‘Twas the night before COP 21: The week before the 2015 Paris Climate Conference saw major announcements from Alberta and Ontario

The 21st Conference of Parties begins tomorrow. Prime Minister Trudeau and the Premiers of the Canadian Provinces will join other world leaders in Paris.

COP 21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, intended to keep global warming below 2°C.

At COP 20 in Lima last year, states were invited to submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions ahead of COP21.

The week leading up to the conference has seen groundbreaking announcements from Alberta and Ontario.

Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan

On Sunday November 22, Alberta announced its Climate Leadership Plan, designed to accelerate the province’s transition from coal to renewable electricity sources, put a price on carbon pollution and set emissions limits for the oil sands.

Electricity and renewables

  • Alberta will phase out all pollution created by burning coal and transition to more renewable energy and natural gas generation by 2030
  • Three principles will shape the coal phase-out: maintaining reliability; providing reasonable stability in prices to consumers and business; and, ensuring that capital is not unnecessarily stranded
  • Two-thirds of coal-generated electricity will be replaced by renewables – primarily wind power – while natural gas generation will continue to provide firm base load reliability
  • Renewable energy sources will comprise up to 30 per cent of Alberta’s electricity production by 2030

Carbon pricing

  • A price on carbon provides an incentive for everyone to reduce greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change
  • Alberta will phase in this pricing in two steps
    • $20/tonne economy-wide in January 2017
    • $30/tonne economy-wide in January 2018
  • An overall oil sands emission limit of 100 megatonnes will be set, with provisions for new upgrading and co-generation

Methane reduction 

  • In collaboration with industry, environmental organizations, and affected First Nations, Alberta will implement a methane reduction strategy to reduce emissions by 45% from 2014 levels by 2025

Revenue neutral

  • One-hundred per cent of proceeds from carbon pricing will be reinvested in Alberta
  • A portion of collected revenues will be invested directly into measures to reduce pollution, including clean energy research and technology; green infrastructure, such as public transit; and, programs to help Albertans reduce their energy use
  • Other revenues will be invested in an adjustment fund that will help individuals and families make ends meet; provide transition support to small businesses, First Nations, and people working in affected coal facilities


Ontario’s New Climate Change Strategy

On Tuesday, November 24, Ontario released its Climate Change Strategy. The strategy outlines the steps the government will take to combat climate change, including:

  • Introducing climate legislation that  will establish a long-term framework for action and make the cap and trade program law in Ontario.
  • Integrating climate change mitigation and adaptation considerations into government decision-making and infrastructure planning
  • Introducing changes to government operations, procurement, employee training, building retrofits and in other areas to help government move towards carbon neutrality
  • Developing a coordinated approach to reduce emissions from new and existing buildings
  • Reducing emissions from transportation by promoting the uptake of zero emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles

The government will also release a detailed five-year action plan in 2016, which will include specific commitments to meet near-term 2020 emissions reduction targets, and establish the framework necessary to meet targets for 2030 and 2050. The government will report on, and renew, its action plan every five years.

In May of this year, Ontario set a mid-term greenhouse gas pollution reduction target of 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.


Ontario’s Cap and Trade Design Options

The Climate Change Strategy also supports Ontario’s proposed cap and trade program, which will help Ontario meet its emissions reduction targets, reward innovative companies and ensure that households and businesses thrive as the province transitions to a low-carbon economy.

On November 16, Ontario posted design options for its proposed cap and trade program, on the Environmental Registry for public comment until December 16, 2015. Click here to access the Policy Proposal Notice.

The proposals for comment include the following:

  • Ontario’s program will begin January 1, 2017. Entities would be responsible for their emissions from that date. A first auction of emission allowances would be held in March 2017.
  • The following sectors will be covered by the scheme
    • Electricity, including imported electricity for consumption in Ontario
    • Industrial and large commercial (e.g., manufacturing, base metal processing, steel, pulp and paper, food processing)
    • Institutions
    • Transportation fuel, including propane and fuel oil
    • Distribution of natural gas (e.g., heating fuel)
  • Ontario will allow use of offsets for compliance in its program. Ontario will:
    • Establish an Offset Credit Registry
    • Issue offset credits for emissions reductions and removals from eligible projects within Canada
    • Allow for the aggregation of projects (bundling of identical projects for reporting purposes)
    • Recognize offset credits issued by California and Quebec, in anticipation of linking to Ontario’s program
    • Limit use of offsets to up to 8% of the total compliance obligation

The emission reductions achieved by an offset project would be quantified using an Ontario-approved offset protocol that sets out the requirements to demonstrate that the proposed offset credits meet the criteria of being real, additional, verifiable, validated, enforceable and permanent

Click here to read the full Cap and Trade Program Design Options


Manning Environmental Law is a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Our practice is focussed on environmental law, energy law and aboriginal law. 

Paul Manning is a certified specialist in environmental law. He has been named as one of Canada’s leading Environmental Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal: Canada and ranked by Lexpert as one of Canada’s Leading Energy Lawyers.

As always, these posts  are provided only as a general guide and are not legal advice. If you do have any issue that requires legal advice please get in touch. Our contact details can be found here

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