Ontario proves climate action is good for the economy and the environment

Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Ilario D'Amato
5 December 2017

Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario

Ahead of the One Planet Summit in Paris next week, we are showcasing how sub-national governments and leading businesses are implementing the historic Paris Agreement that was agreed at COP21 in 2015. For the next two weeks, we will demonstrate how climate action is good for companies and citizens, and how our work is helping accelerate the transition towards a world of under 2°C of global warming and greater prosperity for all.

NEW YORK: With the right climate policies in place, the economy and the environment can go “hand-in-hand” – and the Under2 Coalition is a crucial part of this, says Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Ontario, a Canadian province which has proven that sub-national leadership influences global climate action – and helped shape the ambitious Paris Agreement in 2015.

During a Climate TV interview recorded during Climate Week NYC in September, he said: “This is my first Climate Week NYC as Ontario’s new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, so it’s very important for me to come and meet with folks from around the world and learn what they’re doing, what their governments are doing, what their businesses are doing, what civil society organizations are doing to deal with climate change.”

The theme of Climate Week NYC 2017 was 'Innovation. Jobs. Prosperity', highlighting how tackling climate change is also a social and economic opportunity. A recently released report by International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, shows that renewable power investments could climb to US$11 trillion a year by 2040.

“I’m very interested in learning about how we can strengthen our economies, how we can look for the silver lining in what is perhaps the most important issue of our era: climate change,” continues Chris Ballard in his interview. “But there are silver linings, and I’m here [at Climate Week NYC] to learn about those: job creation and an improving economy – those are two of the key things that I'm hearing from folks here and I’m getting some very good examples.”

Ontario has been leading on climate action with The Climate Group for many years, working with other forward-thinking governments on advancing innovative climate policies. “Back in January 2017 after a number of years of discussion and research, we launched our cap-and-trade program”, says Chris Ballard.

Discussions on the program were held not just within the government, but also with the public – as the province’s law prescribes – with civil society organizations, business and other ministers “to figure out the best way forward to reduce the amount of carbon that’s being emitted in in the province of Ontario,” explains Chris Ballard.

The choice for such a policy tool was motivated by “a great balance between dealing with serious environmental issues and stimulating the economy. We don’t see those two things as exclusive, the economy and the environment: we see them going hand-in-hand.”

To date, having held three auctions so far, Ontario has netted about C$1.5 billion (US$1.17 billion) from selling the carbon allowances prescribed in the program. “Every penny of money we raised through our auctions has to go back into greenhouse gas emissions [mitigation and reduction programs],” says Chris Ballard.

Ontario also linked its cap-and-trade system with Quebec and California “to create a bigger market, which is better for our businesses, better for our economy and a better way of helping our citizens prosper.”

“We’re doing all sorts of things” to tackle climate change, continues Chris Ballard. “For example, we’re working with indigenous communities to help them move from diesel-generated power to more clean electricity; we have the Green Ontario Fund; we just launched a couple of weeks ago a C$377 million (US$294 million) investment for homeowners, for big and small businesses, to help them reduce their carbon footprint.

“Earlier, we launched a C$100 million (US$78 million) fund for municipal governments: we want them to come forward with some very innovative things that they can do on the ground, in their communities, to help reduce climate change.”

The climate leadership shown by Ontario has been key in raising the voice of states, regions and provinces in the international climate debate, and their impact has been crucial in helping shape an ambitious climate agreement in Paris in 2015.

Ontario is a member of the Under2 Coalition, which brings together 205 governments from 43 countries representing 1.3 billion people and almost 40% of the global economy, who have committed to reduce GHG emissions towards net-zero by 2050.

Chris Ballard concludes the video interview by calling for his fellow political leaders “to join and to be part of the Under2 Coalition because this brings us in touch and pulls us together with the leading states, regions and governments from around the world.

“It’s important that we are able to compare notes, we are able to support each other and we’re able to help spread the word to government, to business, about the important work that we’re all doing.”

Under2 Coalition

For more info or to be part of this work, contact:
Tim Ash Vie, Director of the Under 2 Coalition Secretariat, The Climate Group
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