Climate change is coming up in the news more and more often these days.
Much of the discussion focuses on urging individuals and SMEs to make major changes in our lifestyles or our business practices. That makes sense, since 77% of emissions are produced by companies and individuals. Collectively, therefore, Canadian small businesses are significantly responsible for emissions, but they have thus far received little attention or assistance.
This means that they could make major contributions to the effort to reduce GHGs in Canada. Such efforts are rarely discussed, but there are hundreds of businesses already working to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels or cut down on waste.
For example, in Baie-Comeau, the owners of the family business Industri-AL, a client of the SADC Manicouagan, have put their innovative ideas into practice to recycle the residue from Alcoa’s aluminum production. The goal: make Alcoa the first green aluminum plant in the world. Also in Baie‑Comeau, the St-Pancrace microbrewery is recycling its spent grains—residue from beer production—with a social reintegration organization that makes dog biscuits!
Since 2008, the members of the Réseau des SADC et CAE have been developing ways to educate SMEs about reducing GHGs and support them in their efforts. In 12 years, more than 1,000 businesses have embarked on sustainable development projects. Synergie 138, a circular economy project that includes four SADCs in Charlevoix and Côte-Nord covering 10 RCMs, was set up to create a network of businesses so that waste from one company could become raw material for another. The initial results are extremely promising.
But what are the incentives for SMEs to engage in this kind of project? Not much recognition and no tax breaks, and all the while they are feeling the effects of the carbon tax when buying fossil fuels.
That’s why the Réseau des SADC et CAE, in collaboration with 14 of its members, has set up a project to give access to the open carbon market to approximately 150 small businesses and organizations in Quebec. This project entails pooling the GHG reductions that businesses have already achieved, getting their reduction programs certified by the international Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) program, and selling their Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) on the open carbon market. Some businesses have already completed the process and sold their credits on the market.
The GHG reduction programs of 74 of these 150 small businesses, assisted by the technical and financial support of SADCs and CAEs, have accounted for the reduction of 2,474,421 tonnes of GHG emissions from more than 850 buildings of all types (industrial, commercial and institutional). International auditing and serialization of further reductions is currently underway.
This project to bring together small businesses and organizations with GHG reduction programs is unique in the world, and thanks to the expertise that the Réseau des SADC et CAE has developed in Quebec, it could be deployed Canada-wide.
Proposal for the federal government
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has affirmed the government’s commitment to reaching the Paris Agreement targets. As part of its strategy to achieve these objectives, the federal government plans to support voluntary efforts to reduce GHG emissions and to encourage Canadians and businesses to take such measures. We believe that a project like ours for SMEs to access carbon credits is a perfect match for this strategy. However, the carbon market remains poorly understood by both individuals and businesses. There are still some issues with buying and selling carbon credits, both for that reason and because of the laws and regulations that control the carbon market at the federal and provincial levels.
Our Verified Carbon Units (VCUs) are of above‑average quality. They have social and environmental benefits as well, because these reduced emissions are the result of efforts by a large number of SMEs, municipalities and other small organizations across industrial, commercial and institutional sectors, all within Canada and primarily in remote areas.
Buying VCUs from these 74 small businesses would not only set a good example, but also allow the federal government to:
- Reaffirm its support for the principles of the Paris Agreement
- Confirm its leadership on the national and international level, in keeping with its commitment to reduce its own GHG emissions
- Recognize and support successful and innovative community innovations, in the form of GHG emission reduction projects that are initiated and implemented outside urban centres by SMEs, municipalities and other organizations who are not in a position to individually promote their own efforts
- Encourage the vast majority of businesses to go green by demonstrating that it is rewarding and worthwhile for businesses to reduce their GHG emissions, providing an effective method to motivate SMEs to embrace sustainable development
- Respond concretely to the group Environnement Jeunesse, which plans to bring a class action suit against the government for climate inaction
As this shows, reducing GHG emissions as part of a larger fight against climate change is not only a matter for the largest emitters; if Canada is to reach its targets, governments must give more attention and assistance to SMEs in this arena as well.
Anyone who wants to take action for the environment and SME development by purchasing carbon credits should contact Paul Gauthier at the Réseau des SADC et CAE at 418-658-1530.