Definition: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
- Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
- Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning
List of Policy Changes and Cuts:
- Revoked Provincial Cap and Trade system
- Introduced legislation to repeal Toxins Reduction Act
- Eliminated the Environmental Commissioner’s Office
- Cancelled the Drive Clean program
- Cancellation of Ontario’s Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Incentive Program (EHVIP)
This Sustainable Development Goal relates to the efforts made to address climate change in order to reduce the health impacts of the hazards that a changing climate can generate, such as floods, extreme heat events, air pollution and infectious diseases. Approximately 21,000 people die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution. While Canada may be responsible for a small proportion of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, a recent report found that Canadians produce more greenhouse gas emissions per-capita than any other G20 country, with emissions from both the transportation sector and buildings four times the G20 average.[i] It is critical that we build upon policies and funds that are dedicated to becoming a more environmentally responsible country.
The cap-and-trade system – one of the most significant government initiatives to combat climate change this decade in Ontario – was cancelled last year. Ontario’s cap-and-trade system aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting caps on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries could emit. If companies exceeded those limits, they had to buy allowances at quarterly auctions or from other companies that came in under their limits. From the time the program was introduced in 2017 to its repeal in 2018, the province received approximately $3 billion in a series of cap-and-trade auctions. The revenues generated through cap and trade were dedicated to green energy projects (see “Clean Energy” section) that included incentives for individuals and businesses to adjust to more environmentally friendly products. In the fall of 2018, the Ontario government introduced legislation to repeal the cap-and-trade system, eliminating cap on emissions and green energy funds that were associated with the system. The cap-and-trade system also provided funds for an electric vehicle subsidy for Ontarians. The program offered drivers between $5,000 and $14,000 to buy new environmentally friendly vehicles from a range of auto manufacturers. Within the last year, there has been a 55 per cent reduction in electric vehicles purchased in Ontario.[ii] The cap-and-trade system has been replaced by another program to reduce carbon emissions: The Ontario Carbon Trust. The funds from this trust will be provided to big emitters as an incentive as they are required to devise strategies to reduce their emissions.
There were a number of other decisions made regarding environmentally friendly initiatives. Another notable repeal was the Toxins Reduction Act, 2009. The Act’s purpose was to prevent pollution by reducing the use and creation of toxic substances and inform Ontarians about those substances. The legislation that was brought forth to repeal this Act will take effect in 2021. The Drive Clean program, which was also cancelled, required drivers to get regular emissions tests for vehicles that were more than seven years old to ensure that on-road emissions would be mitigated.
The Office of the Environmental Commissioner was closed this year, relocating its responsibilities to the Office of the Auditor General. The commissioner’s role was established over 25 years ago, with the mandate and authority to report and review on Ontario’s efforts on a range of environmental issues, including climate change. Without the position of an independent office to invest the proper resources to research and evaluate these issues, we neglect the data collection necessary to make evidence-based decisions on the fight against climate change.
Changes made this year will potentially compound a provincial, national, and global crisis that impacts the health and well-being of all Canadians.
[i] Climate Transparency. (2018). Brown to Green: The G20 transition to a low-carbon economy. Retrieved June 27, 2019, from https://www.climate-transparency.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/BROWN-TO-GREEN_2018_Canada.pdf.
[ii] Electric Mobility Canada. (2019). Electric Vehicle Sales in Canada – Q1 2019. Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://www.emc-mec.ca/wp-content/uploads/Sales-Report-Q1-2019.pdf.