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Analysis: Ontario Sabotages Ottawa’s 2030 Emissions Plan

One of the biggest gaps in the federal government’s long-awaited Emissions Reduction Plan (ERP) is a reality the Trudeau government has no ability to control: its ability to deliver as promised depends on a provincial government in Ontario that has no intention of playing its part.

The plan, released March 29, was big enough news to break through the week’s reporting of Russian war atrocities. It purports to put Canada on track to a 40% reduction in planet-killing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The plan met with mixed reviews: Praised for its transparency and the level of detail in its accounting, criticized by the oil and gas industry as too ambitious and by climate activists as woefully inadequate. But little has been said about the role the Ontario government is playing.

The province is one of the two elephants in the room. The other is Alberta.

The problem is this. While the federal government has chosen the low end of its legally-binding 2030 emissions reduction target, even that scaled-back ambition will fail because of Premier Doug Ford’s obstruction.

It may have been inevitable in Canada’s federal-provincial system, but the plan hands Ontario the role of climate spoiler. Ford’s refusal to act on the climate emergency will put the brakes on whatever limited climate momentum there is in Ottawa. The evidence is buried in the fine print and the appendices of the ERP, in particular Annex 5 and the short section on Ontario.

The Annex notes that: “All provinces and sectors contribute to achieving the emissions reductions underlying the Emissions Reduction Plan.” The assumption behind the plan is that Ontario’s contribution will be very significant, almost a third of all the anticipated reduction from Canada’s provinces and territories. And the largest reduction of any province or territory.

According to the Emissions Reduction Plan, Ontario is projected to reduce its emissions by 36% between 2005 and 2030, even though the Ontario government has only committed to reducing emissions by 30%. When it comes to climate ambition, that is a huge gap.

The report also assumes that between 2019, a year after Ford was elected, and 2030, Ontario will reduce emissions by 31 Mt. Here again, there is a huge discrepancy.

That’s because Ford’s Ontario has no plans to reduce emissions by that amount. It has no intention of even trying. The Ford government’s climate plan, at its most ambitious, targeted only 17.6 Mt of GHG emissions for elimination by 2030. And there is overwhelming evidence the government isn’t making the effort to achieve that small amount.

In 2019, Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk published a comprehensive review of the Ontario government’s climate plan. The AG concluded the Ford government’s plan was not “supported by sound evidence”. In a November, 2021 follow-up report, she repeated the conclusion.

The evidence in the Auditor General’s reports is clear: On the basis of current plans, the Ford government will not reach its 2030 targets. In fact, in a startling revelation, the AG concluded that there were “committed policies” in place to eliminate only 3.4 Mt of emissions.

So Ontario is only on track to achieve about 11% of what is expected of it in Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plan. The federal government, it seems, has simply ignored that inconvenient truth.

As part of the ERP, every province and territory provided a short description of its climate commitments and plans to achieve emission targets. The section on Ontario is sober reading. Unlike other provinces’ reports (such as British Columbia and Quebec) no emission reduction targets are identified. There are no concrete plans. There are no commitments to clean, renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. There is no mention of all the things we know need to get done.

Instead, there are hugely expensive commitments to a series of bad energy choices, such as C$26 billion to refurbish old nuclear plants, billions more on wrongheaded, new small modular nuclear reactors, and more again for problematic carbon storage and for the dirty (blue) version of hydrogen. There is also a whole lot of blather about “meaningful reductions” and “cooperation” with the federal government and hopes for a far-off future.

The section ends with this: “Ontario is prepared to achieve further emissions reductions contingent on increased federal support for provincial priorities.”

The Ontario section of the EPR makes it is clear that the Ford government has no real climate plan, no emission reduction strategy, and no intention to meaningfully reduce GHG emissions by 2030. And yet, according to the federal government’s calculations, Ontario needs to reduce its emissions by a significant amount for Canada to achieve its target. We are in trouble.

The government of Doug Ford is already derailing the federal government’s Emission Reduction Plan. We had better do something about that.

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Analysis: Ontario Sabotages Ottawa’s 2030 Emissions Plan"

#1 Comment By Angela Bischoff On April 11, 2022 @ 3:27 PM

Further evidence that the Ford gov’t has no intention of meeting their modest climate targets — they’re ramping UP gas power 375% by 2030, and more than 600% by 2040! — despite the fact that we have substantially lower cost options to meeting our electricity needs including wind, solar, conservation, and water power and storage imports from Quebec. https://www.cleanairalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Zero-Emissions-Report-2022-feb-25-v_02.pdf

#2 Comment By Neil Alexander On April 11, 2022 @ 3:37 PM

The author makes great store of the AGs report but then says “Instead, there are hugely expensive commitments to a series of bad energy choices, such as C$26 billion to refurbish old nuclear plants” ignoring the fact that the AG clearly stated that these emissions free projects were indeed the best value for Ontarians.

If they are the best value and undoubtedly reduce emissions when compared with any other possible generation technology how can they be a bad energy choice?

#3 Comment By David Robertson On April 11, 2022 @ 10:02 PM

In the Auditor General’s review of the Ford government’s climate nothing was said about nuclear refurbishments but the AG did point out that none of the initiatives on Small Modular Reactors (SMR), would be online soon enough to make any contribution to the 2030 emissions reduction target. Earlier (2018 value-for-money audit) the AG did undertake a review of the Darlington refurbishment project. The final conclusion in the review is this: “Given the complexity of the project and risks associated with work not yet done, uncertainty still remains as to whether the Project will be completed on time and on budget.” Huge cost overruns and missed deadlines are a perennial problem for the nuclear industry. The fact remains that nuclear power is an overly expensive energy option whose costs have now been buried in our tax bills. As electricity consumers we pay through our hydro bills and then we pay billions more in our taxes. The recent IPCC report makes it clear that there are far cheaper energy options available, especially with the dramatic reductions in the costs of clean, renewable energy such as solar and wind.
David Robertson

#4 Comment By Angela Bischoff On April 14, 2022 @ 1:41 PM

Check out the prices for new and rebuilt nuclear compared with new renewable wind/water/solar/conservation: https://www.cleanairalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/options2022.pdf Clearly not the best value for Ontarians. Not to mention the pesky problems of long-lived nuke waste, weapons proliferation concerns, accidents and routine emissions.