Ministère de l’Environnement, de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, de la Faune et des Parcs
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The principles of sustainable development: a guide for action

The Sustainable Development Act defines 16 principles that must be incorporated into the interventions of all departments and agencies. In a sense, these principles are a guide for action within a perspective of sustainable development. They are an original reflection of the principles of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, a fundamental text that affirms international commitment to sustainable development.

The principles of Québec’s Sustainable Development Act:

  1. “Health and quality of life”: People, human health and improved quality of life are at the centre of sustainable development concerns. People are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature;
  2. “Social equity and solidarity”: Development must be undertaken in a spirit of intra- and inter-generational equity and social ethics and solidarity;
  3. “Environmental protection”: To achieve sustainable development, environmental protection must constitute an integral part of the development process;
  4. “Economic efficiency”: The economy of Québec and its regions must be effective, geared toward innovation and economic prosperity that is conducive to social progress and respectful of the environment;
  5. “Participation and commitment”: The participation and commitment of citizens and citizens' groups are needed to define a concerted vision of development and to ensure its environmental, social and economic sustainability;
  6. “Access to knowledge”: Measures favourable to education, access to information and research must be encouraged in order to stimulate innovation, raise awareness and ensure effective participation of the public in the implementation of sustainable development;
  7. “Subsidiarity”: Powers and responsibilities must be delegated to the appropriate level of authority. Decision-making centres should be adequately distributed and as close as possible to the citizens and communities concerned;
  8. “Inter-governmental partnership and cooperation”: Governments must collaborate to ensure that development is sustainable from an environmental, social and economic standpoint. The external impact of actions in a given territory must be taken into consideration;
  9. “Prevention”: In the presence of a known risk, preventive, mitigating and corrective actions must be taken, with priority given to actions at the source;
  10. “Precaution”: When there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty must not be used as a reason for postponing the adoption of effective measures to prevent environmental degradation;
  11. “Protection of cultural heritage”: The cultural heritage, made up of property, sites, landscapes, traditions and knowledge, reflects the identity of a society. It passes on the values of a society from generation to generation, and the preservation of this heritage fosters the sustainability of development. Cultural heritage components must be identified, protected and enhanced, taking their intrinsic rarity and fragility into account;
  12. “Biodiversity preservation”: Biological diversity offers incalculable advantages and must be preserved for the benefit of present and future generations. The protection of species, ecosystems and the natural processes that maintain life is essential if quality of human life is to be maintained;
  13. “Respect for ecosystem support capacity”: Human activities must be respectful of the support capacity of ecosystems and ensure the perenniality of ecosystems;
  14. “Responsible production and consumption”: Production and consumption patterns must be changed in order to make production and consumption more viable and more socially and environmentally responsible, in particular through an ecoefficient approach that avoids waste and optimizes the use of resources;
  15. “Polluter pays”: Those who generate pollution or whose actions otherwise degrade the environment must bear their share of the cost of measures to prevent, reduce, control and mitigate environmental damage;
  16. “Internalization of costs”: The value of goods and services must reflect all the costs they generate for society during their whole life cycle, from their design to their final consumption and their disposal.

These principles and other comparable ones are integrated into the practices of a growing number of government agencies, non-profit or private organizations and those working in fields such as education (1), business (2), architecture and construction, research and development, management, etc. They draw inspiration from these principles to improve their methods with regard to access to knowledge, production and consumption, citizen participation and involvement, ecological responsibility, and the ideas to develop new areas of intervention.

Here are some examples.

  • Brundtland Green Establishments

“An establishment is “green” because it undertakes reduction, reuse, recovery and recycling projects—resource conservation projects in other words. An establishment is “Brundtland” because it also implements actions centred around the themes of democracy, sharing, cooperation, equity, solidarity, respect, peace and human rights, which are highlighted in the Brundtland Report.

Launched in 1992 by the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) in cooperation with partners like RECYC-QUÉBEC, the Brundtland Green Establishments Network now includes close to 1000 elementary and secondary schools and colleges in Québec (according to information provided by the CSQ on March 1, 2006). The BGE status is not exclusive to schools however.

Brundtland Green Establishments are institutions that have taken on the mission to “… promote the development of critical and responsible citizens able to take action to make the world worthy of their aspirations.” The approach of a BGE is to think, teach, educate and act to create a society that embraces the values of ecology, pacifism, solidarity and democracy.

Establishments with BGE status are recognized for their daily initiatives promoting sustainable development. Each year, they must renew their status as a green establishment, which is conditional upon specific guidelines.

  • TOHU, the circus arts city

Wishing to make Montréal the international capital of circus arts and showcase the spirit of creativity, talents and entrepreneurial drive of this sector, the Cirque du Soleil invested at the beginning of 2000 to create a centre for the creation and dissemination of circus arts in Montréal. Located at the heart of the Complexe environnemental de Saint-Michel (CESM) in the eastern part of the Villeray—Saint-Michel—Parc-Extension district, TOHU integrates the environmental, community and economic realities of this area. TOHU is located on a site that is nearly 200 hectares in size and which, between the 1970s to the end of the 1980s, was a garbage dump. Purchased by the City of Montréal in 1988, the site and adjacent land were environmentally rehabilitated so that they could be gradually transformed into an urban park.

TOHU designs and offers the hosting, entertainment and educational activities that take place at the CESM. TOHU’s installations were designed to reflect the enterprise’s environmental values: from construction to its use and eventual demolition, each stage of the building’s life has been mapped out according to ecological principles.

TOHU proposes free community activities and services to neighbourhood residents, such as exhibits and festive and educational gatherings. The building serves as a public place where the community can meet and exchange. Other than these services, the enterprise offers neighbourhood residents privileged access to employment. And last but not least, special attention is paid to the way in which the organization’s activities affect the local population.

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