Recently the Ontario government released it's Climate Change Discussion Paper 2015. The
report unveils the province's current thinking on policy
options to address climate change, and asks the public to weigh in
on such controversial options as a carbon tax versus other
possibilities like a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions.
If ever there was a time for the public to participate in
government, and to share its expertise through the public consultation process, it is now.
Calling all economists, scientists, engineers, and industry
leaders—the Ontario government needs your help to answer
"critical" questions on how we can reduce greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions, so as to stave off what is predicted to be
"irreversible damage" caused by global warming.
Minister Glen Murray's opening message explains that there
are a couple of critical numbers "that are vital for Ontarians
to be aware of": 4, the number of degrees in
this century that the planet is on track to warm by, and
6, the number, in trillions of dollars of new
economic growth that will result from moving to a low-carbon
What does a 4-degree increase in temperature mean? According to
Mr. Murray's opening remarks, which are shared by many in the
international community, it will mean
catastrophe. "Severe weather events are already driving up
insurance costs and severely damaging our infrastructure. Food
security and costs will be an early problem as climate change
impacts where our food is grown and affects our water
The province has set aggressive targets: 15% GHG emissions
reduction from 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% GHG emissions reduction
from 1990 levels by 2050. Anything less, the province says, will
result in irreversible damage.
So what are the policy options? The report states:
"Our energy must come from lower emission sources and more
renewables than it did in decades past. Our buildings and
communities will increasingly need to be designed with their energy
consumption and carbon emissions in mind. A broader range of
competitive transportation options, including low carbon and zero
emission choices, will be needed."
The report is clear, however, that later this spring,
"Ontario will confirm the market mechanisms or mechanisms that
will be used to price carbon in Ontario." It cites
Lord Nicholas Stern, British economist and Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and
the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE), as
stating that climate change is the "greatest market failure
the world has seen" because it treats the atmosphere as a free
dumping ground with no economic consequence, i.e., the old tragedy
of the commons. According to the province, "A well-designed
carbon pricing system is the most cost-effective approach to
reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
But, the province notes, there are two main approaches to carbon
pricing: emissions trading and taxes. And that's the point of
this public consultation. Ontario wants to know, "what market
mechanism or mechanisms will best achieve" Ontario's goals
for GHG emissions reduction?
The government also wants help with other questions, like:
What industry sectors may be best able to achieve voluntary
emissions reductions by 2020 and by 2050, sufficient to achieve
Ontario's emissions targets?
What changes are needed to building codes and planning processes
to ensure greater uptake with regard to geothermal, solar, wind,
natural light, combined heat and power, community energy and other
What can government do to encourage industry to further increase
rates of innovation that would lead to improved productivity of all
capital, including natural capital, in order to reduce
Does Ontario have the skill base to build and operate green
buildings and communities and, if not, what more can be done to
train the appropriate expertise?
The Discussion Paper will be posted to the EBR for a 45-day comment period until March 29, 2015.
During and after that time, "focused discussions, town halls
meetings and stakeholder forums will be organized to ensure that
the themes and approach are considered from a number of stakeholder
perspectives." Following consultations, Ontario says it will
prepare a long-term climate change strategy and develop a 5-year
action plan for release.
As the report says, "Every Ontarian has a role to
Speak up. Share your expertise.
The places and dates for various town hall meetings scheduled
for February and March can be found here.
As Mr. Murray says, "Climate Change is the critical issue
of our time."
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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