Canada: Ontario’s Climate Change Discussion Paper, 2015 – What’s In It And Where Will It Lead?

Last Updated: April 2 2015
Article by Alex MacWilliam and John Goetz

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released Ontario's Climate Change Discussion Paper, 2015 in February 2015 . The purpose of the Discussion Paper is to elicit feedback from the people of Ontario. In person consultations are taking place with First Nations and Métis communities and in cities across the province. Written comments on the Discussion Paper must be submitted by March 29, 2015. The compressed consultation period means  affected stakeholders need to act quickly to ensure  their comments and concerns are considered.

The Discussion Paper is broader in scope than the previous climate change discussion paper released by the Ministry in January 2013. The new Discussion Paper expands the focus beyond regulating large industrial emitters, to building on initiatives to address emissions from transportation, buildings, agriculture and waste. The paper also addresses adaptation and resilience considerations.

Ten Guiding Principles for achieving a low carbon economy are spelled out in the Discussion Paper, including quick action to achieve results, leadership, best practices and knowledge sharing, supporting new technologies and innovation, integrating environmental and economic considerations, exploring market based instruments, climate-smart infrastructure, collaboration and ongoing communication of risk assessment, targets and progress.

The Discussion Paper points to the leadership role that China, India and the European Union are taking in investing in a low carbon future and states that Ontario needs to do the same to fulfill its guiding principles of leadership, best practices and knowledge sharing and supporting new technologies and innovation.

To reach Ontario's targets of 15 percent GHG emission reductions (below 1990 levels) by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, the Discussion Paper identifies four climate-critical policy areas as essential to transitioning to a low-carbon society.  First among these is establishing a price on carbon to send a signal to Ontario's economy that will motivate emission reductions and innovation. Second is to take action in key sectors to strengthen conservation and improve efficiency in transportation, industry, buildings, agriculture and waste by implementing the province's existing Conservation First policy and building on other climate-critical initiatives. Third is to support science, research and technology as a driver of economic growth and a pathway to long term transformation. Fourth is to promote climate resilience and risk management in key areas with key partners through practices such as integrating climate change resilience and adaptation considerations into key infrastructure and asset planning decisions.

Of the four climate-critical policies discussed above, it is interesting to note that the Discussion Paper makes the statement that "A well-designed carbon pricing system is the most cost-effective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions." This appears to be an endorsement of this policy, potentially over other policies, although this may not have been intended. The Discussion Paper includes a discussion of the various mechanisms for pricing carbon, including a cap and trade system (Quebec, California, RGGI, EUTS), an intensity-based baseline and credit system (Alberta), a carbon tax (British Columbia) and regulations and performance standards (Canada's Reduction of Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Coal-fired Generation of Electricity Regulations). The discussion of regulation and performance standards contemplates market-based approaches like cap and trade being part of the program to help emitters meet standards with increased flexibility and lower costs.

It is encouraging that the Discussion Paper examines a variety of approaches to tackle GHG emissions and does not propose using a single mechanism, such as regulating large emitters, to solve Ontario's emission issues. This is reflective of Ontario's diverse emissions sources and the fact that the transportation sector is responsible for a third of its GHG emissions. It is not widely thought that cap and trade alone is an effective policy for reducing transportation emissions. It is also encouraging that the Discussion Paper advocates the building of climate resilient infrastructure, institutions and natural systems that can absorb and adapt to the stresses of a rapidly changing climate. Adaptation to climate change has historically not been given the amount of attention it likely deserves, but increasingly severe weather and resulting damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars is raising its priority level. Lastly, it is encouraging to see that immediate and quick action is being prioritized as one of the Guiding Principles. Many jurisdictions have set medium and long-term targets that they are not on track to reach due to inadequate short-term action.

The Summary section of the Discussion Paper states that Ontario will confirm the market mechanism(s) that will be used to price carbon this spring. This seems to imply that a price on carbon in Ontario is imminent and that it is just a matter of what mechanism(s) will be used to establish it. The comments received from the consultation sessions to date seem to indicate broad (but not unanimous) acceptance of a price on carbon, with some debate as to what the best mechanism is. If Ontario implements a carbon pricing mechanism, it will be interesting to see how Ontario's price compares with that of other jurisdictions such as British Columbia ($30/tonne carbon tax) and Alberta ($15.00/tonne Technology Fund contribution). Alberta's price per tonne of CO2e emitted is actually considerably less than $15.00 as it only applies to the 12% emissions reduction target for large emitters and not to 100% of a facility's emissions.

If Ontario moves beyond its Discussion Paper to create and implement its long-term climate change strategy and 5-year action plan by establishing new regulations and incentive programs, it will do more than maintain its current leadership position on the climate change front in Canada and North America. Depending upon the stringency and extent of the regulations, Ontario may also influence and even pressure other jurisdictions within Canada (and perhaps even Canada's federal government) to put similar programs in place. Ontario is the most  populous province in Canada with 13.7 million people. This is analogous to being the fifth most populous state in the US – just behind New York and ahead of Illinois. Ontario accounts for approximately 36 percent of Canada's GDP, which in turn is  slightly smaller than California's – the ninth  largest economy in the world. Ontario's  annual GHG emissions of 168 million tonnes are at a level that is almost 40 percent of California's. If Ontario was to join California and Quebec and adopt the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) cap and trade program as its mechanism for pricing carbon, it would add significant size to the WCI emissions trading market. It would almost certainly provide momentum to the adoption of that program by other jurisdictions in Canada and the US. It is uncertain at this time whether Ontario will move in that direction but, should it do so, it would increase the likelihood of other Canadian and US jurisdictions linking their respective emissions schemes to WCI.

The tone of the Discussion Paper implies that Ontario is intent on being a leader in addressing climate change and sees this as an opportunity to develop technologies, products and services essential to a carbon neutral economy. This is similar to California's view, but different than that of other governments. The governments of Canada and Alberta have both shied away from taking a further lead on climate change regulation. Both have commented that they do not want to take further steps to regulate GHG emissions without similar actions being taken by the American government. This position is based on the rationale that imposing an additional cost on industry would make existing Canadian industries and economies less competitive. This concern about reduced competiveness appears to be paramount over concerns about the impacts and costs of climate change. Ontario appears to be taking a longer term view that transitioning to a low-carbon economy quickly is essential to the province's long-term growth, sustainability and prosperity.

It will be interesting to see how many of the concepts contained in the Discussion Paper end up being implemented. Although Ontario passed The Environmental Protection Amendment Act (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading), which gave the government the ability to introduce regulations for a cap and trade program in 2009, it has to date not followed through with such a program. There is no question that the process of integrating the interests of existing industry and stakeholders with the goals of an ambitious GHG reduction and adaptation program will not be easy. There has been an abundance of ambitious starts and stops at the federal, provincial and state levels in North America which evidence how difficult it can be to successfully implement an emission reduction program. Many eyes will be on Ontario to see if it can succeed.

About Dentons

Dentons is a global firm driven to provide you with the competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected marketplace. We were formed by the March 2013 combination of international law firm Salans LLP, Canadian law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC) and international law firm SNR Denton.

Dentons is built on the solid foundations of three highly regarded law firms. Each built its outstanding reputation and valued clientele by responding to the local, regional and national needs of a broad spectrum of clients of all sizes – individuals; entrepreneurs; small businesses and start-ups; local, regional and national governments and government agencies; and mid-sized and larger private and public corporations, including international and global entities.

Now clients benefit from more than 2,500 lawyers and professionals in 79 locations in 52 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and the CIS, the UK and the US who are committed to challenging the status quo to offer creative, actionable business and legal solutions.

Learn more at

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
25 Nov 2016, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

On Thursday, September 22, 2016, Dentons hosted a panel discussion about the management of liabilities and risks associated with environmental crises, including potential liabilities for directors and officers and provided insight into risk and liability techniques associated with environmental crisis management.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.