TORONTO — The Ontario government’s environmental action plan, released today, is incomplete and stalls various much-needed solutions to the negative effects of climate change.
“This plan will not protect Ontarians from the negative health and safety impacts of climate change, from increased and intensified extreme weather events to worsening physical and mental health outcomes,” Foundation renewable energy manager Sherry Yano said.
While the plan aims for a 30 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, it fails to provide the specific policies and measures needed to get there. The 30 per cent target is also weaker than that established by the previous Ontario government and is not in line with recommendations made by the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. That report found that to limit global warming to safe levels (1.5 C), we must reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 relative to 2010 levels. As well, a report in the medical journal The Lancet today outlined how climate change is negatively affecting physical and mental health worldwide.
“In light of all the recent evidence from the IPCC and today’s Lancet report, this is the time to be strengthening our targets, not weakening them,” Yano said.
Ontario’s plan contains gaps in all sectors, including industry, transportation and buildings. An effective climate plan must address carbon pollution from all sources, and must include a limit or price on carbon pollution that covers all sources of emissions. Major shortcomings of the plan include:
- The plan lacks measures to support adoption of electric vehicles and buses, and to increase light-rail transit, a huge missed opportunity in Ontario given its clean electricity grid.
- The plan does not identify concrete measures for reducing emissions from buildings; instead, it cites only a plan to review the building code, with no targets or commitments.
- The plan proposes incentives and industry benchmarking to reduce emissions from industry but provides little evidence of how this will be achieved.
While the plan claims Ontario is committed to reporting on its progress toward meeting emissions reductions targets, the government recently closed the Environmental Commissioner’s office, which was tasked with regular reporting on climate targets.
“If the Ontario government is truly ‘for the people,’ it should develop a robust climate plan, because the health and well-being of Ontarians are literally at stake here,” Yano said. “The solutions to address climate change exist, but this plan lacks the political will to act on them. It moves us backward instead of forward.”
Also released today, The Lancet’s new report on the health impacts of climate change paints a grim picture for human health outcomes if governments do not immediately increase climate action.
“More than 7,000 Canadians die every year from air pollution,” Yano said. “With staggering statistics like this, government inaction on reducing our emissions and addressing climate change is unacceptable. We need to follow world leaders like Germany to invest in renewable energy, electrify our vehicles and transportation systems, and prioritize a healthy future for all Ontarians. As the world’s scientists are telling us, time is running out.”
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