When the current Ontario government came into power with a majority, the first thing they did was reverse the climate initiatives that were well underway. They cut funds to energy efficiency programs, rolled back renewables and clean industry projects and put out a climate plan with significantly less ambition. The new plan reduced greenhouse gas emission cuts by about a third, allowing for 30MT more pollution!
Now, the Ontario government wants to ramp up Ontario’s gas-powered plants, undoing a third of the gains made from coal plant closures and increasing Greenhouse gas emissions 300% by 2025 and 400% by 2040. In fact, they just spent $2.8 billion on 3 gas plants to do so! To supply the plants, Enbridge wants to build a new pipeline through Hamilton to import fracked gas from the U.S.
Canada’s climate goals depend on Ontario following through with adequate commitments. As the second highest emitter and one of the wealthiest provinces, what Ontario does is critical. What’s more, we could actually decrease electricity bills while phasing-out gas-fired power plants by 2030 if we embrace lower cost and cleaner options.
As Ontario responds to COVID-19 and moves toward rebuilding our economy, we need people’s health and wellbeing to come first more than ever. This means building infrastructure that supports our future resilience and reduces the climate crisis. It means investing in workers and communities, and making decisions that benefit people and the planet.
What can Ontario do instead?
The Government of Ontario should put an interim 2.5 million tonne per year cap on the gas plants’ GHG pollution as soon as possible. Then, they can take the following actions to achieve a complete gas plant phase-out by 2030:
- Invest in Energy Efficiency: This is an effective, low-cost option and a job creator. According to Dianne Saxe, former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, increased energy efficiency in Ontario could mean a net increase of 52,800 jobs/year and add $12.5 billion/year to the GDP. Pickering Nuclear Power plant is set to close in 2024 and if the same amount we pay for that power is re-invested in energy efficiency, benefits could be maximized.
- Focus on Renewables: Ontario was and can continue to be a clean industry leader. Renewables are increasingly low cost - recent developments are cost-competitive with other energy sources! We must #BuildBackBetter as we recover from COVID-19, ensuring the return of renewable projects that benefit communities in many ways e.g. jobs, health, resilience.
Accept the Low-Cost 24/7 waterpower available from Quebec: This move would cost us less than one-half of what it would to rebuild aging nuclear stations and help enable the move into renewables and energy efficiency rather then ramp up fossil fuel sources.
- Bonus: Quebec’s system already exists, it would not be a new build. It can also act as a giant battery to ensure that we never need to use those gas-powered plants!
What can we do!?
Toronto350 and 28 other groups have signed on to a campaign to clean up Ontario’s electricity supply, spear-headed by Ontario Clean Air Alliance. The campaign launched on Monday, and you can use OCAA’s tool here to contact Premier Ford, the other party leaders and your MPP.
You can also add weight to the requests by emailing or phoning independently. The contact information is:
Doug Ford, Conservative Party Leader, ph. 416-325-1941, [email protected]
Andrea Horwath, New Democratic Party Leader, ph. 416-325-7116, [email protected]
Mike Schreiner, Green Party Leader, ph. 416-325-4664, [email protected]
Steven Del Duca, Liberal Party Leader, ph. 647-352-9586, [email protected]
To find contact info for an MPP, enter your postal code here: https://www.ola.org/en/members
The auditor general, in her 2019 report, Climate Change, Ontario's Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, points out that the planned natural gas expansion is likely to “adversely impact Ontario’s emissions-reduction goals,” and that estimated reductions lack “sound evidence” or “sufficient detail” to back them up in the first place!
Let’s do our best to ensure that the Ontario government doesn’t set us back further. Instead, it must maximize the benefits of energy efficiency and renewables, including equitable job creation, lower air pollution and more affordable electricity. That way, Ontario can be part of a #JustRecovery that safeguards people and the planet.