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Cap and Trade, Environmental Approvals, Environmental Assessments

Archived Statement

Cap and Trade, Environmental Approvals, Environmental Assessments

Statement from Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

Cap and Trade

"I would like to thank the Auditor General for her report.

We recognize that climate change is an urgent global problem requiring governments around the world to work together in order to solve it. A reduction in greenhouse gas pollution anywhere -- not just locally -- benefits us all. 

As noted by the Auditor General, our decision to eliminate coal plants resulted in a 'significant decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.' Building on that success, we are now taking the next step by adopting a responsible plan that is both affordable for families and businesses and effective at reducing greenhouse gas pollution. Cap and trade -- when combined with additional investments -- is the best approach for achieving both.

To be clear, the main purpose of cap and trade is to fight climate change by guaranteeing overall emissions will go down. Other systems, like a carbon tax, cannot provide that assurance. Our plan goes even further by reinvesting cap and trade proceeds into green projects like transit, electric vehicle incentives and housing retrofits, helping us reduce GHG pollution right here in Ontario.

While the Auditor General is critical of certain aspects of our plan, it's clear that others, including the independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) and expert third-party economic modelling firm EnviroEconomics, know cap and trade is the cheapest, most effective way to reduce emissions here in Ontario. The ECO also notes that, 'linked cap and trade programs can have less price volatility and that linking can be beneficial for smaller jurisdictions like Ontario.' And they both agree the alternatives, like a carbon tax, would be more expensive for families and businesses and not as successful at reducing emissions.

Given the evidence, we are moving ahead with cap and trade because it makes sense for Ontario. While there may be those who would prefer us do nothing, we know that is not an option. That is why it is so important for all jurisdictions, including sub-nationals like Ontario, California and Quebec, to work together in the fight against climate change. We look forward to building on our successes together."

Environmental Approvals

"We are committed to taking steps to better protect and improve our environment. We appreciate the Auditor General's recommendations as we look to strengthen Ontario's Environmental Approvals program.

Overall, the approvals process is already among the most protective in North America and involves strict standards that are updated on a regular basis. Still, the Auditor General rightfully points out that there are circumstances where policies have not necessarily kept pace with the demands of Ontario's growing economy.

While creating jobs and growing the economy is our top priority, we recognize that there must be stronger mechanisms in place for monitoring and enforcing environmental approvals. As discussed with the Auditor General, we will consider expanding the use of our financial assurance approach, ensuring that we have collected amounts that represent true clean-up costs should companies walk away from their environmental responsibilities. While we will continue to focus our compliance efforts on high risk sectors and activities, we will also enhance our public complaints approach to make investigating high risk incidents a priority. We will also be looking at ways to better identify emitters operating without the proper approvals.

Still, Ontarians should be proud of what we have accomplished over the past decade. Since 2000, we have eliminated dirty coal, brought in 68 new or updated air standards, two updates for soil and groundwater standards and are constantly reviewing drinking water standards to reflect the latest science to protect our health and environment. We have also created the world's largest permanent greenbelt, eliminated smog days and are now moving forward with our Climate Change Action Plan. These are all concrete achievements Ontario is widely recognized and applauded for.  

The Auditor General's recommendations will help as we work to improve the Environmental Approvals program. We appreciate her thoughtful advice and look forward to working with her and her team again."

Environmental Assessments

"Ontario was ahead of the curve when we became the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce environmental assessment legislation. While we've long been recognized as a leader, we agree with the Auditor General that improvements are necessary to realign Ontario's environmental assessment program with best practices both in Canada and internationally. We are taking action to make that a reality.

Large, complex projects covered under the legislation and potentially posing the highest environmental risk will continue to undergo rigorous assessments. However, we recognize the scope could be expanded to include any project with the potential for a significant environmental impact. Substantial reforms, such as including private sector projects in the legislation, are under consideration.

Public engagement could also be enhanced. Ontarians deserve to know what is happening in their own backyards and we are looking at ways to improve transparency and help people participate in the process more easily. We will also work with project owners so we can improve access to information.

Since being introduced 40 years ago, environmental assessments have played an essential role in helping balance the different needs of business and the environment. Our economy continues to grow and Ontario's environmental assessments legislation needs to be strengthened to match that growth. We thank the Auditor General for agreeing and look forward to incorporating her thoughtful recommendations into our work."

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