Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Guest Post: Ontario's Ambitious Plan to Conquer Climate Change


Periodically Clean Air Watch accepts guest posts that we think are of general interest.  Today's post on climate change is by Beth Laurel.
On June 8th, Ontario formally announced the release of its ambitious new plan for long-term environmental sustainability. The Climate Change Action Plan, which builds upon efforts put into motion earlier this spring via legislation known as the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act, aims to drastically reduce greenhouse gas pollution while helping businesses and families in the province make the shift towards a low-carbon economy. 

Though the case has been (convincingly) made time and again that actions mitigating climate change are by far less expensive than options adapting to the impact, politicians continue to trend towards short-sighted solutions. The substantive policy programs enacted by Premier of Ontario and her colleagues encourage hope that Ontario’s “landmark” leap will drive other Canadian provinces and world nations to take action to strengthen the environment for the future.
A New Cap and Trade Program
Ontario's government will reduce pollution for its largest producers by creating a cap and trade system. Under this system, each producer will be allotted a certain number of credits. These credits cap each company's ability to pollute each year. To incentivize green standards, companies will be able to sell any credits that they did not use. Companies that need extra credits will be required to purchase them from the companies with a surplus. This system will punish polluters for firms that do not adopt green standards, but it will reward companies who take steps to improve the environment. In theory, the cap and trade system will force most companies to adopt green standards. Companies that are unwilling to adapt to the system will fail. To help companies comply with the system, the government of Ontario will subsidize “cleantech” and other similar “green” efforts.
Critics from the energy industry and free market think-tanks have spoken out on the planned system, saying that it will ultimately make energy more costly for Canadian consumers. They argue that the cost of natural gas and petroleum will become more expensive by several dollars each month. These critics must acknowledge that long-run benefits will outweigh these short-run costs. 
Policy Horizons, a Canadian think-tank, predicts that oil and traditional energy industries will be completely displaced by clean energy technology by the year 2030. By choosing to move homes, businesses and broader industry towards “renewable” natural gas and other clean energy sources, Ontario will avoid the inevitable hardships associated with relying on oil and natural gas when failure is imminent. Many economists and technology experts believe that clean energy will soon be far cheaper than current energy resources, so it is clear that Ontario's clean energy legislation will be a boon to the Canadian economy.
Impacting the Lives of Canadian Citizens
Following the policy plans within Many citizens of Ontario will be able to earn rebates by purchasing electric vehicles. For example, an Ontario citizen who purchases a 2016 Chevy Volt can earn up to $12,000 in rebates. When this plan goes into effect, the quantity of electric vehicles on Ontario's streets will surely increase.
Some media companies have also stated that the government of Ontario may also offer free overnight charging for electric vehicles. There are few details about this project, so it is likely only an idea at this time. Even if free charging does not become a public good, citizens of Ontario can earn rebates of $1,000 for installing car charging stations in their homes.
In addition to rewarding users of green transportation, the government of Ontario will offer rebates for purchasing energy-efficient homes. Consumers can earn up to $20,000 in rebates. These subsidies will also increase the value of energy-efficient homes. This gives owners incentives to invest in energy efficiency and cleantech for their homes
Ontario's plan to deal with climate change has been publicly criticized in the media as being drastic and aggressive, but these words are what we need. The reduction of pollution through a cap and trade system, new building codes, and transportation reform will ensure that efficient companies and households are rewarded. By making the leap towards a low-carbon economy today, Ontario’s provincial government is securing the possibility of a cleaner environment tomorrow. 

Beth is a Midwestern blogger from Lansing, Michigan. A graduate of DePaul University, she’s passionate about covering updates in the clean technology space and other innovations driving the renewable energy movement forward. She is a strong advocate of the “maker movement” and self-sufficient, green living.

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