Montreal supercommittee given goal of making metropolis carbon neutral by 2050

The city of Montreal has created a committee of 20 experts to help it become carbon neutral by 2050.

Their goal is not just to make the municipality’s employees and administration switch to renewable electrical sources, but to change the behaviour of citizens as well.

“We feel that the population often feels a bit lost about what they can do, and they feel anxiety without knowing how they can have a stronger impact,” said Mayor Valerie Plante.

“This movement we’re creating, this committee that will advise me as well, is part of this movement of making all the actors here in Montreal proactive.”

Some members of the group, such as the Caisse de Depot, will also fund some of the infrastructure projects that are planned.

“We think we have a role to play,” said Kim Thomassin of the Caisse de Depot. “The matter is so important that I think all stakeholders need to take and play a role. And as an investor we also need to take a role.”

One of the biggest challenges will be transportation.

Montreal has a goal of running an all-electric fleet of vehicles and getting more residents into electric cars.

The city is in the process of installing 1,000 charging stations across the city, something even the Auditor General thinks may not be the wisest use of resources given the rush and the lack of planning.

Johane Whitmore, an energy expert at HEC Montreal, understands that assessment.

“No one in Montreal wants to see their taxes go up really, really high because we have a brilliant plan but maybe economically does not make sense. What we have to see is where we can focus and have the most impact and deliver results, said Whitmore.

Plante is expecting a pushback from citizens.

“It shows that even though people want to have drastic changes so we can save our planet but at the same time when it affects your day to day habits and lifestyle of course it hurts. People may not agree with that,” said Plante.

But experts say cars remain the problem and more options need to be given to drivers.

Engineering professor Catherine Morency said a look at analysis of traffic patterns shows that while people may have concerns about climate change, their actions do not follow suit.

“There are basically three types of ways to reduce GHG. It’s either reduce distance, travel. You reduce the frequency at which you travel. Or you reduce the impact of each kilometre travelled,” said Morency.

Morency said if the city wants to make wholesale changes, it will have to make commuting by cars less attractive.

“If you look at trends we have more and more cars, they’re getting bigger and they’re getting emptier,” she said.

The 20 members of the committee are volunteering their time and know how but it will still be up to the city to implement the changes.

Mayor Valerie Plante said the city will consult with the public but that time is of the essence.

“We need to make those changes. If we really want to save the planet there’s no choice,” said Plante.

Denise Roberts contributed to this report