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Fighting Climate Change in Ontario

Archived Backgrounder

Fighting Climate Change in Ontario

Climate change is defined as any significant change in long-term weather patterns. It can apply to any major change in temperature, wind patterns or precipitation that occurs over time.

Global warming describes the recent rise in the average global temperature. Since this rise is caused by increased concentrations of greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere, and since greenhouse gases are largely caused by burning fossil fuels to produce energy, climate scientists have concluded that human activity is largely responsible for recent changes to our climate.

Climate change is already costing the people of Ontario. It has devastated communities, damaged homes, businesses and crops, and increased insurance rates.

Science tells us that greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically reduced to avoid a 2 C rise in average global temperatures. If the world does not take strong action within the next decade, we are on track to see a 4 C rise, at which point the damage from climate change would be irreversible.

It is crucial that we take steps today to fight climate change, protect the environment, build a low-carbon, high-productivity economy and ensure strong communities for the future.

Ontario Climate Change Strategy

Ontario understands that the fight against climate change crosses many sectors and falls under the purview of all ministries. Our climate change strategy will ensure an all-of-government approach so decisions made will take climate change considerations, including adaptation, into account.

Ontario's Climate Strategy outlines a broad vision for how Ontario will achieve its greenhouse gas reduction target of 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 while building a prosperous low-carbon and resilient economy.

This strategy builds on the foundation already established in Ontario to innovate and invest in a high-productivity economy that values our natural capital.

It shifts Ontario to an economy that will better protect our air, land and water and support growth and prosperity, while leaving a legacy of a healthy world for future generations.

A separate five-year action plan to be released in 2016 will include commitments to help meet our 2020 target by supporting emission reductions in Ontario and establishing the necessary framework to meet our 2030 and 2050 targets. These actions will focus on all areas of the economy, including transportation, buildings, industry, energy, waste, agriculture, forestry and government.

Ontario is also committed to introducing climate legislation that, if passed, would establish a long-term framework for action. Legislation provides structure and direction for future policy delivery, and would establish a commitment to act. It will also enshrine in law Ontario's cap and trade program.

Most of Ontario's greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation, industry and buildings sectors.

The strategy commits to developing a co-ordinated approach to reduce emissions from new and existing buildings. A net-zero energy building is a highly energy-efficient residential or commercial building that uses renewable technology to produce as much energy as it consumes.

The strategy will support net-zero buildings across the province through updates to Ontario's Building Code, incentive programs, removal of regulatory barriers, and encouraging the transition to lower carbon fuels and to building materials that store carbon.

A shift to low- and zero-emission vehicles is vital to the fight against climate change, as well as an important opportunity for technological innovation. Our strategy will ensure access to affordable and fast public charging, charging at workplaces, apartments, condominiums and public institutions, a modernized vehicle price incentive, making the green plate program permanent, and reducing emissions through use of automated vehicles.

As well, the strategy will focus on measures that support the use of natural gas and low-carbon fuels in goods movement, and the electrification of goods movement where possible.

The strategy also recognizes the need to plan, prepare and adapt to a changing climate. The strategy will help municipalities, public utilities and the broader public sector identify their vulnerabilities and prioritize their response to the risks posed by climate change. The strategy will help bring together the necessary scientific information, as well as clear land use planning policies to enable decisions and action in areas such as infrastructure, agriculture and natural systems.

Setting emissions reduction targets

Sub-national governments like Ontario are taking the lead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Ontario's Climate Change Strategy outlines a broad vision for how Ontario will achieve its mid-term and long-term greenhouse gas reduction targets while building a prosperous low-carbon economy.

Ontario is the first province to set a mid-term reduction target for greenhouse gas pollution. Our 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target is 37 per cent below 1990 emissions levels.

Since 2003, Ontario's coal closure plan and renewable energy policies have put us on track to eliminate 30 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, the equivalent to taking up to seven million cars off the roads.

Ontario is already more than two-thirds of the way towards achieving its 2020 target.

The initial cap in 2017 for Ontario's proposed cap and trade program would be based on the best estimate of emissions in that year, declining at a rate to help ensure the province achieves its 2020 emissions reduction target.

Cap and Trade

Cap and trade will help Ontario reach its 2020 target to reduce emissions by 15 per cent below 1990 levels. This target puts us on a path to meet our 2030 target of 37 percent below 1990 levels, and our 2050 target of 80 per cent below 1990 levels.

Ontario is currently engaging with the business community, the public, environmental groups, and First Nations among others on putting a price on carbon pollution through a cap and trade program.

The cap and trade program design options have also been posted on the Environmental Registry for a period of 30 days. Posting these materials to the Environmental Registry is another step in the consultative process and is part of the government's promise to Ontarians that consultations related to the system would be conducted in a transparent way.

So what is cap and trade?

The "cap" sets a maximum limit on the amount of greenhouse gas pollution that regulated industries collectively can produce. Every year, the cap is lowered, requiring industry and other greenhouse gas polluters to reduce their emissions.

The "trade" refers to a market where companies can buy or sell allowances, or pay others to reduce on their behalf, in order to comply in the cheapest and most efficient way.

We intend to align our program with existing cap and trade programs in California and Quebec. And we know that the number of jobs in California grew by almost 3.3 per cent in the first year and a half of the program, outstripping the national rate of job creation which was 2.5 per cent over the same period.

Cap and trade creates certainty and predictability, and motivates companies to find new ways to reduce their carbon footprints. It fosters innovation as polluters seek out and invest in new clean technologies, and as researchers, entrepreneurs and start-ups rise to the challenge.

The money raised through cap and trade will be reinvested in a transparent way into programs that further reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help support Ontario households and businesses, which may include public transit, and helping everyone consume less energy by investing in energy retrofits.

Good environmental policy is good economic policy

We know that global markets for clean technology are at $1 trillion and poised to triple this decade. Here in Ontario, we have the fastest growing clean-tech sector in Canada. We are home to 35 per cent of the country's innovative clean-tech companies.

That's a total of 3,000 companies employing 65,000 people and generating annual revenues of more than $8 billion. Through smart investments and actions, Ontario has an exciting opportunity to take advantage of the trillions in economic benefits that this new global low-carbon economy will offer.

Reducing our use of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, will create jobs now and form a central pillar of our prosperity in the coming years.

The solution to climate change is here. It is in the individuals, cities and towns, businesses, and First Nations and Métis communities of Ontario. The cost of doing nothing to fight climate change far outweighs the cost of solving the problem. Ontario is prepared to change and move forward because our future depends on the choices we make today.

We have the ideas, the determination and the energy to lead the global drive to reduce emissions, and to make the transformational changes that must be made if we are to ensure a better future for our children, and our grandchildren.

We must do it. We can do it. And we will do it, together.

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