that were financed.”

Quebec collects hundreds of millions of dollars every year from a carbon credit cap-and-trade system. Companies that emit high amounts of greenhouse gases are legally forced to purchase the right to release those gases into the atmosphere. Quebec sells emissions credits four times a year at auction.

Since its inception, almost $5.5 billion has been poured into the fund. And from the beginning, the program has been mismanaged, according to several reports from the province’s auditor general.

Various government departments used money in the fund to finance projects without calls for proposals or without specific criteria to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the auditor general concluded.

In its 2019 report, the auditor general’s office said “nearly five years after the publication of our initial audit report on the green fund, we can only be disappointed with this situation.”

News reports over the years have indicated millions have been given to major oil companies and airlines for projects with dubious greenhouse gas reduction targets. Maple syrup producers received hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace evaporation equipment. Millions more dollars were given to taxi companies to help them adapt their vehicles for disabled people.

A spokesperson for the Liberals, the party that created the fund and managed it until they lost power last year, did not make anyone available to respond to the criticism.

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