Ontario party leaders differ on plans to reduce emissions
Only the New Democrats are promising a new cap-and-trade system to achieve those reductions if the party is elected this week.
Ontario’s main political parties are divided on the best approach towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions, an issue that an expert says is crucial given that the province’s action — or inaction — on climate change will have national implications as well.
The NDP, Liberals and Greens all pledge to cut emissions in half by 2030 below 2005 levels, but only the New Democrats are promising a new cap-and-trade system to achieve those reductions if the party is elected this week.
The system puts caps on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries can emit and if they exceed those limits they must buy an equal number of allowances. Before the province’s system was scrapped, revenues generated through it were dedicated to green energy projects.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said on May 30 that the province has “an obligation” to address the climate crisis and that a new cap-and-trade system would help do so.
She noted her party’s proposed system would ensure at least 25 per cent of cap-and-trade revenue goes towards supporting rural, northern and low-income families disproportionately impacted by carbon pricing.
“It will generate the revenues necessary for us to green our energy system, to preserve or to put in place the kinds of programs that help us retrofit all of our buildings, or change the way that we do land use planning and protect the sacred lands that we know we all should be protecting,” Horwath said during a campaign event in Toronto.
The former Liberal government entered Ontario into a cap-and-trade system with California and Quebec, but the Progressive Conservatives withdrew the province from it after they were elected in 2018.
In this election, the Liberals are not proposing to re-establish a cap-and-trade system, rather their environmental platform proposes to strengthen requirements on large industrial emitters.
When asked about his emissions reductions plan on on May 30, PC Leader Doug Ford touted electric vehicle manufacturing and making steel production greener.
“I’ll give two examples: Sault Ste. Marie, up in Algoma, and Dofasco in Hamilton, they were using coal fired furnaces. We’re changing over to electric arc furnaces. That’s like taking a million cars off the road,” Ford said at a campaign stop in Ottawa.
“We’re pouring billions of dollars with the (electric vehicles) partnership with the federal government.”
Ford’s government previously committed to a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.
The Green Party’s plan, meanwhile, promises to get to net zero emissions by 2045 and proposes to increase the carbon price per tonne until it reaches $300 in 2032, returning the revenue to individuals, and eliminate fossil fuels from electricity generation.
Mark Winfield, a professor in the faculty of environmental and urban change at York University, said the political parties’ emissions reductions plans all have “potential strengths,” and deemed the Greens’ and NDP’s the “most ambitious” with their cap-and-trade and carbon pricing plans.
Although the Tories are campaigning on big investments in electric vehicle production and charging infrastructure, Winfield said their plans to build highways could potentially embed “very high emission transportation patterns.”
Regardless of which party is elected June 2, Winfield said it needs to take emissions reduction and the impacts of climate change seriously, particularly given recent extreme weather events like the deadly storm that swept through the province earlier this month and modelling from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that suggests climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying.