‘Car­bon trust’ re­places cap and trade

The prov­ince will com­mit $ 400M to the fund over four years and will be bankrolled by tax­pay­ers THES­TAR. COM/ POL­I­TICS

StarMetro Toronto - - TOP STORY - Rob Fer­gu­son and Robert BENZIEQUEEN’S

On­tario’s new cli­mate change plan cre­ates a $400 mil­lion “car­bon trust fund” bankrolled by tax­pay­ers to en­cour­age in­vest­ment in clean tech­nolo­gies — and gives tips on pre­vent­ing base­ment floods.

The prov­ince will com­mit the money over four years and bol­ster it with penal­ties paid by pol­luters to help spur at least $1 bil­lion in pri­vate-sec­tor in­vest­ment in com­mer­cially vi­able so­lu­tions to fight­ing green­house gas emis­sions, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Rod Phillips said Thurs­day.

His blue­print fol­lows months of crit­i­cism from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists af­ter Pre­mier Doug Ford’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives sig­nalled On­tario’s with­drawal from a cap- and- trade al­liance with Cal­i­for­nia and Que­bec, which raised $1.9 bil­lion from pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries for cli­mate change ini­tia­tives.

Phillips called that “an in­ef­fec­tive, re­gres­sive car­bon tax” as he un­veiled the new mea­sures at the Cold Creek Con­ser­va­tion Area in Noble­ton, north of Toronto.

He in­sisted On­tar­i­ans have al­ready done the “heavy lift­ing” in Canada to re­duce emis­sions by phas­ing- out coal- fired power plants with re­sult­ing high elec­tric­ity bills.

“It’s a plan that bal­ances a healthy en­vi­ron­ment with a healthy econ­omy — most im­por­tantly, we will do this with­out im­pos­ing a car­bon tax,” Ford wrote on Twit­ter.

“It con­tains so­lu­tions that will pro­tect our air, land and wa­ter, re­duce waste, ad­dress lit­ter, in­crease our re­silience to cli­mate change and help us all do our part to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions,” said Phillips.

The plan won ku­dos for propos­ing a cli­mate change im­pact as­sess­ment so On­tar­i­ans can un­der­stand risks and costs they face, and pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives for in­vest­ments through in­come de­fer­rals.

But it was widely panned by en­vi­ron­men­tal groups for a lack of de­tails.

Green­house gas emis­sion stan­dards and penal­ties for ex­ceed­ing them, for ex­am­ple, will be de­cided later in con­sul­ta­tions with in­dus­tries, a process that Phillips said will in­volve “a ne­go­ti­a­tion” with com­pa­nies emit­ting C02.

“The plan re­leased to­day con­tains mainly as­pi­ra­tional state­ments and plans to make plans, with­out se­ri­ously demon­strat­ing how the gov­ern­ment will lead On­tario to a low- car­bon econ­omy,” said Robin Edger of the Pem­bina In­sti­tute, an en­ergy con­ser­va­tion think tank.

New Demo­crat MPP Pe­ter Tabuns called it a “fairy tale” that won’t en­sure On­tario meets Paris Agree­ment green­house gas re­duc­tion tar­gets over the next 11 years, as Phillips in­sisted it would.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said the car­bon trust model is “un­proven” and the plan ap­pears to ig­nore re­cent dire warn­ings about the dan­gers of not ac­cel­er­at­ing the fight against cli­mate change.

“Ask­ing cit­i­zens to pay pol­luters and set­ting up bur­den­some new reg­u­la­tions will only cost more and de­lay ac­tion,” he warned.

Ford’s move to kill cap and trade, while low­er­ing gaso­line and nat­u­ral gas prices, has ex­posed On­tario to the fed­eral car­bon pric­ing plan, against which the prov­ince has ear­marked $30 mil­lion to wage a court bat­tle.

“I’m hope­ful that when they see that we are go­ing to hit the tar­gets that they agreed to, the 2030 Paris tar­gets … this dogma about hav­ing to have a car­bon tax won’t be as im­por­tant,” said Phillips.

But fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Cather­ine Mckenna quickly sig­nalled that is not likely.

“Pre­mier Ford is go­ing back­wards,” Mckenna said. “Any se­ri­ous cli­mate plan in­cludes a price on pol­lu­tion. When pol­lu­tion is free, there will be more of it.”

“IT’S A PLAN THAT BAL­ANCES A HEALTHY EN­VI­RON­MENT WITH A HEALTHY ECON­OMY.”

Pre­mier Doug Ford

CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

On­tario En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Rod Phillips says the gov­ern­ment’s cli­mate change plan has the right bal­ance between a healthy en­vi­ron­ment and a healthy econ­omy.

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