Ontario, home to four in 10 Canadians, will spend $7 billion over the next four years to put the province on track to reducing its greenhouse emissions by 15% below 1990 levels by the end of this decade, and 80% by the middle of the century, the Globe and Mail reports.
Citing what it said was a leaked copy of a Climate Change Action Plan approved by Ontario’s cabinet last week, the newspaper said the province is contemplating some 80 different policy changes to take effect between now and 2021. The paper said many will cause what it called “mass disruption,” especially in the building and transportation sectors. Funding for the reforms, it said, is expected to come from a carbon cap and trade system set to come into effect next year.
The twin tent poles of the Ontario plan are ambitious goals to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, and shift space heating away from natural gas to geothermal and renewably-generated electricity.
The province will devote $285 million to purchase subsidies of up to $14,000 per electric vehicle, and provide other incentives like free overnight charging, with the goal of seeing EVs constitute 12% of all new car purchases by 2025 the paper reported. Fuel vendors will need to mix biofuels with gasoline in order to reduce life-cycle carbon emissions from conventional engines.
Mandatory charging stations may also be included in new building codes—part of a $3.8-billion assault on building sector emissions. Other changes will phase out fossil fuel heat in all new homes built after 2029, and in all buildings by 2050.
The province will also earmark billions of dollars for a new Green Bank to provide “grants, rebates, and other subsidies to retrofit buildings, and move them off natural gas and onto geothermal, solar power, or other forms of electric heat,” the Globe said.
Other initiatives would expand the GO regional commuter rail network, install more cycling lanes, and research low-carbon mobility.
Perhaps predictably, the ambitious plan brought quick pushback from defenders of the fossil fuel economy and the sectors most affected, with one columnist for the pro-fossil Financial Post going so far as to declare it a “big, green, assisted economic suicide plan.”
More measured criticism came from the province’s natural gas suppliers, who estimated that abandoning their product in favour of electricity could cost homeowners an extra $2,000 to $3,000 in annual heating costs, and from automakers, who questioned whether consumers were ready to buy 100,000 new electric vehicles every year by 2025—or whether industry would provide them.
“The province is proposing to meet its carbon targets by forcing Ontarians to pay themselves subsidies to buy electric vehicles that won’t actually exist,” said Flavio Volpe, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association of Canada.
Environmental groups lauded the plan, however, for catapulting Ontario into the lead among jurisdictions taking meaningful action to rein in carbon emissions.
“In the sense that Ontario’s actually got a plan to hit a target, they actually remain fairly unique in this space,” said Sarah Petrevan, a policy adviser at Clean Energy Canada. Among Canada’s provinces, only Quebec has a plan of comparable detail, she said.
“There may be some disruption, for sure,” said Keith Brooks of Environmental Defence. “But you can’t really address climate change and not do things differently. You have to get off fossil fuels, and that means reducing, ultimately, to the point where we use zero natural gas and zero gasoline. There may be losers, but there are going to be a lot of winners too.”
Brooks has previously accused the Globe of exaggerating the costs of Ontario’s climate policies.