Hop on your bike, mount some solar panels on your roof, take a deep breath of (cleaner) air, and get ready for bold climate action in Ontario.

Photo credit: Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

 

The Climate Change Action Plan that Ontario released this morning is a comprehensive package to invest the money from cap-and-trade – a projected $1.9 billion in its first year – into measures that cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the economy, from transportation, buildings, industry, electricity, agriculture and waste.

The 85-page action plan contains 28 key measures to encourage municipalities, businesses, industries, households and citizens to reduce their carbon footprint while cleaning the air, building smarter cities, and creating new jobs and opportunities in the low-carbon economy.

Last month, Ontario passed legislation to put a price on carbon pollution. Bill 172, the Climate Change Mitigation and Low Carbon Economy Act, enshrines the province’s emissions reduction targets and cap-and-trade program in law, requires the government to create 5-year climate change action plans, and commits cap-and-trade revenues to be reinvested in projects and policies to further reduce GHG emissions.

The Climate Change Action Plan is the first of the 5-year blueprints required by Bill 172, covering the years 2016-2020. It puts Ontario on a pathway toward a low-carbon, clean economy.

Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan has something for everyone—cyclists, drivers and transit users; homeowners, renters, and building owners; farmers, First Nations, and urbanites; and businesses, communities and large industrial employers. The action plan lays out a pathway to cut carbon pollution, while citizens, businesses and communities share in the benefits of building a low-carbon economy, including cleaner air, better personal and public health, and new jobs and business opportunities.

For example, Ontario will require all new homes to be net zero carbon by 2030, with homeowners and builders having the flexibility to find carbon reductions through a range of technologies and building methods, such as geothermal heating, solar power, high-efficiency furnaces, boilers, insulation, high-tech thermostats and green building design.

For existing homes, the plan includes at least $500 million for energy efficiency retrofits that will allow homeowners to make their houses more comfortable and efficient. The province will introduce and pay for universal home energy labelling, allowing consumers to know the energy efficiency of a home that is listed for sale. And $900 million will be invested to retrofit social housing and residential apartment buildings through energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to help residents lower their energy costs while creating local jobs.

In the transportation sector, which is responsible for emitting the most GHGs in Ontario, the action plan will help get people out of their cars and on to a train or bike. Ontario will electrify the GO regional rail network and increase service, while about $200 million will flow to municipalities to build cycling infrastructure. A Global Centre for Low Carbon Mobility will be established to promote research and development of greener transportation. The province will also introduce programs to encourage truckers to switch to lower-carbon fuels and build a provincial network of natural gas fuelling stations to replace high-carbon diesel.

For those people who drive, the plan endeavours to get more electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by: offering rebates for electric cars and home charging stations; building a network of public charging stations; allowing free electricity for overnight vehicle charging at home; starting a “cash for clunkers” program that offers rebates to low- and moderate-income households to trade their gas-powered vehicles in for EVs; and changing the Building Code to make EV plug-ins mandatory in all new houses, office buildings, and condos.

Government itself will reduce its carbon footprint as part of the Climate Change Action Plan. The provincial government will strive to cut its emissions by 50 per cent below 2006 levels by 2030 and eventually be carbon-neutral.

Planning laws will be changed to encourage smart growth communities that are less dependent on cars and to require municipalities to build more bike routes. The province will also provide matching funds for leading municipalities that find innovative carbon cutting solutions.

A mix of other measures are also included to reduce emissions and improve the health of communities, such as funding to reduce remote First Nations’ dependence on diesel for power, programs for farmers to sequester carbon, incentives for rural residents to replace inefficient wood-burning stoves, and efforts to plant 50 million trees.

About $1 billion will help small businesses and large industries become more energy-efficient and use renewable energy. Businesses should be encouraged to reduce their emissions, but Ontario’s biggest polluters are already getting four years of free permits under cap-and-trade. Since larger industry can handle undertaking cost-effective efficiency projects without needing a subsidy, we hope the majority of the funding is used to help smaller businesses that most need the support.

Ontario has complemented a price on carbon pollution with a comprehensive package of measures to further reduce GHG pollution while benefiting residents and businesses. Today is a time to celebrate and look ahead to implementing the action plan.

Show your support for climate action in Ontario. Tell Ontario you support bold climate action and building a clean economy.

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