Ontario government reveals climate plan, vows to meet Paris Agreement goals


NOBLETON, Ont. — Ontario’s much-anticipated climate-change plan commits to meeting Paris Agreement targets by 2030 through a range of measures that include establishing a fund to spur private investment in clean technologies and imposing performance standards on large emitters.

The Progressive Conservative government’s plan, unveiled by Environment Minister Rod Phillips on Thursday, will see the province spend $400 million over four years on the taxpayer-funded Ontario Carbon Trust to partner with the private sector on green technologies.

It will also consult with industry members to develop performance standards for large emitters.

“It’s a plan that makes a clean break from the status quo, and it’s a plan that balances a health environment and a healthy economy,” Phillips said. “Our plan will encourage individuals, families and businesses to take greater ownership of our shared environment while we work toward those shared objectives.”

Phillips emphasized that the plan — which replaces the previous Liberal regime’s cap-and-trade system —  does not impose a price on carbon. The Tories said repeatedly during the spring election campaign that a carbon pricing system, which is a federal requirement, makes life unaffordable for families.

The Ontario Carbon Trust will include a $50 million “reverse auction” that encourages businesses to bid on government contracts awarded based on the lowest cost per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Carbon Trust appears to be a model similar to Australia’s Emissions Reduction Fund to address climate change. That system provides taxpayer-funded incentives to businesses, farmers and land holders to adopt environmentally friendly practices and technologies, but critics say it has allowed emissions to rise.

The climate plan will also establish an independent board to work with the private sector to identify projects that will reduce emissions.

The province also plans to encourage greater use of electric vehicles, compressed natural gas in trucking and increased levels of ethanol in gasoline.

It will also undertake an assessment of climate change’s impacts on Ontario.

Under the Paris Agreement, targets were set to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. For Ontario, that would mean a reduction in emissions from 161 megatonnes to 143 megatonnes by 2030.

Phillips said Ontario is eight per cent away from meeting that target.

“The plan we have presented today, is a sensible, achievable approach to do that,” he said.

The Paris Agreement commits to keeping the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celcius.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press