Montreal will sign a global fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty, after city council unanimously approved a declaration Monday calling for it to do so.
“The most recent IPCC (United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report is clear,” said Mayor Valérie Plante as she tabled the declaration in council.
“Without ambitious action, the planet is rapidly heading towards a climate catastrophe. Half-measures are no longer an option and neither is the status quo,” she said, noting that fossil fuels are responsible for about 85 per cent of annual carbon emissions.
Monday’s meeting was the first one held in person since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when council switched to a virtual format.
Transparent plastic panels had been installed between the desks and councillors wore masks when not addressing council.
Vancouver was the first city to endorse the fossil fuel treaty in October 2021. Since then, 45 cities and other municipal governments have signed on.
Montreal’s Climate Plan commits the city to become carbon neutral by 2050 and to reduce emissions by 55 per cent from 1990 levels by 2030.
Earlier, at a news conference, Plante acknowledged the gesture was purely symbolic, since the city does not produce fossil fuels or carry out exploration.
“It’s a symbolic gesture but it’s important and I hope all the cities in Quebec and Canada will join us in sending a very clear message to the federal government that we don’t want new sources of fossil fuels,” she said.
Plante slammed the $12-billion Bay du Nord offshore oil project, which received federal approval on April 6, as a step in the wrong direction.
“There is no doubt that it goes against the work that we do and that we must do,” she said.
“The Bay du Nord project is counterproductive. That’s why it’s important to sign the treaty,” she added.
Earlier this month, the Quebec government passed a bill ending all gas and oil exploration and exploitation in the province.
The municipal opposition supported the measure but called for more concrete action.
“I believe that it’s super important that we are involved in this kind of treaty with the other levels of government,” said Stephanie Valenzuela, the Ensemble Montréal councilor for Darlington.
“However, once again this is a symbolic move from the administration,” she said, blasting the city for its poor performance on recycling.
In a damning report last month, Montreal’s Inspector General urged the city to end its contract with Ricova, a private firm that operates municipal sorting centers in Lachine and St-Michel.
“Symbolism is fantastic, but we need concrete solutions. We need current plans and deadlines so that we can move forward in our hope to improve the situation for the environment,” Valenzuela said.
Montreal will host its first climate summit, bringing together business leaders, community organizations, politicians and environmentalists, on May 3 at Marché Bonsecours.
The event was planned before the official funeral for Guy Lafleur at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, which takes place at the same time.
It was not possible to postpone the summit, said Plante, who plans to attend both events.
“The planet can’t wait,” she said.