Less than two months shy of the next provincial election, the Doug Ford government has quietly watered down the climate plan it announced with great fanfare in 2018, while claiming it’s still on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.
The province’s revised plan to meet a now out-of-date federal emissions reduction target has a veteran climate analyst accusing Ford’s Conservative government of taking credit for past governments’ work and relying on carbon cuts driven by federal regulations, or paid for in part with federal funds.
“The Ford government is basically coasting on previous actions taken by Ontario governments and current actions being taken by the federal government,” said Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart. “Ontario seems to be saying, ‘We will do whatever the federal government either makes us do or pays for, and nothing more.’ And that is not nearly good enough in the face of a climate crisis.”
Phillip Robinson, press secretary to Environment Minister David Piccini, told CBC the province will hit the 30% target “while ensuring that our approach is flexible to the opportunities, needs, and circumstances facing job creators and not harmful to Ontario’s economic growth.” Stewart said the plan “is about meeting federal requirements, not addressing the climate crisis, because the Ford government doesn’t recognize it as a crisis.”
“The new plan does not include any reductions from greater uptake of electric vehicles, which accounted for nearly 15% of the projected cuts to CO2 emissions in the government’s 2018 plan,” the news story states. “Also missing from the new forecast: any mention of the Ontario Carbon Trust,” a $400-million initiative the government had cited as a major emissions reduction opportunity.
Emissions cuts due to natural gas conservation are down from 2.3 million tonnes in the 2018 plan to just 30,000 tonnes in the revision, CBC says.
“The province remains steadfast in its commitment to meet the 2030 emissions reduction target and is confident in the plan and trajectory to get there,” the new plan states, after achieving “greater reductions of greenhouse gas emissions than any other province or territory in Canada.”
But “those reductions came about almost entirely through initiatives from previous Liberal governments—most notably ending Ontario’s use of coal-fired electricity generation,” CBC writes. “By the time the Ford government came to power in 2018, the province was already two-thirds of the way toward meeting that 2030 target.”
That leaves the current plan with 12 megatonnes to cut by 2030—and, presumably, a lot of scope to set a more ambitious target if Ford and his cabinet were so inclined. CBC says the reductions are expected to come from three major sources: more renewable content in gasoline, tougher emission standards for heavy industry, and a shift off coal-fired steel production that is also receiving major funding from the federal government.
Dianne Saxe, the former provincial environment commissioner now serving as deputy leader of the Ontario Green Party, said the new plan has no credibility.
“It hides even more details than the groundless numbers in the last Ford forecast,” she said in a release. “Doug Ford is doing nothing on the climate emergency,” and “to do nothing on the greatest issue of our time is an insult to our children and future generations.”