New Ontario Environment Plan steps backwards on emission reduction ambitions

On November 29, the Ontario government of Doug Ford released its promised climate change proposals in a new report, called Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan. The government will  continue consultation, with public submissions accepted here until January 28 2019,  and  pledges to establish an Advisory Panel on Climate Change.  The major focus of the plan is to establish a Carbon Trust of $400 million over four years, which includes a $50 million ‘reverse auction,’ through which the government will fund private sector clean technology proposals.  It commits to an 8% emissions reduction over the next 12 years, a much less ambitious target than that of the previous Liberal government.  Reaction has been almost universally negative, as compiled by Climate Action Network Canada and by the CBC in “Ontario Climate change plan includes fund to help big polluters reduce emissions”  (Nov. 29) .  The Ecofiscal Commission offers a detailed critique and assessment in “Up in the Air” ;  the Pembina Institute  states  “The plan weakens Ontario’s carbon pollution reduction targets by 27 per cent…. The plan released today contains mainly aspirational statements and plans to make plans.”

Green party 2018 leaping into the futureThe Ontario Green Party calls the Ford government plan a Litter Reduction Plan, not a climate plan . The Green Party’s own Climate Plan, Leaping into the future: A comprehensive strategy for reducing Ontario’s emissions, was released on November 15, and sets a  100% carbon neutral by 2050 target, and a return to carbon pricing.

 

Highlights of Climate and Energy Policy Changes from Summer 2015:

Alberta: The Climate Change Advisory Panel was appointed and a consultation process begun, based on the Climate Leadership Discussion Document . The Pembina Institute issued a backgrounder, Opportunities to Improve Alberta’s climate strategy (Aug. 21)   and convened a Alberta Climate Summit on September 9  including a variety of stakeholders.

In late summer, a Royalty Review Advisory Panel was appointed to examine and lead public discussion concerning royalties for crude oil and liquids, natural gas, and oil sands.

British Columbia: A review of the Climate Leadership Plan began in July, with the release of a Discussion Paper. In December 2015, a draft Plan will be released for public comment, with a final Climate Leadership Plan promised for Spring 2016. Also in July, a consultation period began re proposed regulations under the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act , expected to come into force in Fall 2015.

In a special session of the Legislature in July, the B.C. government passed controversial legislation which sets the terms for the $36 billion Pacific Northwest LNG project at Lelu Island.

British Columbia, as a member of the Pacific Coast Collaborative (PCC), joined with California, Oregon, and Washington, to launch the West Coast Electric Fleets initiative , “a toolkit for public and private fleet managers to quickly assess opportunities for ZEVs and access useful incentives and resources to assist with procurement.”

Nova Scotia and British Columbia signed a Memorandum of Understanding on July 21, pledging to share research and technology related to tidal energy.

Nova Scotia discontinued its Community Feed-in Tariff (COMFIT) program for local renewable projects on August 6. A DeSmog blog article provides background and details.   The government promises a new electricity policy, including for renewables, in Fall 2015.

 

Ontario: In July, Ontario and Quebec jointly hosted the Climate Summit of the Americas, which resulted in the signing of a Climate Action Statement    by Ontario and 22 other states and regions.

Feeling the Heat: Greenhouse Gas Progress Report 2015  was released by the Acting Environmental Commissioner on July 7, stating that, although Ontario met its GHG reduction targets for 2014, it is unlikely to achieve its 2020 targets with the current policies in place.

Ontario Climate Change Lab: Solutions for   Ontario’s Climate Challenge  reports on a one-day multi-stakeholder workshop that produced a series of actionable recommendations for the provincial government to include in its climate change strategy.

Quebec: On September 11, Quebec and Ontario signed Memoranda of Agreement regarding increased trade in electricty, and collaboration on the cap and trade system currently under development in Ontario. They also committed to attend COP21 in Paris, to which end, the government of Quebec, on September 17, proposed Canada’s most ambitious target for greenhouse gas emissions reduction – 37.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030. The proposal follows the recommendations of the Climate Change Advisory panel , tabled in the Legislatureon the 17th. (in French only).

In August, Quebec, California, and The Netherlands announced the launch of the International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) to accelerate global adoption of electric vehicles. The press release states that the number of ZEVs registered in Quebec has increased by 134 percent over the last 16 months, thanks largely to government incentives and a well-developed public charging infrastructure.

Atlantic Provinces and U.S. Governors : Adopted a regional target of shrinking carbon pollution by 35% – 45% below 1990 levels by 2030  at the 39th annual meeting of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers (NEG/ECP).

And around the World:

Australia:  Bipartisan agreement brought about the new Renewable Energy Target legislation  on June 23, after an 18 month review. A new GHG reduction target of 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 was announced on August 11, and is included in the Australian government INDC submission to the UNFCC in advance of the Paris climate talks.  The New Scientist  compares this to the U.S. pledge of 41 per cent by 2030, and the UK by 48 per cent (converting to Australia’s 2005 baseline year).  The  Climate Action Tracker website analyses the goals  and ranks them “inadequate”.

At the end of June, the Australian Climate Roundtable  was formed through the alliance of major Australian business, union, research, environment, investor and social groups, including the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, The Climate Institute, the Energy Supply Association of Australia, the Investor Group on Climate Change and WWF Australia.

On September 14th came the stunning news that Tony Abbott had been replaced as Prime Minister by Malcolm Turnbull. However,  the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on September 15 that Turnbull has signaled no change to Australia’s climate policies.

China :   China submitted its climate action plan to the UNFCC on June 30,   vowing to peak its emissions by 2030 at the latest, to cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP to 60-65 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, to increase renewable and nuclear power to 20 percent of the country’s energy portfolio, and to increase its forest cover by 4.5 billion cubic meters from 2005 levels by 2030.

European Union:  The EU restructured its Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) as part of the renewal of its Energy Union Strategy .The European Commission announced changes to the Emission Trading Scheme on July 15 . Under the new plan, only 50 economic sectors (including heavy industries such as steel and cement manufacturing) will receive free allowances, down from the current 177.

France: The Energy Transition for Green Growth legislation was approved on July 22, with far-reaching provisions: a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% between 1990 and 2030 ; to halve the country’s energy usage by 2050, with a reduced share of fossil fuels in energy production, a cap on nuclear power at 63.2 gigawatts and a goal of 32% of energy production from renewables , and a four-fold increase of the carbon tax on fossil fuel use, to €56 per ton in 2020 and €100 in 2030.

The Netherlands: On Sept. 1, the Dutch government announced it will appeal the Courts’ June decision in the landmark Urgenda case.

United Kingdom:  The U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change announced surprising cuts to its renewable energy programs, including solar PV, biomass conversion, and a consultation re changes to the Feed-in-tariff program. Cuts to subsidies to off-shore wind farms had been announced in June  . As a result, “UK drops out of top 10 renewable energy ranking for first time”  according to the latest quarterly report of EY consultants on September 16. Meanwhile, fracking    continues to gain government favour in the U.K., with the third of a series of task force reports released on September 17. And on September 17, the U.K. government announced that Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed a former consultant to major oil and gas companies as his key adviser on energy and environment policy heading into the U.N. Paris climate talks.

This, in spite of the fact that 24 of Britain’s learned scientific societies issued a joint communique on July 23, urging the British government to curb greenhouse gas emissions through drastic reductions in the burning of fossil fuels, and a shift towards energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Two substantial reports on climate change risks and policy were tabled in the House of Commons over the summer: Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change: 2015 Progress Report to Parliament   (June 30)  ; and Climate Change: A Risk Assessment .

Two out of Three – U.S., Mexico Submit their INDC Targets – but Not Canada

March 31st was the deadline set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for each nation to submit a statement of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to greenhouse gas emission reduction, as a precursor to the climate discussions in Paris in December. The United States set an ambitious economy-wide target to reduce emissions by up to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. Read the White House Fact Sheet: U.S. Reports its 2025 Emissions Target to the UNFCCC.

Reductions will be accomplished primarily through fuel economy standards, energy efficiency for buildings, limiting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and reducing emissions from existing power plants. The statement by Mexico was the first by a developing country, and pledges a 22 per cent reduction of GHG emissions and 51 per cent cut in black carbon emissions by 2030. Prime Minister Harper promised our INDC submission by May, and lowered expectations, according to a Globe and Mail article (April 23) “Harper suggests Canada likely won’t match U.S. emissions targets”. All INDC submissions are cumulated at the UNFCC website.

 In addition, the U.S. and Mexico issued a joint statement which states, “The two countries will launch a new high-level bilateral clean energy and climate policy task force to further deepen policy and regulatory coordination in specific areas including clean electricity, grid modernization, appliance standards, and energy efficiency, as well as promoting more fuel efficient automobile fleets in both countries, global and regional climate modeling, weather forecasting and early alerts system”. Two countries – not including Canada. 

Climate Action Policy Prescriptions for Canada

Two sets of recommendations were recently released: on March 18, by a new academic collaboration, Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD); and on March 19, in the Alternative Budget published annually by the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis. The Sustainable Canada Dialogues document, Acting on Climate Change: Solutions from Canadian Scholars, and a french-language version,  Agir sur les changements climatiques, are characterized  as “a scholarly consensus on science-based, viable solutions for greenhouse gas reduction”.

Sixty academics from across Canada combined to urge policymakers to adopt a long-term target of at least an 80% reduction in emissions by mid-century. “In the short-term, we believe that Canada, in keeping with its historical position of aligning with US targets, could adopt a 2025 target of a 26-28% reduction in GHG emissions relative to our 2005 levels”. Policy recommendations include, most immediately: Either a national carbon tax or a national economy-wide cap and trade program; elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; and integration of sustainability and climate change into landscape planning at the regional and city levels so that maintenance and new infrastructure investments contribute to decarbonizing.

The paper also advocates establishment of East-West smart grid connections to allow hydro-producing provinces to  sell electricity to their neighbours; energy efficiency programs, and a “transportation revolution”. The Acting on Climate Change document will be followed by a special issue of Alternatives Journal magazine, to be released on March 27, to include more detailed articles by 20 of the SCD participant authors. Sustainable Canada Dialogues, launched in September 2014, is partnered with three institutions in Panama, and “proposes to advance sustainability education, research and social dialogues in Panama and in Canada”.

The second statement of recommended climate policies appears in the CCPA Alternative Budget for 2015, Delivering the Good. The Alternative Budget, like the government budget statement that it shadows, covers the full range of economic and social issues facing Canada. It also includes a section on the Environment and Climate Change, which states: “The best current budget opportunities include implementing a price on greenhouse gas emissions through a carbon tax; not subsidizing liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydraulic fracturing (fracking); protecting Canada’s public lands and species at risk; and supporting power storage through accelerated expense write-offs, electric vehicles through fast-charging recharging stations in high-demand areas, and public transit and energy efficiency home retrofits”. A National Harmonized Carbon Tax should be implemented immediately, at $30 a tonne (the current level in British Columbia), increasing to $200 a tonne by 2020. More than half of the HCT revenues should be used to provide a Green Tax benefit for individuals and the remainder transferred to the provinces to fund “climate change abatement measures”. It is estimated that the carbon tax would generate annual revenue of $16 billion, with the Green Tax Refund incurring a net annual cost of $8.8 billion (p. 28).   Is the time finally right for serious consideration of Canada’s climate change policies? As Environmental Defense reported on March 9, NDP, Liberals and Greens agree on an Approach to Assess Carbon Pollution Reduction. Calling it “a step in the right direction”, the blog describes the February 19 debate in the House of Commons around Bill C-619, the Climate Change Accountability Act, a private members bill introduced by NDP Matt Kellway in June 2014. NDP, Liberals and Greens are now on record as supporting the Bill’s accountability measures and the target of  domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions to at least 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050.

New GHG Emission Reduction Targets for the U.S. Federal Government

The Federal government of the U.S. operates 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles, and spends $445 billion annually on goods and services, making it the largest consumer of energy in the country. To reduce GHG emissions, an Executive Order by President Obama on March 19 mandates that Federal buildings reduce total energy use by 2.5% per year between 2015 to 2025, and increase the proportion of clean energy to 25% by 2025. Water intensity in Federal buildings will also be cut by 2 percent per year till 2025. Regarding the fleet of 650,000 vehicles, the Order establishes a goal of 30% reduction of GHG’s from 2014 levels by 2025. A White House Fact Sheet, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Federal Government and Across the Supply Chain (March 19) provides more details, and summarizes the emissions reductions commitments made by major suppliers in the federal government supply chain. Those suppliers include such giants as IBM, HP, AECOMM, Northrup Grumman, and United Technologies.