A polluting Grand Prix in a Montreal called green

The Grand Prix and the praise of its big cars no longer exist in a city that wants to be green like Montreal, environmentalists say.

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“F1 is nothing more than a major car advertising campaign,” said Blaise Rémillard of the Montreal Regional Council for the Environment.

“And that’s totally inconsistent and inconsistent with our ambitions to be a city that demonstrates environmental leadership like Montreal.”

Mayor Valérie Plante’s office rejected our insistent requests for an interview.

“It’s up to the organizers to explain how they intend to contribute to ecological transition efforts,” we said.

However, Project Montréal was chosen on the basis of ambitious environmental commitments.

Its latest election platform pledged to make Montreal a leader in responsible tourism and offer “specific support” for festivals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.

Unenviable record

In addition to the contradictory image linked to hosting such an event in the city, many point to its large carbon footprint.

However, the organization of the Grand Prix in Canada refused to reveal the Register how much were their emissions.

For its part, its international equivalent estimated at 256,551 tons of CO2 its results for the 2018 season on all circuits, that is, the consumption of 53,000 cars in one year. This figure does not include visitor travel.

Race preparations, like here on Monday at the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit in Montreal, have a high environmental cost.

Photo by Martin Chevalier

Race preparations, like here on Monday at the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit in Montreal, have a high environmental cost.

Aware of its footprint, F1 has adopted a “zero emissions” plan for 2030, which depends heavily on carbon offsets.

Except that “the idea that we can continue to pollute with the excuse that there will be compensation and planting trees is a big hoax,” criticizes Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace Canada, who sees it as an excuse to buy the “right.” to continue polluting.

Better without him

Given this record, many advocate the total abolition of the Montreal Grand Prix, even if the agreement with the City does not expire until 2031.

“This kind of event no longer fits. In the current situation, not a drop of oil should be wasted,” said Mr Bonin.

To this idea, racing driver Bertrand Godin responds that a Grand Prix that would not take place here would take place anyway anyway.

“There are a lot of other countries that dream of a Grand Prix,” the sports commentator recalls.

However, environmentalists believe that the clock is advancing in the cult of motorsport as we know it.

“I hope that one day we will see him looking at a circus with tigers or elephants. A bit like an aberration from another era, ”says Émile Boisseau-Bouvier, an analyst at Équiterre.


Most of F1’s emissions do not come from fuel burned during the competition, but from the transport of race cars and the organisation’s staff.

  • Logistics 45%
  • Business travel 28%
  • Plants and facilities 19%
  • Event organization 7%
  • Race car fuel 0.7%

Source: ESG Report, Formula 1, 2019, for the 2018 season

Public funds, but at what price?

It is time to link public funding to important events such as the Grand Prix with minimum environmental obligations, according to a Quebec organization.

“It would be a way to protect the reputation of funders so that they are not haunted by the bad practices of an organization,” said Caroline Voyer, executive director of the Quebec Eco-Responsible Events Council.

He believes that these conditions should be applied to the Canadian Grand Prix, which is subsidized for $ 18.7 million a year, despite a much-criticized carbon footprint.

“Because they have bad press, it would be much more important for them to show their credentials,” he continues.

“At the moment, we are seeing efforts, but Formula 1 is far, far, far behind. If it doesn’t fit, governments will no longer want to be associated with this event, “said Blaise Rémillard, head of transportation and town planning at the Montreal Regional Environment Council.

Car sharing

The “eco-conditions” that the Council suggests require can take many forms.

These include the implementation of alternatives to solo driving, the presence of vegetarian options on the menu and the ban on printed promotional material or plastic water bottles on site.

The newspaper he tried unsuccessfully to find out if the subsidies from the various levels of government for the Grand Prix were accompanied by environmental obligations.

Canada’s economic development would not confirm whether this was the case for reasons of confidentiality.

The Ministry of Tourism merely replied that it was working with the Grand Prix to “take into account the different issues it faces.”

As for the city of Montreal, it did not answer our questions on this subject.

Attempts too timid


Photographic archives, Ben Pelosse

Attempts by Formula 1 to green its image are numerous, but do not convince environmentalists of the seriousness of its approach to be less polluting. “Yes, there are efforts, but is it important? Finally, the Grand Prix helps to trivialize the impact of car use alone, “said Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace Canada. by various environmental organizations.


The international organization of Formula 1 is very committed to the development and use of biofuels in its plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.

However, “when F1 talks about sustainable fuels, its credibility fades,” sighs Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace Canada.

“Improving biofuels goes against the whole electrification strategy. It’s a plea to keep gasoline-powered cars alive because gasoline is improving in one way or another, ”said Blaise Rémillard of the Montreal Regional Council for the Environment.

And, in any case, the fuel burned during the car races of the circuit represents less than 1% of the total emissions, it is pointed out.


During the last edition, the equivalent of 12,793 meals, or 3,838 kg of food, were donated to the Tablée des chefs to avoid waste, we read on the Grand Prix du Canada website.

“This is what surprised me the most when I read her actions,” admits Caroline Voyer, executive director of the Quebec Council for Eco-Responsible Events.

She doesn’t understand how such a large amount of food could have been ordered in the first place.

“When you go back to an organization, it’s fine, but the best waste is the one that doesn’t exist,” he often reminds his clients.


The Gilles-Villeneuve circuit is located in the charming and natural setting of the Île Notre-Dame, a beneficial aspect for the “well-being of fans”, according to the Grand Prix.

The location also fits in with the F1 plan to achieve carbon neutrality, which wants racing circuits to be close to nature.

However, Montrealers are deprived of access to this large park for weeks as a direct result of holding the event.

“In other words, we are using one of the jewels of the metropolis, one of the most interesting public spaces we have, to promote gasoline cars,” said Blaise Rémillard of the Montreal Regional Environment Council.

“We would never do that with Mount Royal,” added Patrick Bonin of Greenpeace Canada. “Once again, the car is invading nature. »


The Grand Prix may state that it wants to reduce the ecological footprint of its viewers, but environmentalists are still trying to figure out how.

“We say we encourage fans to travel responsibly, but as far as I know, we’re still trying to attract visitors from all over the world …” says Caroline Voyer of Quebec’s Council for Eco-Responsible Events.

Canada’s Economic Development estimates that 117,000 spectators attended the last races held at the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit in 2019, including 52% of tourists from outside Quebec and 32% of foreign tourists.

These trips involve large emissions of greenhouse gases, especially when taking the plane.

“These are the movements of the citizens that we have to face, this is the number one issue! exclaims M.jo See.

Bertrand Godin, a racing driver and sports commentator, however, contributes to this observation.

“The ecological footprint of transport can be applied to any event, even the Tour de France. »


Waste management at the Grand Prix has changed a lot in recent years.

Meals are now served in recyclable containers and tickets are electronic only; a brigade of 120 people patrols the Île Notre-Dame over the weekend to make sure the rubbish is going to the right place.

“From the point of view of waste and recycling, they seem to have made a significant effort,” admits Émile Boisseau-Bouvier, Équiterre’s climate policy analyst.

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