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Ontario Climate Plan Won’t Hit 2030 Target, Isn’t Based on ‘Sound Science’: Auditor General

The climate plan introduced last year by the Doug Ford government in Ontario is not based on “sound evidence”, and the province is warming faster than the global average and off-course to meeting its 2030 emission reduction targets, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk concluded in her annual report issued Wednesday.

In a separate review released on the same day, Lysyk said the anti-carbon tax ads and stickers the government bought earlier this year added up to a C$4-million partisan exercise. Both reports landed in the same week that Ford faced criticism for appointing Harper-era federal finance minister and epic climate denier Joe Oliver to chair the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO).

“Our audit concluded that the emission reduction estimates in the plan are not based on sound evidence or sufficient detail,” the annual report concluded. “In its current early state, the plan is not likely to achieve its proposed emission reduction target.”

While the province would need a 17.6-megatonne GHG reduction to align with Canada’s 2030 target, Lysyk found the current Ontario plan will only hit a threshold of 6.3 to 13 Mt. That assessment “confirms similar warnings from climate change activists, amid escalating warnings from the scientific community about the rapid pace of global warming,” the Star writes.

“They need to look at more ways to reduce emissions,” Lysyk warned. “Ontario is warming faster than the global average.” She found that the province’s projected emission reductions factored in renewable energy projects and a carbon cap-and-trade program the Progressive Conservative government cancelled last year, and anticipated a dramatic increase in annual electric vehicle sales—from 41,000 this year to 1.3 million in 2030—with no policy mechanisms to drive the shift.

Lysyk also reported that “some emissions reductions were double-counted and overstated” by being targeted in more than one provincial program.

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek insisted the plan is still evolving and the targets will be met. “We have a plan, the auditor general didn’t say it was terrible,” he said. “She said it needs to be tightened up. We totally agree with that. It was an ambitious plan we ran right out of the gates with.”

But NDP Opposition leader Andrea Horwath had her doubts. “We have a serious climate emergency in front of us,” she said. “We need a government that’s serious about setting stringent targets,” but “they are going backwards on so many of the strategies needed to meet [those] targets,” beginning with the decision to cancel signed contracts for 758 renewable energy projects across the province.

“If they cared about climate change, they’d actually have a plan that works,” said Green Party leader Mike Schreiner. 

“The Ford government is not only wasting our tax dollars sabotaging the federal government’s climate plan, the premier’s policies are actually sabotaging his own so-called climate plan,” he added. “They have the audacity to rely on electric vehicles to meet a big chunk of their emission targets while cutting all the programs that support electric vehicles.”

“The Auditor General’s Annual Report, released today, confirms that Ontario’s climate change plan falls apart under serious scrutiny,” Toronto-based Environmental Defence said in a release. “The current Ontario government isn’t just dragging their heels when it comes to fighting climate change. They are blocking real action. They fight solutions like carbon pricing in court, quote climate-denying websites, rely on technology that hasn’t been invented yet to reduce emissions, and propose weak plans that let big polluters off the hook. Meanwhile, the impacts of climate change are affecting a growing number of Ontarians.”

Lysyk also scorched Ford’s $4-million propaganda campaign against the federal carbon tax, CBC reports. The government declined to reveal the cost of the program when the ads began airing last spring, ahead of the October 22 federal election, but Lysyk’s review of government advertising unearthed the number.

“A primary objective of this campaign was to foster a negative impression of the federal government and its carbon pricing policy,” she wrote. “It aimed to foster a positive impression of the provincial governing party by saying that Ontario has a ‘better’ plan for the environment.”

Earlier in the week, the NDP took aim at IESO Chair Oliver, after the Star resurrected his bizarre contention earlier this year that Canada will benefit from climate change. “To suggest, somehow, that Canada is going to benefit from global warming is the height of insanity. And it is a very, very dangerous opinion to have,” Horwath said Monday. “If he was being flip, shame on him, because this is nothing to joke about.”

The IESO declined to defend its chair’s position, the Star reported. The agency said it “has no comment on personal views expressed by Mr. Oliver”, adding that “addressing non-traditional threats to grid reliability such as climate change and cyber-attacks is part of the IESO’s corporate strategy to ensure the reliability of Ontario’s electricity system.”

“I spoke out against appointing a climate denier into that position in the first place and now it’s coming back to bite the government,” Schreiner said Tuesday. “It’s unacceptable that we have a minister of energy reading climate denial blogs and appointing somebody to be head regulator of our electricity system who doesn’t seem to believe in climate change either, who even tries to spout rhetoric that climate change can be good for Canada. Tell that to the people who are experiencing floods, fires, ice storms, and other extreme weather events.”

“They’re not serious about climate change,” agreed interim Liberal leader John Fraser. “This is just symptomatic of a larger problem inside the government. I want to see who the next denier is going to be. There’s got to be another one in there.”