Canadian provinces Ontario and Quebec address climate change despite national government inaction

Author:
Ilario D'Amato
11 September 2014

NEW YORK: The two most populated provinces in Canada have joined together on bold initiatives to tackle climate change. Ontario and Québec combined make up more than half of the nation’s GDP and 20 million citizens, making the new partnership an important step in moving Canada toward addressing climate issues.

A first step in refreshed bilateral co-operation will see the formation of a group to support the province’s ministers, who are responsible for the environment and climate change, which will aim to update and strengthen joint agreements, with a priority on climate change issues.

The promising collaboration follows widespread criticism around Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's omission of climate change from the national 2014 budget. Canada also withdrew from the Kyoto protocol three years ago, and a media conference with the Prime Minister's Australian counterpart Tony Abbott recently sparked huge debate due to their pessimism around a new global climate deal.

Prime Minister Harper will also not be taking part in the UN Climate Summit in New York, where most political leaders will discuss how to reach common ground toward climate talks in Paris 2015.

However, increasing climate action at Canada's regional level is thankfully being spearheaded by members of The Climate Group, Ontario and Québec. In February this year, at the Canadian Energy Innovation Summit Ontario joined the province of Manitoba on a similar agreement, signing a Memorandum of Understanding.

“By strengthening our partnership, Ontario and Québec will be better positioned to face the challenges of the new economy,” said Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. “By working more closely together, we will help to grow the economy, attract businesses and investments, and create jobs. I believe our collaboration will benefit not only this region, but Canada as a whole."

Québec is a strong supporter of the cap-and-trade market, and on January 1, 2014, it linked its own system with California’s as part of the Western Climate Initiative's regional carbon market, which is now the largest of its kind in North America.

“As stated by the UN, any successful strategy aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases should include determining a price for carbon. We strongly believe that a cap-and-trade system is an efficient and economically viable response to this global challenge,” says Québec Premier Philippe Couillard.

Québec emits the least greenhouse gases per capita in Canada, according to the Government strategy 2013-2020. But it’s not immune to the problems brought about by rising temperatures, which have grown by 0.2°C to 0.4°C per decade, and it’s estimated that every year air pollution causes some 246,700 person-days of asthma symptoms, 9,500 cases of child bronchitis, and nearly 1970 early deaths in the region. 

To challenge these issues, the province has implemented a vast and long-term climate plan, which includes goals to increase urban public transport and promote local services. Also, from 2016, new government buildings must use renewable energies to operate their heating systems. On the business side, the province has granted financial support to companies wishing to convert to cleaner energy.

Quebec

Image courtesy Gouvernement du Québec, from 2013-2020 Climate change action plan. In blue, estimated reduction potential of Phase 1; in green, other policies and potential measures; in red, emission units purchased outside Québec by participants in the GHG emission cap-and-trade system.

The province of Ontario has also become the first jurisdiction in North America to have completely eliminated coal as a source of electricity generation. The closure of Ontario's coal-burning power plants is equivalent to taking up to seven million cars off the road.

Ontario's commitments also include boosted investment in smart meters and clean technologies research to counteract its increasing extreme weather events, such as storms in 2010 that resulted in estimated insured losses of US$120 million to residential and commercial properties.

Libby Ferguson, States & Regions Director, The Climate Group, commented: "This partnership between Ontario and Québec will actively help their citizens and economies to face the challenges brought by climate change. It also shows how regions can take bold initiatives that set a global standard for nations to follow. The strengthened collaboration and important bilateral group is applauded by The Climate Group and we look forward to supporting and sharing their progress to inspire other sub-national governments around the world."

On September 22-28, 2014, Ontario’s minister and Quebec’s premier and minister will also attend Climate Week NYC, where they will share their positive experiences and discuss with businessmen and civil society the opportunities that climate change brings for forward-thinking leaders and citizens. Climate Week NYC is a collaborative platform where these leaders can go deep into this issue ahead of the UN Climate Summit

For a full list of Climate Week NYC events, please visit ClimateWeekNYC.org and follow the conversation on Twitter using #CWNYC.

You can also see our Climate Week NYC media resources for press releases, contacts and more info.

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Image: Flickr/Christopher Policarpio

By Ilario D'Amato

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