It’s an F for Ontario. The Auditor General of Ontario just gave the province a dismal 27 per cent grade on its climate progress – a massive fail.
The 2021 climate audit by the Auditor General is the follow-up to one produced in 2019, which provided 22 recommendations for the province to improve its climate outcomes. It turns out that, two years later, the government has only implemented six of those recommendations.
This is pitiful, especially because provinces hold sizable levers that can reduce (or increase) greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. While a lot of attention is paid to the policies of the federal government, we should be paying equal attention to the actions of our provinces. Especially Ontario, which is the second most polluting province in Canada.
Ontario does have a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. But, as the Auditor General has confirmed, the province is far from being able to meet even its own modest target. According to the report, “…policies to achieve the majority of emissions reductions required to meet the 2030 target have not been identified.” And the Environment Ministry doesn’t have an updated climate change plan for the province to follow, nor a timeframe to provide such a plan.
Part of the problem, as the Auditor General’s report suggests, is that Ontario is refusing to adopt the federal carbon pricing system for industrial polluters which would help bring down emissions. Ontario’s government is adamant about sticking to its own weak system for these industrial emitters. And this anemic plan won’t even be implemented until 2023. Yes, you read that right – industrial polluters are not paying for their emissions now and will not be until 2023, at the very earliest.
Other shortcomings were identified in the audit as well, including problems with climate modelling and emissions estimates, as well as the lack of public reporting, monitoring, and evaluation on the government’s existing commitments.
Based on the conclusions of the Auditor General’s report, it’s glaringly obvious that the current government isn’t even remotely interested in tackling climate change. If it were, there are many ways it could take action to decrease emissions.
For example, the province could phase-out the use of gas plants (which utilize fossil fuels) to generate electricity for the province. Fossil-fuel generated electricity is responsible for rising emissions in the electricity sector and these emissions are expected to triple over the next decade. Instead of expanding fossil gas use, we could expand renewable energy sources to meet our electricity needs.
Another easy way to keep emissions down is to invest in public transportation instead of building new mega highways like Highway 413 that will only increase car traffic and, in turn, greenhouse gas pollution.
Climate solutions exist and are cost effective. What’s lacking in Ontario is the will – from the very top. That means we all have to push for climate action from the bottom up to make sure Ontario does its part to address runway climate change.