Gilles, President since 2017
1- Gilles, can you tell us about your involvement with Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert?
In July 2017, I was asked by the Government if I had an interest in being a member of the Board of Directors of the “Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert”. Following my acceptance, I was named Chairman of the Board. The Board in question is composed of 5 independent members, the CEO of the “Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert” and 3 Deputy Ministers (Finance, Environment and Transport).
The “Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert” was created in 2017 by Minister Heurtel, then in charge of the Ministry of Environment for the Quebec Government, in order to provide a governance framework for the Green Fund and coordinate the management of the Fund in keeping with the principles of sustainable development, effectiveness, efficiency and transparency. Among other things, the Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert would prepare the Green Fund’s annual accounts, enter into agreements with other departments for the implementation of measures targeted by the climate change action plan, prepare a plan for the measures financed by the Green Fund and assess the Green Fund’s performance. Among other things, this fund would be used to provide financial support to municipalities and to non-profit bodies working in the environmental field.
The Green Fund was criticized in the past for inappropriate use by the Government of the Green Fund; we are therefore now responsible to ensure that the Fund is used in accordance with its goals which consist essentially in funding activities, projects and programs aimed at stimulating technological innovation, research and development, knowledge acquisition, performance improvement, and public awareness and education.
The Green Fund is financed primarily through the sums taken in at auctions of units on the Carbon Market, the fees emanating from gas emissions from motor vehicles, the charges payable for the disposal of residual materials and the charges payable for the use of water. Additional funding is derived from the amounts paid pursuant to the Act to increase the number of zero-emission motor vehicles in Québec in order to reduce greenhouse gas and other pollutant emissions and its regulations.
2- How did you get involved with Fonds vert initially?
Reluctantly, it must have been a moment of weakness and by the way I do not donate to any political parties.
During my career, I have often had to deal with senior people in the Provincial and Federal Governments. As a result, I have befriended many senior people in various ministries. I had been asked in the past to participate on various Government Boards but had turned down all proposals.
However, I accepted to get involved in the Green Fund, given that the environment and climate worldwide is changing at a drastic pace and if we do not get involved in a solution, the consequences will continue to intensify, grow ever more costly, and increasingly affect the entire planet.
3- You’ve been Fonds vert President since 2017, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far?
As I stated previously, the creation of the Conseil de gestion du Fonds vert took place in spring 2017 and its Board constituted in late summer of the same year. When starting from scratch, we had to put in place all the different corporate governance policies, create the different committees, as well as all other statutory policies and documents.
The biggest challenge however, (other than my headaches created by politics!) was the re-education of the various Ministries who were used to functioning in a certain way, without much accountability and now had to answer to various strict criteria in order to benefit from the Green Fund. In our field, decisions have to be taken on a timely basis and implemented as fast, in government, decision making tends to be a slower process. Sometime, it is more exciting to watch the grass grow than watch the political machine move on issues!
4- How does Fonds vert help our community to live in a healthier environment while protecting the planet?
Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide and other air pollutants and greenhouse gases collect in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally, this radiation would escape into space however, these pollutants, which can last for years to centuries in the atmosphere, trap the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. Curbing dangerous climate change requires very deep cuts in emissions, as well as the use of alternatives to fossil fuels worldwide.
The main goal of the Green Fund, is to enable a dramatic reduction of the carbon emissions, which will slow the pace of global warming, and pass on a healthier, safer world to future generations.
Accordingly, the various Ministries of the Quebec Government create programs such as electrification of transports, financial assistance to the municipalities to implement environmental improvement projects, encourage research and development in the field of clean technology, and broaden the use of renewable energy sources in all activity sectors.
5- Why protecting the planet is so important to you?
I guess the easy answer to that question is “you broke it, you fix it”. My generation is one of the major culprits when it comes to global warming. Environment was not an issue in our day to day lives. Cars polluted, everyone smoked, there was no recycling and factories did not concern themselves with their environmental footprint.
I would like to do my part in fixing our mess and leave to future generations a cleaner environment.