Climate policy in Ontario is in a “frightening” state, Environment Commissioner Dianne Saxe warned Wednesday, in the final report her office will issue before it is closed down by the provincial government of Doug Ford.
“At a time when climate damage is accelerating, Ontario is turning away from the things that we know work,” opting instead for a climate policy that is “very inadequate, very frightening,” Saxe said. “On the big things that will reduce our climate pollution, allow Canada to fulfil its role under the Paris Agreement, and show the poorer countries of the world that are suffering the greater damage that we are going to do our part, we are causing great damage.”
That matters a great deal, because “what we’re doing in Ontario and what we may do in Canada this year puts the entire Paris Agreement at risk,” she said, with the Ford government and the federal Conservative opposition committed to unwinding the country’s carbon pricing system.
“If the world can’t hold together on the Paris Agreement we are toasted, roasted, and grilled.”
“Saxe is critical of the government’s cancellation of a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gases, as well as the cancellation of electricity conservation programs and a growth plan that she says increases urban sprawl and therefore reliance on transportation fuels,” The Canadian Press reports. “Since 2007, Ontario has made valuable progress in conserving electricity and some progress in conserving natural gas, and without those programs the province ,” all of which has brought down the province’s emissions.
Saxe’s final report to the Ontario legislature says the province’s continuing heavy reliance on fossil fuels “results in a ‘hefty’ health, economic, and environmental price tag,” National Observer reports. “This cost could increase as the government works to increase the urban sprawl in the Greater Toronto Area and cut costs, the report notes.”
Saxe said that, under the province’s previous Liberal government, “the government spent up to C$24 billion each year to import fossil fuels such as oil, petroleum products ,and natural gas between 2010 to 2015,” the online daily adds.
And now, “the Progressive Conservative government is increasing energy bills, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions through policies that promote the use of fossil fuels, Saxe told reporters.”
Earlier this month, Saxe called on Ontario’s religious leadership to take a stronger stand for climate action. “I did not see a single faith leader speak up during the election or appear before the select committee to oppose the cancellation of cap and trade, and the great programs it was paying for,” she told Observer. “I have not seen any major faith group leading public education in their community about why Ontario must take urgent action now to reduce fossil fuel use and build renewable energy. Nor have I seen any faith leaders opposing the weakening of Ontario’s Growth Plan or speaking up about the elimination of my office,” even though “environmental destruction is the key moral issue of the day.”
Earlier in the year, Saxe told a public forum in Sudbury the impacts of climate change are already more pronounced in the northern part of the province than elsewhere.
“Northern Ontario is warming faster than the world average and faster than the Ontario average, so some of the impacts are showing up faster,” she said. “Cold weather, deep snow, then rain and then cold weather again, so that you get ice formation, you get open water running when you don’t expect open water.” As well, “forest fires are a much bigger risk in the north than in the south. We’re starting to see more wildfires around the world, as forests become drier and fire seasons are longer.” Ultimately, she said, climate change “is a shared responsibility and we all need to step up and speak up and work together, otherwise there’s not going to be a happy ending.”