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As part of an environmental group’s settlement with Volkswagen over air pollution, the federal government is putting some of the money into projects that promote active transportation in Quebec.

The funding comes after Quebec environmental group Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique started a class action against Volkswagen over the auto manufacturer’s use of software to fake emissions results of its diesel cars until 2015. The automaker settled the lawsuit, which was approved by the Superior Court of Québec.

Now, the federal government has announced as part of the settlement, it’s putting $4.4 million into projects that help people walk, cycle and be active outdoors in Quebec.

“It’s good news — not only for all the environmental benefits that active transportation has but also for public health,” said Marilène Bergeron, assistant director of educational programs for the Quebec-based environmental group Équiterre.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, in 2020, transportation accounted for nearly 28 per cent of Canada’s total planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. A spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada told Canada’s National Observer in an email that active transportation projects would decrease emissions by discouraging the use of cars.

Air pollution from vehicles has also been linked to diseases and health issues. In 2015, Health Canada estimated air pollution from traffic led to the early death of more than 1,200 people.

“The objective of this call for proposals specifically is to reduce transportation-related air pollution in the province of Quebec,” the spokesperson said. “The call for proposals will support projects that encourage a modal shift away from automobiles that contribute to air pollution towards active transportation.”

Money from this fund could go towards establishing new walking or cycling paths or transportation corridors. Funds could also go towards bolstering existing projects with bike locks or secure bike storage — like lockers near public transit stops.

The funding comes through the federal government’s Environmental Defence Fund. The Environment and Climate Change Canada spokesperson said money from pollution and environment-related fines, court orders and voluntary payments goes into the fund to pay for projects that restore damage to the environment and help conserve wildlife.

As part of an environmental group’s settlement with Volkswagen over air pollution, the federal government is putting some of the money into projects that promote active transportation in Quebec. 

Équiterre, which was co-founded by Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, received about $2.3 million from the Environmental Defence Fund in 2021 for a campaign to raise awareness about emissions from light vehicle trucks.

“It’s a way to make the people who pollute pay for the damage they cause,” Bergeron said. “In the same way, people who are doing great actions have an incentive that encourages their actions.”

While she said funding for projects is good, Bergeron added that to really reduce air pollution, the federal government needs to continue to invest in active transportation.

“To change our car culture takes time,” Bergeron said, “so it’s also important to maintain [funding] for more time. For now, [$4.4 million] is not a lot but it's a start.”

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
October 31, 2023, 08:13 am

This article has been changed to reflect that Équiterre received money from Environmental Defense Fund for an awareness campaign. A previous version stated the organization received funding to bolster active transportation.

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