Steven Guilbeault, from environmental activist to Canadian Minister of the Environment

LETTER FROM MONTREAL

He arrived as a “regular” at the Glasgow climate change conference. This is the 19e COP in which Steven Guilbeault participates. But for the first time, he finds himself on the side of those responsible for taking concrete and urgent decisions, and no longer as a spur of governments always considered too timid. On October 26, Steven Guilbeault, 51, was appointed Minister of the Environment and Climate Change for Canada by Justin Trudeau, the recently re-elected Prime Minister as head of a minority Liberal government.

It is a consecration for this longtime environmental activist, and a bet for Trudeau. The latter intends to send the message that with the installation of a green figure at a key position, he is ready to move up a gear in terms of actions against climate change. He whose environmental image was tarnished by the buyout and extension of the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2018, he who failed to curb greenhouse gas emissions – 723 megatons in 2015, 730 in 2019 – he too who continued to give more subsidies to the oil industries than the previous Conservative government had done.

Read also (2018): In Canada, the expansion of a pipeline deemed dangerous for the environment is frozen

Steven Guilbeault may have worn for several years the suit and tie that befits the “climate change advisor” he was with several Quebec governments for more than twenty years, or the Minister of Heritage, a position he has held since. 2019, there remains, for Canadians, this smiling young man with long hair, in orange jumpsuit, framed and arrested by police at the foot of the CN tower in Toronto in 2001, a photo that has been around the world.

With another Greenpeace activist, he had just climbed the famous Canadian tower, then the highest in the world (340 meters), to deploy the banner “Canada and Bush, climate killers”., in order to denounce the opposition of the governments of North America to the Kyoto Protocol. At 31, Steven Guilbeault still used the methods of the environmental activist he claimed to be: in 1993, he had founded with some friends Equiterre in Quebec, an association which proposed to make sustainable development and social economy work together; in 1997, he joined Greenpeace Canada to take charge of the climate change issue.

Treason trial

His entry into the political arena in 2019, under the colors of the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau when his friends were waiting for him on the side of the Green Party, had already earned him his first treason trials. During a public campaign meeting before his election as deputy in a Montreal constituency, a young green activist approached the microphone to challenge him: “Don’t you feel like a traitor in going from Equiterre to a government that invests in the oil industry? “, he had launched. What the candidate had calmly responded with the argument of “Efficiency”, admitting unvarnished preferring to work “With the party which had the most chances of winning the elections”.

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Steven Guilbeault, from environmental activist to Canadian Minister of the Environment

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