Last Updated: Monday, June 18, 2007 | 1:54 PM ET
The Ontario government plans to reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2014, Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday.
The province is counting on the planned shutdown of its coal-fired power plants that year and the use of more renewable energy to take it halfway to its target, McGuinty said at the annual Shared Air Summit in Toronto.
Of the remaining 50 per cent reduction, the premier said:
15 per cent will come mainly from transit investments and tougher national fuel efficiency and emissions standards for vehicles to be developed with the federal government.
15 per cent will come from reducing energy needs through home audits, incentives for municipalities and other policies that will be announced soon.
20 per cent will come from research and development of new technologies.
2020 and 2050 targets also set
The province also plans to reduce greenhouse gases to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
The date set for the 2014 target is two years after the first deadline for cutting emissions under the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for a 5.2 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012.
McGuinty called his plan ambitious but realistic.
Conservative environment critic Laurie Scott said the government is moving too slowly with its transit plan.
“Our plan is $1 billion in our first term for public transit,” Scott said.
Her party has no emission targets before 2020, when the party plans to have reduced greenhouse gases to 10 per cent below 1990 levels.
NDP critic Peter Tabuns said he is afraid McGuinty will again break his promise to shut down the province’s coal plants. He wants the legislature called back into session to ensure the government must meet the targets.
“Set those targets in legislation,” he said. “Put the environmental commission in a position to monitor all of this so that people get the straight goods.”
Coal plants should be shut sooner: environmentalists
Tabuns was not the only one who expressed concern about the coal plants.
A protester interrupted the premier’s announcement Monday morning, demanding that the premier show moral vision and shut down the plants immediately.
The man was quickly escorted out of the room.
Some environmentalists agreed with the protester’s view that the coal plants should be closed sooner, including Mark Winfield, a spokesman for the Pembina Institute.
“At least 35 per cent of the target is at this stage sort of fuzziness and hand-waving,” said Winfield, whose group advocates for sustainable energy production and consumption.
Environment Defence says plan represents progress
But Rick Smith, of the environmental protection group Environment Defence, said the plan represents good progress, and when large provinces such as Ontario say they are going meet Kyoto targets or come close to doing so, it puts renewed pressure on the federal government to act against climate change.
According to the provincial Ministry of the Environment, Ontario produced 205 megatonnes of greenhouse gases in 2005, a 16 per cent increase since 1990, when it produced 177 megatonnes.
The Shared Air Summit is an annual event hosted since 2005 by the province to discuss air quality issues with business, governments and scientists in Ontario, neighbouring provinces and U.S. states.
During the 2003 election campaign, McGuinty promised to shut down the coal plants by 2007. But in November, the Ontario Power Authority reported that two of the plants will be closed in 2011, while the remaining two would continue operating until 2014.
The next Ontario election is scheduled for Oct. 10.