Ontario Taking a Leading Role in Provincial Climate Policy Initiatives

“Ontario: Tired of Waiting”, in Corporate Knights magazine summarizes the recent climate initiatives of Premier Kathleen Wynne. Most notably, Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and  California issued a Joint Statement on Climate Change at the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Lima on December 9, 2014 (Joint Statement on Climate Change French version) which pledges to “collaborate on mid-term greenhouse gas emissions reductions to maintain momentum toward 2050 targets. This commitment reflects…a collective will to take action and establish these targets prior to the 2015 Conference of the Parties”.
On December 10, Ontario announced it would host a pan-American dialogue on long-term climate action at a 2015 Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto, from July 7-9, 2015. This gathering is likely to be the venue to launch Ontario`s carbon pricing plan, pledged on January 14th; read “Ontario to move forward with carbon-pricing plan this spring” from the Globe and Mail.

Superlatives for the U.S.-China Agreement on Climate Change, and what it Means for Canada

Media superlatives signal the importance of the surprising climate change announcement by the U.S. and China on November 11. President Obama pledged that the U.S. will emit 26 to 28 percent less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005, and will double the pace of reduction it had previously targeted for the period from 2005 to 2020. China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to reach peak carbon emissions by 2030, if not sooner, and that clean energy sources would account for 20 percent of China’s total energy production by 2030.

See the White House press release and the White House Fact Sheet. For a summary of U.S. reactions, see the Blue Green Alliance at “What Leaders are Saying about the Historic Agreement”.

What is the impact in Canada? A Globe and Mail article stated that the agreement would put pressure on Prime Minister Harper to act on climate change, yet columnist Jeffrey Simpson wrote, “Leadership means a willingness to spend political capital on an issue, and in Canada’s case, there is no such leadership at the top. That this absence would suddenly shift as a result of a China-U.S. understanding is improbable in the extreme”.

Alberta’s new premier Jim Prentice announced that the province will “stiffen” its regulations for fossil fuel extraction. “It’s the desire of Alberta to be participatory in any sort of international agreement that we can arrive at, modeled on what the United States and China have been able to achieve”. When the U.S. – China agreement was announced, Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne, accompanied by green business leaders, had just returned from a trade mission to China.

According to the University of Victoria PICS Newscan, Guelph’s Canadian Solar Solutions signed a $70-million deal to build solar energy plants in China, and China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group signed an agreement for future collaboration.  

Provincial Updates, including the Premiers Agreement on a National Energy Plan

As the annual Premiers conference ended on August 29, Canada’s premiers announced a reinvigorated Canadian Energy Strategy (CES), a shared vision and set of principles emphasizing environmental responsibility, a diversified, climate-friendly energy and clean technology sector, and a robust, lower-carbon economy utilizing carbon pricing.

A driving force at the Premiers Conference may have come from Ontario Premiers Kathleen Wynne and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who had agreed to revive the Ontario-Québec partnership at a bilateral meeting one week earlier. The central Canadian bloc will increase economic and energy integration between the provinces and advocate for national progress on climate change.

Reaction to the Energy Strategy announcement from Keith Stewart of Greenpeace provides historical context to the Premiers’ meetings, and laments the failure of the federal government to contribute meaningfully to the development of a coherent, effective national approach.

Yet Canadian provinces have made uneven progress on their climate action plans, according to monitoring reports released over the summer. In Alberta, the Auditor General’s report stated that the province lacked a plan to meet its goals. British Columbia has achieved its first interim target of a 6% emissions reduction below 2007 levels by 2012, largely due to government policies, including its well-regarded carbon tax. The Ontario Environment Commissioner reported that Ontario will meet its 2014 target (a 6% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels) largely because of the shutdown of the province’s coal plants, but it will miss the 2020 target because so little else has been done. In New Brunswick, the Climate Action Plan 2014-2020 document reports that New Brunswick’s GHG emissions declined by 17 per cent between 2005 and 2010, thus meeting its goals for 2012. A new plan establishes provincial GHG emissions reduction targets of 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75 to 85 per cent below 2001 levels by 2050.

The Canadian Energy Strategy and premiers’ news release are available at:

The Ontario news release on partnering with Québec is available at: http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2014/08/quebec-and-ontario-partner-to-strengthen-central-canadas-economy.html?utm_source=ondemand-multimedia&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=p

 Comments from Keith Stewart of Greenpeace are available at: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/provinces-leave-harper-increasingly-alone/blog/50444/

  A Letter to the Ottawa Citizen by Mark Winfield and Pierre Olivier Pineau provides insight into  Ontario’s and Quebec’s  electricity markets at: http://marksw.blog.yorku.ca/2014/06/11/ontario-quebec-electricity-and-climate-change-time-for-a-new-relationship/

 For a summary of the energy-related policies in Ontario’s July 2014 Budget statement, including the Industrial Electricity Incentive program to promote job creation, see the Gowlings Newsletter at: http://www.gowlings.com/KnowledgeCentre/article.asp?pubID=3675

Alberta Auditor General’s report is at: http://www.oag.ab.ca/webfiles/reports/AGJuly2014Report.pdf, with a Pembina Institute analysis at: http://www.pembina.org/blog/auditor-generals-scathing-review-ups-pressure-to-improve-albertas-weak-climate-policy

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner’s report, Looking for Leadership: the Costs of Climate Inaction is at: http://www.eco.on.ca/index.php/en_US/pubs/greenhouse-gas-reports/2014-ghg-looking-for-leadership

  In British Columbia, Climate Action in British Columbia Progress Report 2014 is at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/cas/pdfs/2014-Progress-to-Targets.pdf.

The Pembina reaction to the report is generally positive at: http://www.pembina.org/blog/bc-climate-action-plan-2

Ontario Electors Return a Liberal Government, Avoid Conservative Cuts to Green Energy

The Green Prosperity Scorecard at http://www.greenprosperity.ca/scorecard/ compared the environmental policies of the four political parties contesting the Ontario election of June 12. Professor Mark Winfield of York University also highlighted the positions in his OpEd at http://marksw.blog.yorku.ca/2014/05/26/ontarios-not-so-green-election/ . “There is…almost across-the-board silence on basic environmental issues like air and water quality, waste management, the protection of biological diversity, parks and protected areas, and endangered species.” After the success of the Liberal party and Premier Kathleen Wynne, Professor Winfield wrote: “Wynne’s party owes a great deal of its success last night to younger and progressive voters in towns and cities, for whom urban, energy and environmental issues are of central importance. With the threat of a PC government removed, these voters, and the province’s organized environmental movement, can afford to push the Liberals much harder in these areas than they have over the past few years.”

See http://marksw.blog.yorku.ca/2014/06/13/the-2014-ontario-election-outcome-the-electoral-politics-of-economic-transitions/ . Specifically, Environmental Defence reacted with the statement: “Most immediately, we look forward to the reintroduction of the Great Lakes Protection Act, the Protection of Public Participation Act, and the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act.” See http://environmentaldefence.ca/articles/statement-tim-gray-environmental-defence%E2%80%99s-executive-director-kathleen-wynne%E2%80%99s-election-pre .