Ontario not on track to meet emissions reduction targets - Report
target=”_blank”>Ontario government’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions does not have the tools necessary to meet its
GHG emission targets. The government is projecting that it will
fall short of its targets, even though the future reductions
projected by the government are based on an assumption that all
initiatives will be implemented 100 per cent successfully.
“Having targets is important, but having the tools and
techniques to meet those targets is critical,” said Gord Miller,
the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, in his report, released
today, entitled Finding a Vision for Change: Annual Greenhouse Gas
Progress Report 2008/2009.
“If I were to give the government of Ontario a
grade on its report,” Miller added, “it would be an
Climate change due to human emissions of GHGs is a recognized
global crisis. World leaders are currently gathered in Copenhagen
to hammer out an international agreement on reducing GHG emissions.
Ontario has set targets and clearly is making some progress.
However, there is more work to be done, and without a clear vision
for change, Ontario will fail to live up to international
The only opportunity to eliminate the shortfall in meeting the
target at 2020 requires placing considerable faith in the
successful and timely implementation of a cap-and-trade system. As
well, most of the projected reductions in the short term are
expected to come from a single initiative - the phase-out of coal
from Ontario’s power supply.
“The government’s focus on electricity
conservation displays an apparent blind spot for conserving natural
gas, the next fossil fuel to focus on once coal is eliminated,”
While this will result in substantial reductions in the
electricity sector, the government’s plan, at present, does not
project significant reductions in other sectors such as industry
and transportation, nor other fuels such as natural gas. In 2007,
the Ontario government established targets to reduce GHG emissions.
On December 2, 2009, the government reported on steps it has taken
to achieve these targets, outlining a range of measures it is
taking to reduce GHG emissions, including 14 key initiatives.
The government is not on track to meet its short- and
medium-term climate change targets. In 2007, the Ontario government
established three targets to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The reduction targets are:
- 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2014;
- 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020; and
- 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
On December 2, 2009 the government reported on steps it has
taken to achieve these targets. The government outlined a range of
measures it is taking to reduce GHG emissions, including 14 key
initiatives. The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) is
responsible for reviewing the government’s progress in achieving
its targets and independently reporting its findings to the
legislature. His conclusion - The forecasted targets won’t be
|Year||Target||Forecasted GHGs||Shortfall||Forecasted GHG Reductions|
|2014||165 Mt1||180 Mt||15 Mt||34.4 Mt|
|2020||149 Mt2||184 Mt||35 Mt||43.8 Mt|
|1 6 per cent below 1990|
baseline of 175 Mt (Million or Mega tonnes)
|2 15 per cent below 1990|
|Note: 2007 GHGs were 197 Mt|
Not enough tools in the government’s GHG mitigation tool
The government’s main focus is to reduce emissions from the
electricity sector. It plans to do so by phasing-out coal in the
power mix and by encouraging conservation measures. Apart from
these measures, there are few initiatives put forward to reduce
emissions from other key sectors such as industry and
transportation, or from other key fuels such as natural gas.
Overreliance on one initiative in the short-term
Most of the forecasted 34.4 Mt reductions by 2014 are expected
to come from one initiative: the phase-out of coal at the four
remaining coal plants. The government has no contingency plans in
place if unforeseen circumstances (such as a spike in peak demand)
force Ontario to delay closing (or re-start) coal units to meet its
North American power grid reliability obligations.
Uncertainty around cap-and-trade may pose problems in meeting
The government is placing considerable faith in the
implementation of a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions
between 2014 and 2020. The ECO believes this may be risky due to a
lack of compatibility between the current Canadian federal
proposals and the Ontario framework, as well as other North
American regulatory proposals. Any delay in the implementation of a
cap-and-trade regime will likely further hinder the government’s
ability to meet its 2020 target.
Targets not ‘aggressive’ in light of scientific data
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now believes that
emission reduction targets in the range of 25 to 40 per cent below
1990 levels by 2020 are required to keep average global warming
from increasing to unacceptable levels. In light of this, the ECO
questions the government’s use of the term ‘aggressive’ to describe
Ontario’s current medium-term target of 15 per cent below 1990
Transparency in the plan numbers … but not in the process of
The future reductions projected by the government are based on
an assumption that all initiatives will be implemented 100 per cent
successfully. No rationale for this assumption is provided and the
ECO questions whether this may, in fact, lead to an overly
Of further concern, there is insufficient information to convey
to the public the roles and responsibilities of key government
ministries (Finance, Transportation, Energy and Infrastructure,
etc.) in achieving the desired results. Most troubling, there is no
information on who is accountable for achieving the numbers, how
funds and related resources are released and who makes these key
The bottom line: The government seems to have lost its vision of
what a carbon reduction plan should be pursuing. A plan that
conservatively focuses on current best practice is no substitute
for a plan with a vision for the future - a vision for change.