On the eve of the Climate Summit of the Americas, Ontario’s acting Environmental Commissioner, Ellen Schwartzel has released “Feeling the Heat: 2015 Annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report”, the latest in the Commissioner’s annual reports on climate change.
While the Commissioner praises Ontario’s ambitious targets for reducing emissions, noting they are in line with those adopted by leading jurisdictions, her report points out that the government will miss its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if it doesn’t expand and act on its policies.
Figure 1: Ontario greenhouse gas emissions trends and targets (1990-2013)
“Unless the government takes more aggressive action” said Schwartzel, “particularly in the transportation and building sectors, it will not be able to meet its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 megatonnes by 2020. This would be roughly equivalent to the reductions it achieved with the closure of the province’s coal-fired electricity plants.”
Feeling the Heat singles out the transportation sector as the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario. “The government can rightly point to its success in closing the coal-fired plants” said Schwartzel, “but we need a more ambitious suite of actions to get us to our 2020 target, focused especially on reducing emissions from cars and trucks. And each time a new high-rise tower goes up, we should be reminded that buildings account for the next biggest increase in megatonnes of CO2.”
Chart: Greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario by sector
Schwartzel acknowledged that the government has recently announced a number of positive initiatives, especially a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. But she said the cap-and-trade program will likely focus on large industrial emitters, and this will not be enough to fill the near-term gap.
“Climate change has already begun to cost Ontarians,” said the acting Environmental Commissioner, “and the costs are only expected to grow.”
The report notes that extreme weather associated with climate change has already damaged the province’s infrastructure; for example, intense storms and flash floods in recent years have caused costly damage to provincial roadways and commuter rail lines. And future projections for the province point to an even more unpredictable and unstable climate.
“I am heartened by the government’s recent actions” said Schwartzel, “as they indicate a commitment to fighting climate change. Our office looks forward to assessing the government’s new climate change strategy that it promised for the end of 2015.”
To download a copy of the report please click here