Ontario will scale back its climate-change targets and focus on regulating industrial greenhouse gas emitters, the province said Thursday as the government unveiled its environmental plan.
The new strategy will make it harder for Canada to meet commitments made under the Paris climate accord. The federal government was relying on Ontario’s more aggressive approach under the former Liberal provincial government, which implemented a cap-and-trade system.
Ontario Environment Minister Rod Phillips announced the province would create regulations for industrial emitters, support business investment in innovation and clean technology, and increase the ethanol content for gasoline to 15 per cent from 10 per cent by 2025.
He said the government would consult with industry before determining how the regulation system would work, the degree to which individual facilities would have to reduce emissions and what kind of enforcement mechanism would be used to ensure compliance.
Premier Doug Ford continues to battle Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the federal carbon tax that will commence next April in provinces that do not have a broad-based levy that meets Ottawa’s standards. With an election scheduled for next fall, the Trudeau government is seeking to ease the burden on consumers by sending out rebate cheques next spring for anticipated 2019 costs.
Mr. Phillips said Ontario aims to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, which is the same target adopted by Ottawa for the country as a whole under the 2015 Paris agreement. But it is far less ambitious than the goal set by the former Liberal government under Kathleen Wynne.
“This target takes into consideration the commitment the people of Ontario have already shown in reducing emissions, as well as our commitment to growing Ontario’s economy while doing our part to tackle climate change,” Mr. Phillips told a news conference at the Cold Creek Conservation Area in Nobleton, north of Toronto.
The province is already three-quarters of the way to hitting that goal, largely as the result of the closure of coal-fired power plants. Mr. Phillips said Ontario has already made considerable progress in reducing greenhouse gas emission, and households and business have paid a substantial price in doing so.
Nationally, Canada faces an uphill battle to meet its targets as emissions in Alberta and Saskatchewan have soared since 2005 and are still rising. The Trudeau government had been counting on more ambitious efforts by Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia to make up for slower progress in the two prairie provinces that rely heavily on oil and gas production and coal-fired electricity.