Former Ontario Environment Commissioner Gord Miller has voiced his support for Ontario’s new Climate Action Plan, saying that he is encouraged that a concrete plan has finally been put forward. At the same time, the former Ontario MP and Green Party candidate for Guelph admits that drastic increases in overall global temperatures along with dimming prospects that humanity can successfully reverse the trend is “scary.”
“Where we get our energy and where we grow our food and where we our cities are viable will change in a changing climate,” says Miller at a recent talk at the University of Windsor. “Because the distribution of water changes with climate, we’re seeing that with flooding and droughts.”
The newly released Climate Action Plan has drawn both praise and criticism from environmental groups and climate activists across the province and around the country. The environmental advocacy group GreenUP which serves central and eastern Ontario has come out in support of the plan, saying it represents an “important step forward” for both the province and the country. “GreenUP is committed to supporting environmentally sustainable action, at home, at work, and at school,” says Amy Bowen of GreenUP, “…and we are excited to see climate change action plans being developed both locally at provincially.”
The plan has also received a green light from the Urban Climate Alliance, an umbrella group of Ontario’s urban environmental organizations, who applaud the plan’s investment in cycling infrastructure and pubic transit along with its support for community-based energy plans, including over $250 million ear-marked for municipalities to cut their carbon footprints. “This is a good down payment for the future,” says Derek Coronado from Citizen Environmental Alliance in Windsor. “Not only will it create lots of good local, green jobs, it will save us lots of money in the future by helping us avoid the terrible costs of inaction.”
At the Green Party of Ontario, reaction has been more critical, with GPO leader Mike Schreiner saying the plan “needs to address some serious shortcomings,” including a cap-and- trade system that the party says favours providing incentives for big business over supporting actions of everyday citizens. “Business can help drive change for sure, but we also need to make individual choices on how to lower our carbon footprint,” says Schreiner, “The Liberals have failed to getthis balance right.”
Nationally, the plan gets a thumbs up from the David Suzuki Foundation, which calls it “a huge step forward,” and highlights the plan’s incentives for home owners and builders to commit to retrofitting and building new net-zero emissions homes.
And while the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the plan makes Ontario a “new climate policy leader,” it also doesn’t go far enough to reach both national and international emissions targets. The CCPA’s trade and energy researcher Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood says, “If Ontario is going to meet its longer-term targets and if Canada is going to meet its national climate commitments -let alone the global ambitions laid out in the Paris Agreement -reductions will need to be even deeper.”
Ontario’s Climate Action Plan outlines government spending of between $5.9 and $8.3 billion on climate change initiatives over the next five years, including incentives for people to buy electric vehicles and for businesses and homeowners to switch to low-carbon technologies. The plan includes a cap-and- trade system for auctioning off pollution emissions credits which is projected to result in annual revenues of up to $1.9 billion, funds which the government plans to reinvest in further greenhouse gas reduction initiatives.