Ontario needs to broaden its climate change policy reach

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Report released by Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller

The Ontario government will need to expand its climate change policy agenda if it hopes to have any chance of reaching its short- and medium-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.  This is one conclusion in a report released by Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller.

The report, entitled Annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report 2010: Broadening Ontario's Climate Change Policy Agenda, identifies several key policy priorities for the government to ensure that it can stay on track to meet its reduction targets.  This GHG Progress Report expands on a report released last December.

"I support the government's current initiatives involving a cap-and-trade system; it is one way to put a price on carbon. But we need to put the right price on carbon emissions to ensure that a clear and transparent price signal is conveyed to consumers," said Mr. Miller. "Additionally, the government needs to keep all its policy options open, and have a transparent public dialogue to explore other possibilities (such as a carbon tax) in case a cap-and-trade system fails to materialize." 

Recognizing that the transportation sector is the largest single producer of GHG emissions in Ontario, the report calls for a serious and comprehensive assessment of how road pricing can assist in reducing GHGs and making public transit a more attractive option.  "Our report documents the significant environmental, social and economic benefits that many other jurisdictions across the globe have realized by putting a price on road use," Miller stated.  "And, it's not just about gridlock and congestion, serious though these problems may be. Transit funding must be found - through road tolls if necessary - to make the commuting decision to use transit that much easier."

The report also contains a key recommendation designed to ensure that Ontario continues to show leadership in the areas of GHG target setting. In light of the growing recognition in the scientific community that global atmospheric CO2 levels are reaching a dangerous tipping point, the report urges the government to conduct a public review of its GHG targets to set more aggressive reduction objectives.