Ontario Has a Long Way to Go on Climate Change

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Traffic congestion along Highway 401
Image via Wikipedia

Toronto – The Ontario government will not, with its current programs, meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs). This is just one conclusion from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s recently released 2011 Greenhouse Gas Progress Report (pdf).

“Recently released federal government data indicate that Ontario’s GHG emissions in 2009 were at the levels the government wants to achieve by 2014,” says the Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller. “While the drop in GHGs is encouraging, it is highly likely that emissions have increased each year since 2009 with the return of economic growth. So I expect the government will need to renew its efforts to meet its 2014 reduction target.”

The Commissioner says this highlights the need for governments to break the link between GDP growth and GHG emissions. Miller is convinced the best way to do this is to put a price on carbon.  “It is unfortunate the Ontario government recently announced a delay in participating in a regional cap-and-trade system.” Noting that the industrial sector is responsible for 30% of Ontario’s GHGs, Miller says “putting a price on carbon now will guide investment decisions, and help families, businesses and municipalities transition to a low-carbon economy.”

Miller is also concerned with the lack of action in reducing emissions from the transportation sector. “The transportation sector is responsible for almost a third of all emissions, making it the largest contributor of GHGs in the province” says Miller. The Ontario government is cutting back programs it’s using to reduce transportation emissions. It has cancelled a tax credit for fuel-efficient vehicles as well as the Ontario Bus Replacement Program, and frozen funding for the Green Commercial Vehicle program. “The government needs to make a much more concerted effort to control this large and growing source of emissions, if it hopes to meet its near and medium-term reduction targets”

The Commissioner says the government must also begin a serious discussion about tolls and road pricing, in order to lessen traffic congestion. “We have to reduce the number of single-passenger vehicle trips in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. They are already at a higher level than in most global cities, and car traffic is expected to increase by another 7% by 2020,” says Miller. “Traffic congestion is more than just an inconvenience; it imposes huge costs on the economy, the environment, and public health.”

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