Critics Pounce on Vague $8.3B Climate Plan

Opposition critics are warning the devil will be in the details of Ontario’s new five-year $8.3-billion ‘climate change action plan’ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

ROBERT BENZIE Queen’s Park Bureau Chief | 11:53 AM, Wed., June 8, 2016

Opposition critics are warning the devil will be in the details of Ontario’s new five-year $8.3 billion “climate change action plan” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Moments after Premier Kathleen Wynne and Environment and Climate Change Minister Glen Murray unveiled the 85-page plan, Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa Thompson predicted Ontarians will pay a lot more than the extra $13-a-month for fossil fuels the government is claiming.

“They continually dodge what this is really going to cost Ontarians,” said Thompson (Huron-Bruce).

“They have made empty promises based on billions of dollars that they don’t even have yet, and, guess what, Ontarians are already having a tough time heating their homes,” she said.

“This past winter, we heard so many times that people were choosing between heating and eating.”

But the premier fired back that climate change is too grave a problem to ignore.

“We have to step back and remember what are the costs of doing nothing? What are the costs of insurance that will go up, increased cost of food? What are the increased costs of continuing to pollute?” she said.

“That’s the cost that we have to avoid.”

NDP MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto Danforth) said “climate change is going to be the great challenge for our society and we’ve got to get it right.”

“This can’t be a question simply of photo-ops and feel-good government commercials,” said Tabuns, who expressed concern at the vagueness of the Liberals’ scheme.

Their comments came after Wynne, Murray, and other ministers launched the plan at the Evergreen Brick Works.

Its 28 directives include a means-tested “cash-for-clunkers” scheme to convince low- and moderate-income motorists to switch to electric cars, a hydro bill rebate to make it free to charge vehicles overnight at home, and measures to help homeowners make their houses more efficient.

The plan will be bankrolled in part by gasoline prices rising next January by 4.3 cents a litre and an average monthly natural gas bill hike of $5.

As well, Ontario has joined a cap-and-trade system with Quebec and California that puts a price on carbon.

Under cap and trade, industries have caps on emissions and will be able to trade credits to those who exceed their tallies, and this is intended to create an economic incentive to pollute less.

It estimates that between $5.964 billion and $8.301 billion will be collected and then spent over the next five years.

By law, all of those proceeds must be earmarked for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Eli Angen, Ontario director at the Pembina Institute, an environmental watchdog, said it’s a good start.

“Implementing cap-and-trade was a great first step, but achieving our climate goals was always going to require a lot of heavy lifting from complementary actions,” said Angen.

“Including ambitions like aiming for new homes to be net-zero-carbon by 2030 is a clear indicator that the government is grappling with the tough choices required to reach our 2020, 2030, and 2050 targets.”

Greenpeace praised the strategy because it “empowers people to fight climate change.”

“To end our dependence on fossil fuels will require transforming our energy system by mid-century. This will require action from all of us. The climate action plan puts in place a suite of tools aimed at empowering Ontarians to do their part,” the environmental group said.

“The Wynne government has made a courageous decision not to take the path of least political resistance. For this they should be commended.”

Read the article in The Star here.