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Posted December 5, 2012

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Environment

Ontario Government Retreats on Climate Change

Queens Park - Ontario's Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, says the Ontario government is backing away from its plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

Gord Miller released "A Question of Commitment," the 2012 edition of his annual review of the government's Climate Change Action Plan. The 2007 plan established province-wide targets for reducing GHG emissions, as well as programs for reducing emissions in six sectors: electricity, transportation, industry, buildings, agriculture and waste.

"At a time when President Obama is focusing on climate change as part of his second term agenda," says Miller, "the Ontario government is ending or scaling back programs to fight GHG emissions and will fall far short of meeting its 2020 and 2050 targets."

The Commissioner pointed to a number of recent government decisions:

The Green Commercial Vehicle Program - The government committed to spending $13.9 million to reduce GHG emissions from commercial fleets. Despite the program having achieved reductions that were 350% higher than projected, the program was cancelled early.
• Electric Vehicle (EV) Programs - A total of $164 million was promised for incentives for the purchase of EVs, and for the development of charging stations. The government has cut $101 million from the two programs, and is re-evaluating them because of the slower than anticipated uptake, and the "slowing economy and shrinking revenues."
• High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes - The 2012 provincial budget delayed the construction of 31 kilometers of HOV lanes until "fiscal capacity allows them to proceed."
• Cap and Trade - The government has still not announced when it is going to enter the emissions trading program sponsored by the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).

Miller observed that delays now will cripple efforts later to fight climate change. The International Energy Agency has reported that, even under the most optimistic scenario, 80% of the total global emissions are already "locked-in" from infrastructure that is already in place, or under construction.

"With each passing year," says the Environmental Commissioner, "it becomes clearer that without new policies and a drastic change in the current upward trajectory of GHG emissions, our planet is headed for a frightening future."

Gord Miller warns that the government is only halfway to meeting its 2020 target. "That's only eight short years away, and the government has no additional measures to close the gap. Of special concern is the transportation sector, which overall is the largest source of the province's GHG emissions."

The Environmental Commissioner acknowledges that the phase-out of coal-fired generation has helped the government reach 90% of its 2014 target. "But the associated increase in Ontario's natural gas generating capacity is going to make it difficult for the government to meet its 2020 and 2050 targets for emissions reduction. Natural gas has now surpassed coal as the largest source of GHG emissions in the province's electricity sector."

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