The Doug Ford government set out a new carbon reduction target for Ontario that is 30 million tonnes less stringent than the one it replaces, with yesterday’s release of a climate plan that critics say is short on detail and only commits to an 8% emissions cut over the next 12 years—the time span still available for humanity to set plans in motion to limit average global warming to 1.5°C.
In an announcement in Nobleton, north of Toronto, Environment Minister Rod Phillips said the province had already cut carbon pollution by 22%, and the remaining commitment was consistent with the federal government’s Harper-era target of a 30% emission reduction by 2030. That left Phillips and Ford leaning heavily on the greenhouse gas reduction record of a previous government whose climate and energy programs they’ve spent the last several months working to dismantle.
“A major plank of the new plan is the Ontario Carbon Trust, to which the Ontario government will commit some C$400 million over four years, to work with the private sector on developing clean technologies to reduce emissions,” CBC reports. “The trust includes a $50-million ‘reverse auction,’ which will allow businesses to send in proposals for emission reduction projects and bid on government contracts that will be awarded based on the lowest-cost reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
Phillips said he hoped that plan would unlock more than $1 billion in private investment in emission cuts.
“Other features of the plan include measures to ensure ‘transparent, real-time’ monitoring of waste and stormwater in provincial waterways, conserving land and green space, and reducing litter in the province’s communities,” CBC adds. The province will also assess the impacts of climate change on businesses, families, and communities and open consultations on performance standards for large emitters.
“We need a climate plan, not a litter-reduction plan,” responded Green Party leader Mike Schreiner. “This is not a climate plan.”
“Unfortunately, Ontario wants to go back in time,” said federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. “I think Canadians understand that it shouldn’t be free to pollute.”
CBC notes that Phillips’ “made-in-Ontario” plan borrows heavily from a discredited strategy in Australia that has failed to deliver emission reductions.
“What is being promised here is a major retreat from what was being done to fight climate change in Ontario and isn’t even a shadow of what scientists and doctors say is necessary,” said Greenpeace Canada Senior Energy Strategist Keith Stewart. “Doug Ford may want to sit out the fight against climate change in the hope that someone else does Ontario’s share, but that means we miss out on the jobs, like building electric vehicles, that come with the new green economy, while increasing our vulnerability to extreme weather, wildfires, and other symptoms of an increasingly chaotic climate.”
“While it is good to see the Ford government studying the impacts of climate change in Ontario and beginning to follow through on a promise to put its own plan in place after eliminating the province’s existing climate programs, the good news stops there,” said Climate Action Network-Canada Executive Director Catherine Abreu. “With today’s announcement, the Ford government has lowered the ambition of its 2030 emissions reduction targets by 30 MT. This increase is greater than the emissions reductions Ontario experienced by shuttering all its coal plants in 2014. Ontario’s diminished goal opens a gaping hole in Canada’s work to address the climate crisis.”
Abreu added that, “with scant details and no binding commitments to achieve the levels of climate action science demands, most details of the plan have yet to be developed. Phillips has committed to collaborate and consult with stakeholders, including industries to be regulated, in developing new emissions compliance standards on no fixed timeline, while promising exceptions to protect economic competitiveness.”
“The Province of Ontario’s newly-announced climate plan moves Ontario—and municipalities like Ottawa—backward, at a time when world bodies are issuing dire warnings about the urgent need for ambitious climate action,” added Ecology Ottawa Executive Director Robb Barnes. “The province’s new plan endangers halting climate progress made by Ontario cities in two ways. First, it starves them of funding for climate change solutions such as transit and building retrofits. Second, it threatens municipal climate plans that rely on price signals from carbon pricing in order to succeed.”
“This so-called plan is taking us backwards—not forward,” said ClimateFast Co-Chair Lyn Adamson. “It is abandoning those who are young now to a future of climate destabilization and unnecessary suffering. We can and must do better than this.”
But at least a couple of industry voices declared themselves satisfied with the Ontario plan.
“The Canadian solar industry welcomes the Government of Ontario’s clear endorsement of solar energy technology in the made-in-Ontario environment plan, as one of our solutions to mitigating and adapting to climate change,” said Canadian Solar Industries Association President and CEO John Gorman.
“We look forward to working with the Ontario government to provide consumers with the widest range of vehicles, with the most advanced emissions reduction technologies, at the lowest possible prices,” added Global Automakers of Canada President and CEO David Adams, whose industry faces its own challenges in the accelerating post-carbon transition.