Analysis - June 12, 2009



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June 2009


Print Issues, Sustainable tourism,

Who is Carbon Neutral in Tourism in Québec?

Visitors to and from Québec contribute to Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG), regardless of the mode of transport, distance traveled, or the activity undertaken during a stay. To date, no study assessed neither travelers’ nor the tourism sector’s contributions to GHG emissions, or attitudes or actions towards mitigation in Québec. This creates a knowledge gap about net reductions, and about compensations for unavoidable emissions. In this context, the aim of this article is to provide a brief overview of carbon neutrality in Québec’s tourism sector.

Offset Providers

The choice of offset providers internationally continues to augment, while the Carbon Catalogue presently lists 12 providers across Canada with an offset price range of 12.50 $ to 39.90 $ per ton CO2e.(1) For those wishing to purchase offsets from organizations based in Québec, the four principal providers include Planetair,(2) Carbone Boréale,(3) Zero GHG Inc.(4) and ZÉRØCO2.(5)

(1) Planetair is a not-for-profit organization managed by the Unisféra International Centre, also a non-profit organization. (2) Planetair is the exclusive distributor of Myclimate, one of the most respected offset supplier worldwide, since all their projects conform to the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)* and Gold Standard.** These projects finance only renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in various developing countries. Planetair plans to offer Canadian projects in the future depending on sales volumes.

(2) Carbone Boréale (CB) is both a program, and a laboratory of researchers at the University of Québec in Chicoutimi. CB offsets finance tree plantations in a deforested area of Québec and contributes to supporting research. The plantations are verified and managed according to ISO 14064-3 norms, and are registered by the Canadian EcoProjectsTM GHG.(3)

(3) ZeroGHG Inc. is a private consultancy firm offering offsets in a variety of renewable and energy efficiency projects in addition to their consulting services to develop GHG reduction strategies, quantifying emissions and performing audits. ZeroGHG projects are located in various countries, and at least 80% must meet CDM* and Gold Standard**.(4)

(4) ZÉRØCO2 is a private enterprise selling offsets that finance reforestation projects in various communities. Since 2006, ZERØCO2 has reforested more than 20 hectares of land, creating green spaces equivalent to just over 40 football fields in the heart of communities. (5)

Indirect Offset Sellers

Some tourism businesses have partnered up with various offset-selling organizations. For example, since 2007, Air Canada (AC) encourages its customers to purchase offsets via non-profit organization ZeroFootprint that invests in forest restoration project in British Columbia. To date, AC customers bought $187,612 of offsets, equivalent of 11725 tones of GO2.(6) In contrast, Air Transat does not sell offsets for reasons relating to the efficiency of such projects in their ability to solve climate change related problems amongst other reasons.(7)

For those traveling by rail, VIA Rail also does not directly offer offsets to its customers, however it also encourages its customers to calculate their GHG emissions with Tree Canada, an Ottawa-based offset company. Since 1990, VIA Rail has reduced its GHG by 15% approximately, although it is responsible for only 0,03% of total GHG emissions compared to 13% generated by motorists in Canada.(8) For travelers that hire vehicles, numerous car rental companies also offer carbon offsets on-line such integrated into their reservation forms such as Alamo, Enterprise and National Car Rentals amongst others.(9)

Tourism Operations Buying Offsets

Some Québec and other travelers to Québec probably purchase offsets, however none of the above named organizations had data available at the time of writing this article about their clients. Some tourism operations also buy offsets in Québec, but no study assessed their transaction value to date.

Some accommodation establishments also have a carbon neutral policy. For example, the Chicoutimi Hotel has been offsetting its heating and electricity use and has been encouraging its clients to offset their stay with CB.(2) Since 2006, the hotel l’Auberge des Seigneurs in St-Hyacynthe has been offering Eco-Friendly Packages to its clients and in 2008, it has also engaged to calculate guest’s travel related GHG contributions amongst other environmentally friendly services.(10) This establishment also compensates emissions of meetings and events held in the hotel by planting trees. Similarly, in an effort to be carbon neutral, Novotel Montreal plants a tree for every online booking. (11)

Montreal based tour company, Karavanniers du monde has also taken climate change mitigation serirosly and since January 2009, its price structure includes carbon compensation costs with Planetair. (2, 12) The company’s client’s base is approximately 97% Québécois and based on discussions with the operation’ owner, there have been no complaints at all concerning the price increase resulting from mandatory carbon compensations. On the contrary, clients are pleased to see such an effort by the company. Some other travel companies such as Omnitour, Voyages Tour Étudiants also offers offsets to its customers. (2) Similarly, since 2006, the regional-based operation WeLa Aventure organizes eco-friendly hiking and cycling trips in the Saguenay,(13) and it compensated for its clients travel related CO2 emissions to and from the region via supporting tree plantations by ZIP Saugenay (14) and the cooperative COOP4Temps.(15)

Increasingly festivals and events across Québec are also eco-friendly, and some compensated for GHG emissions.(16) For example, since 2008, Montreal’s International Jazz Festival is carbon neutral.(17) Both Québec and Montreal Convention Centers offer eco-friendly events with their partner organizations (18, 19) and both centers offer offsetting as an option for such events. For example, In 2004, the Québec Convention Centre committed to reducing its energy consumption by 33% per m2 and its total GHG emissions by 50%.(20) Since 2007, it hosted 32 eco-friendly events of which 7 involved carbon compensations.

At Montreal’s Jean-Drapeau Park (JDP), sustainable development policy integrates GHG mitigation and compensation strategies for the organization and activities (about 100 events per year) on the park’s territory. (21) JDP created a fund (Fonds Oxygène) to implement this policy, and partners and suppliers will be asked to contribute to this fund, which will finance specific environmental improvement projects (22). Additionally, drivers to JDP will be required to pay $1 extra to leave their vehicles in the parking to help offset GHG emissions with CB.


Although it is well known that carbon compensation projects do not represent an ultimate solution to mitigating GHG emissions, the purchase of offsets in credible projects can raise awareness, and provide funds towards worthwhile initiatives.(23) Although buying offsets in tree plantations remains controversial, in certain cases they can deliver net environmental improvements, while buying offsets in renewable energy projects and technology developments permit a shift away from using fossil fuels.

This brief synopsis of the situation in Québec shows that carbon neutrality in the tourism sector is a patchwork. The analysis also highlights the need for measuring net contributions of greenhouse gases by the travel and tourism sector in order to enable a coordinated approach to assessing how this could be effectively mitigated.

* CDM certifies emission reductions that are sold on the voluntary market and it ensures that developed countries’ carbon credits comply with Kyoto Protocol regulations.
** The Gold Standard is an independent organization that certifies carbon credits sold on the voluntary market. Such carbon credits need to meet sustainable development objectives. This means that a carbon-offset project must lead directly to a net GHG emission reduction. Gold Standard does not certify forestry projects.


(1) Carbon Catalogue Project: Find a Carbon Offset: Canada. Last Consulted Apr 25, 2009.
(2) Planetair. Offset Projects. Last Consulted Apr 2, 2009.
(3) Éco-conseil. Plantations Compensatoires de GES. Last Consulted Apr 15, 2009.
(4) ZeroGHG Inc. Last Consulted Apr 25, 2009.
(5) ZeroCo2. Last Consulted Apr 15, 2009.
(6) Air Canada. Carbon Offset Program. Last Consulted Apr 25, 2009.
(7) Transat AT (2009) Greenhouse gas reduction and fuel management. Last Consulted Apr 2, 2009.
(8) Via Rail Canada. Environment: Helping To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions Last Consulted Apr 17, 2009.
(9) Terra Pass Inc. (2009) Rental Car Carbon Offset Program Proves Most Popular With Consumers. Published on-line in Earth News, April 6, 2009. Last Consulted Apr 25, 2009.
(10) l’Auberge des Seigneurs à St Hyacynthe. Last Consulted Apr. 24, 2009.
(11) Novotel Montréal Centre. Last Consulted June. 2, 2009.
(12) Karavaniers du Monde. Destinatons: Fiche technique. Last Consulted Apr. 3, 2009.
(13) Wela Aventure. Horaire et parcours. Randonnées des cols du Fjord 2009. Fiche d’information. Last Consulted Apr 25, 2009.
(14) ZIP Saguenay. Réalisations. Last Consulted Apr 27, 2009.
(15) Coop Quatre Temps. Mission. Last Consulted Apr 27, 2009.
(16) Réseau québécois des femmes en environnement. Sustainable Event. Last Consulted Apr 2, 2009.
(17) Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Une édition 2008 carboneutre. Last Consulted Apr 27, 2009.
(18) Centre des congrès de Québec. Développement Durable. Évennements éco-responsables. Last Consulted Apr 27, 2009.
(19) Palais des congrès de Montréal. Environnement. Last Consulted Apr 2, 2009.
(20) Centre des congrès de Québec. Lauréate du prix Stellaris: Efficacité Énergétique. Press Release 2 April, 2004. Last Consulted Apr 2, 2009.
(21) Société du parc Jean-Deapeau (2009) Politique de développement durable. Montréal. 8 p.
(22) Société du parc Jean-Deapeau (2009) Fonds Oxygène.Le fonds de compensation de gaz à effet de serre Montréal. 4 p.
(23) Broderick, J. (2008). Voluntary Carbon Offsets. A Contribution to Sustainable Tourism? In Sustainable Tourism Futures. Perspectives on Systems, Restructuring and Innovations. In Gössling, S., Hall, C.M. and Weaver, D.B. (Eds.). Routledge, New-York. 169-197.

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