Ontario Quietly Revising Plan to Meet Climate Change Goals

Premier Doug Ford’s government has quietly revised its plan to meet Ontario’s 2030 carbon reduction targets.

New forecasts of the province’s greenhouse gas emissions posted on a government website show significant deviations from reductions predicted in Ontario’s Environment Plan in 2018.

The new plan does not include any reductions due to greater adoption of electric vehicles, which accounted for almost 15% of the planned reductions in CO2 emissions in the government’s 2018 plan.

Also absent from the new forecast: any mention of the Ontario Carbon Trust, which the government has previously touted as a major source of emissions reductions. It was announced in 2018 as a $400 million fund to help the private sector develop clean technologies, but never materialized.

The natural gas conservation forecast in the 2018 plan to reduce CO2 emissions by 2.3 megatonnes (MT) has been reduced to almost nothing in the new plan: 0.03 MT

Although the Ford government unveiled its 2018 environmental plan with a bang, it did not issue a press release on its new emissions forecast. CBC News asked Environment Minister David Piccini for an interview in the days leading up to the Easter long weekend, but he was unavailable.

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This is the Ford government’s new forecast of how it plans to reduce Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. (Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks)

Despite the revisions, the new forecast still shows Ontario will achieve a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

“The province remains firm in its commitment to meet the 2030 emissions reduction target and is confident in the plan and trajectory to get there,” the new document says.

The revised forecast indicates that Ontario has already achieved “greater reductions in greenhouse gas emissions than any other province or territory in Canada.”

These reductions were almost entirely the result of initiatives by previous Liberal governments, including the end of Ontario’s use of coal-fired electricity generation. By the time the Ford government took office in 2018, the province was already two-thirds of the way to meeting that 2030 goal.

The government could be helped along the way by the pandemic. Ontario emissions in 2020 posted the biggest year-over-year decline since the 2008-09 recession hit manufacturing: 16 MT less than in 2019, federal figures show released this week, largely because drivers are commuting less and travelers are flying less.

Ontario’s new forecast projects that it will meet its 2030 target by reducing emissions by 12 MT from current levels.

These reductions would mainly come from three sources:

  • Higher renewable energy content in gasoline.
  • Stricter emission standards for heavy industry.
  • The planned abandonment by the steel industry of coal-fired furnaces.

Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada, says the vast majority of planned emissions reductions in the province are governed by either federal regulations or programs that Ottawa helps pay for.

“The Ford government is essentially building on past actions taken by Ontario governments and current actions taken by the federal government,” Stewart said in an interview.

“Ontario seems to be saying, ‘We will do whatever the federal government will make us do or pay for, and nothing more.’ And that’s not enough in the face of a climate crisis,” Stewart added.

Ottawa’s clean fuels mandate requires gasoline and diesel suppliers to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuel. Ontario achieves this largely by increasing the minimum ethanol content of gasoline to 15%.

According to figures provided by the Ministry of the Environment to CBC News, the transition to “green steel”, funded in part by the federal and provincial governments, is expected to result in an emissions reduction of 5.1 MT, while renewable content of gasoline and heavy industry standards combine for a reduction of 5.35 MT. The ministry did not provide a breakdown between these two initiatives.

This chart shows the Ford government’s planned 2018 greenhouse gas emissions reductions in its Environmental Plan. (Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks)

There are much lower emissions reductions projected due to less food waste being dumped in landfills (0.97 MT), greater use of public transit (0.58 MT), and conservation natural gas (0.03 MT).

The government’s plan is working, Piccini press secretary Phillip Robinson said in an email to CBC News.

“This has been done while ensuring that our approach is flexible to the opportunities, needs and circumstances faced by job creators and does not impede Ontario’s economic growth,” Robinson wrote.

The three-page document outlining Ontario’s new emissions reduction plan doesn’t mention climate change, which Stewart said is telling.

“This plan is about meeting federal requirements, not solving the climate crisis because the Ford government doesn’t recognize it as a crisis,” he said.

The Trudeau government unveiled a plan last month to cut Canada’s emissions by 40% from the 2005 baseline. However, Ontario is sticking to the 30% target, to which Canada is committed. is committed under the legally binding Paris Agreement in 2016.

Dianne Saxe, deputy leader of the Green Party of Ontario, says the government’s forecast has no credibility.

“It hides even more detail than the baseless numbers in Ford’s latest forecast,” Saxe said in a press release.

“Doug Ford is doing nothing about the climate emergency,” she added.

“To do nothing about the biggest problem of our time is an insult to our children and to future generations.”

Teresa H. Sadler