The Ontario government announced its new climate change strategy on November 24, 2015. This announcement was one of several from the government over the last few weeks relating to climate change in the lead up to the Paris 2015 UN Conference on Climate Change.

Last week, the MOECC released design options for the pending cap and trade program for public comment. On November 23, 2015, the legislature passed the Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act, 2015. This act prevents new and existing facilities from burning coal for the sole purpose of generating electricity. The last coal-fired power plant in Ontario closed in 2014 and has since been converted to burn advanced biomass.

Carbon pricing and low-carbon energy generation are key components of Ontario’s climate change strategy. The strategy sets out Ontario’s long-term plan to achieve a GHG reduction target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

The strategy highlights five areas of transformation and lists actions Ontario will take to support change:

1. A prosperous low-carbon economy with world-leading innovation, science and technology

  • Provide local entrepreneurs in the low-carbon and clean-tech industries access to capital and support the commercialization of new technology;
  • Support R&D in technologies that can reduce GHG emissions;
  • Support fuel switching and new energy and emissions management approaches; and
  • Build green infrastructure.

2. Government collaboration and leadership

  • Introduce climate legislation to establish long-term framework for action and enshrine in law Ontario’s cap and trade program;
  • Integrate climate change mitigation into government decision-making and require the consideration of environmental impacts and climate change resiliency in infrastructure planning;
  • Move the government towards carbon neutrality through changes to government operations, procurement, employee training and building retrofits; and
  • Work in partnership with First Nations and Métis communities to advance climate strategy recognizing their sovereignty and autonomy and benefitting from their traditional knowledge.

3. A resource-efficient, high-productivity society

  • Establish GHG reductions as priority in the next Long-Term Energy Plan;
  • Remove existing initiatives that support fossil fuel use and fossil fuel intensive technologies;
  • Implement a resource recovery and waste reduction framework to shift to a circular economy; and
  • Develop tools to measure progress towards GHG reduction targets and GHG impacts of projects, including assessing climate change risk to food production, human health, infrastructure and the economy.

4. Reducing GHG emissions across sectors

  • Shift existing drivers to transit, cycling and walking and promote the update of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles;
  • Reduce emissions from goods movement by supporting the use of natural gas and low-carbon fuels and the electrification goods movement;
  • Explore additional low-carbon fuel opportunities for modes of transportation like long- and heavy-haul trucking and marine transport that are not easily electrified;
  • Support net-zero buildings across the province to reduce emissions from new and existing buildings through updates to Ontario’s Building Code, incentive programs, removal of regulatory barriers and encouraging the transition to lower carbon fuels and building materials that store carbon;
  • Establish GHG reduction as an important factor in provincial frameworks for transportation and land use; and
  • Create energy retrofit programs targeted at residential, small- and mid-sized businesses and large emitting industries.

5. Adapting and thriving in a changing climate

  • Integrate climate change adaptation considerations in infrastructure decision-making;
  • Align climate change objectives with agriculture and natural systems, including ensuring pollinator and soil health and food security, while managing and restoring wetlands, increasing green spaces and managing diverse forests;
  • Develop an approach to measure the flow of carbon in agriculture, wetlands, forests and wood products to identify ways to mitigate climate change; and
  • Establish a one-window source for climate data to assist the public and private sectors to make informed and evidence-based decisions regarding adapting to climate change and increasing resilience.

The climate change strategy is a high-level overview of the path Ontario intends to take to meet its GHG reduction targets. Actual details of Ontario’s specific commitments under the five areas of transformation will be made available next year when Ontario releases a five-year plan outlining the steps it intends to take to meet its mid-term GHG reduction target of 15% below 1990 levels by 2020. The five-year plan will also set out a framework for achieving the longer-range targets for 2030 (37% below 1990 levels) and 2050.