WWF details climate change expectations for Ontario Budget

In June 2007, the government of Ontario set significant greenhouse gas reduction target, but its climate plan is short on details as to how these will be met. In order to achieve these targets, WWF-Canada expects to see the following in the March 25 budget:

  • A clear indication of how the government will put a price on carbon via the greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program as Premier McGuinty has indicated and/or a BC-style carbon tax.
  • More money invested in transit than highways.
  • A significant energy conservation investment program outside of the electricity sector (similar to the Better Building Partnership).
  • Sufficient resources for the Ministries of Environment, Energy, Natural Resources and Municipal Affairs and Housing to make new regulations on energy efficiency, land use, and capping greenhouse gases, as well as to enforce existing environmental regulations.
  • Ensure adequate and predictable funding to municipalities so that they will have the fiscal capacity to implement local climate solutions.

1. Put a Price on Carbon

Making carbon pollution costly right across the economy is an effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating investments in energy conservation and renewable energy. The government of BC has taken a leadership role by instituting a carbon tax this year and by committing to join the Western Climate Initiative’s greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program (which is still under development).

While he has rejected calls for a carbon tax, Premier McGuinty has indicated that Ontario would develop a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. Given the broad economic implications of such a measure, we expect it to be announced in this year’s budget.

2. Prioritize Transit over Highways

Highway expansion fuels sprawl and greenhouse gas emissions, whereas smart transit investments (coupled with good urban planning) reduces them.

The 2007-2008 Ontario budget invested almost twice as much ($1,703 million) in highways as in transit ($992 million). This ratio needs to be reversed if the province’s commitment to public transit is to be taken seriously.

3. Invest in Energy Conservation

There is no significant provincial investment program in energy conservation outside of the electricity sector (where the costs are paid via the Ontario Power Authority or the Ontario Energy Board from the rate-base, and hence are not part of the provincial budget).

Energy efficiency investments such as building retrofits are one of the lowest-cost and most effective options for reducing greenhouse emissions, so the province should implement a program comparable to Toronto’s Better Building Partnership or Better Transportation Partnership that help finance the up-front costs.

WWF-Canada is addressing the electricity sector investments, in particular the disparity between proposed investments in nuclear power versus conservation and renewables, via the Ontario Energy Board hearings on the Integrated Power Supply Plan.

4. Ensure Key Ministries have the Capacity To Make And Enforce Regulations

In April 2007, Environment Commissioner Gord Miller said that the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources were “starved of funding for core functions” and that “at a time of unprecedented public concern for the health of the planet, Ontarians may find it hard to believe that these two ministries are today struggling with fewer resources than in the early 1990s, but that is unfortunately the case.”

Without adequate resources, government ministries will be unable to develop the new regulations on energy efficiency and greenhouse gas caps that are a key part of the province’s climate plan, nor will they be able to enforce existing regulations.

5. Enable Action by Municipalities

Many of the most innovative and successful greenhouse gas reduction programs have been implemented by municipalities and implementing some of the key policy tools (e.g. transportation and urban planning, public transit, local utilities, etc.) are largely under their control.

The key to facilitating effective municipal action is adequate and predictable funding, so that they can implement their own climate plans.

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