California and Quebec are shutting down their joint carbon trading market with Ontario, just days after incoming premier Doug Ford announced that ending the province’s successful cap-and-trade program would be his government’s first official act after he’s sworn in June 29.
The move by the two remaining partners in the Western Climate Initiative means Ontario companies won’t be able to sell off the C$2.8 billion in allowances they bought to offset their greenhouse gas emissions under the previous provincial program.
“Quebec and California governments had to act quickly to ensure companies holding allowances that had been needed to comply with Ontario’s cap-and-trade regulations do not dump them onto the market, causing a glut that would depress prices in future auctions,” the Globe and Mail explains.
“Our goals are to make certain that the program continues to reduce emissions of climate-changing gases as a crucial part of our efforts to combat the existential threat of climate change, while also continuing the smooth operation and integrity of our common carbon market,” the two provinces said.
Asked Friday about the cost of his decision to Ontario businesses, Ford said companies would be happy to avoid future costs of carbon compliance. But Gerald Butts, principal secretary to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, predicted the abrupt policy change will lead to legal action against the province.
“That didn’t take long,” Butts tweeted over the weekend, in response to the California-Quebec announcement. “Lawyers, start your billable hours. Ontario is now open for business. Business = pointless litigation.”
Yesterday, the Toronto Star reported that Ontario had quietly shuttered the $377-million Green Ontario Fund, a provincial non-profit financed with cap-and-trade revenue that helped homeowners purchase smart thermostats, energy-efficient windows, and other energy-, cost-, and carbon-reducing equipment. “The program’s website had been reduced to one page Tuesday,” the Toronto Star reports. “Under the headline ‘The following programs are closed,’ the site now lists everything from residential solar, window, and insulation rebates to smart thermostats and programs for businesses.”
The province will still honour contracts for work completed by August 31, if rebate applications are submitted by September 30.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath said she was alarmed that Ford has no apparent plan to fight climate change.
“To imagine that we have no responsibility whatsoever to deal with the changing climate and the impact that it has on people and communities and the viability of our planet is putting your head in the sand,” she said.
“Disappointing to see Doug Ford scrap Ontario’s @GreenONfund programs,” tweeted federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna. “Clearly he doesn’t care about climate action or helping families & businesses save money & supporting innovative Ontario businesses and jobs. #NoEnvironment #NoEconomy #NoPlan.”
The provincial clawback “is reminiscent of former prime minister Stephen Harper’s federal Conservative Party, when it ditched a popular energy efficiency retrofit program called EnerGuide for Homes in 2006,” National Observer notes. “The Harper government would later launch a new energy retrofit program called ecoENERGY that environmental groups panned as a poorer, repackaged version of EnerGuide.”