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Ford Climate Cuts Throw Away ‘Lowest-Cost Pathways’, Environmental Commissioner Warns

The Doug Ford government is on track to reverse reductions in Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) between 2005 and 2016 and throw away the lowest-cost pathways to a sustainable economy, according to the annual report published yesterday by Ontario Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe.

“Dismantling a climate change law that was working is bad for our environment, bad for our health, and bad for business,” Saxe said.

The commissioner reported that Ontario “has gutted most of its climate change programs,” despite the benefits those programs were beginning to deliver. “Most of the cap-and-trade money was funding energy efficiency programs in Ontario communities—in schools, public housing, transit, and hospitals, for example—that would have reduced GHGs and saved millions of dollars in energy costs.”

The government’s proposed replacement program, the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, “is much too weak,” she added. “A meaningful climate law needs science-based emissions budgets, a legal obligation to stay within those budgets, and credible, transparent progress reporting. Ontario can still choose sensible solutions that help families make ends meet while bringing climate pollution down. Polluter-pay tools, for example, give people more choice and a fair reward for reducing their emissions, and can help reduce other taxes they pay.”

On Monday, Environment Minister Rod Phillips told an industry audience the province’s new climate plan, to be released this fall, will “put the onus on polluters,” CBC reports. He said the plan will include an emissions reduction fund, though the government is still working out the precise mechanism. The ministry will consult the public on “specific areas of focus” before finalizing the release.

“We will strike the correct balance between a healthy economy and a healthy environment, and put the onus of pollution on polluters, not on the hard-working people of our province,” Phillips said. “Our plan focused on solutions, not one that has the government picking winners and losers.”

The government also tabled legislation last week to repeal Ontario’s Green Energy Act, enacted in 2009 to encourage renewable energy development and kick-start a homegrown renewables industry. In his first week in office, Ford cancelled 758 contracts for green energy projects across the province.

“The Green Energy Act represents the largest transfer of money from the poor and middle class to the rich in Ontario’s history,” Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford claimed in a news statement.

The Act “allowed the previous government to trample over the rights of families, businesses, and municipalities across rural Ontario,” added Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton. “But we believe the people of Ontario should have the final say about what gets built in their communities.” (This from the same provincial government that was prepared to invoke the notwithstanding clause in the federal constitution to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council from 47 to 25, arbitrarily and in the midst of municipal elections.—Ed.)

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told National Observer Thursday that Ford as “taking action to move away from the biggest economic opportunity of the century.”

“It’s really unfortunate that the Government of Ontario is spending most of its time rolling back climate action, and fighting climate action in court,” she said. “That’s money that could be much better spent, and time that could be much better spent in tackling climate change, and also taking advantage of the huge economic opportunity that has been discussed today by leaders around the world, by businesses around the world.”