Ontario’s move to cut cap-and-trade costs from natural gas bills arrived with great fanfare yesterday. On closer inspection, it’s mostly hot air. This action sets a precarious course for the people of Ontario by trading long-term cost savings and climate wins for small, short-term price reductions.
With the province’s move, the average Ontario household will save about $6 per month on their natural gas bill. However, the federal government will apply a carbon price in Ontario on January 1, 2019, meaning natural gas companies will soon raise prices again to last year’s level. This means Ontarians will only see about three months of savings, or close to $20 for the average household.
If the Ontario government really wants to put money in people’s pockets, the best way is to do this is to provide funding to make our homes and businesses more energy-efficient so they use less natural gas. Long-term solutions like better insulation and more efficient furnaces will reduce natural gas bills permanently, and cut carbon pollution at the same time. These improvements can add up to hundreds of dollars per year in savings for the average household, as well as reduce their carbon footprint substantially.
Many of the programs to make these energy efficient upgrades affordable were cancelled when the new government ended cap-and-trade, which was the source of revenue for homeowner and business energy retrofits. The savings from lower natural gas use more than compensated for the extra charge added by cap-and-trade. These now cancelled programs helped Ontarians take the necessary steps to shrink their energy use, and also helped cut the province’s carbon pollution which causes climate change.
We know climate change is real, and is getting worse. We’re seeing forest fires, floods, and extreme heat in Ontario like never before. Against, this backdrop, Ontario’s new government has promised a new plan to fight climate change and cut greenhouse gas emissions .We will work with them on this. But any serious plan to address climate change must make big cuts to fossil fuel consumption, and carbon pricing is one of the most effective ways to do this. That’s why making it cheaper to burn fossil fuels is a step backwards. The real solutions – and the real long-term cost savings – lie in helping Ontarians permanently cut their natural gas use.