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Action to address climate change can help province prosper

TORONTO, Nov. 19 /CNW/ - As the eyes of the world turn to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Ontario must be ready with a strong carbon cap-and-trade plan that will reduce global warming pollution and make the province competitive in a world where action on climate change is the new bottom line, say 23 of the province's environmental organizations.

"Ontario will see real economic benefits from tackling climate change. The province should act quickly to develop an effective and efficient cap-and-trade program with its partners in the Western Climate Initiative and Quebec to encourage investments in clean energy and efficiency," points out Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence.

The 23 groups have released an action agenda for Ontario that will help the province meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets, create new economic opportunities and build stronger, more economically resilient communities throughout the province.

"Climate action can be the cornerstone of the province's efforts to build an economic recovery," points out Cherise Burda, director, Ontario Energy Solutions, for the Pembina Institute. An economic modelling study commissioned by the Pembina Institute and David Suzuki Foundation found, for example, that Ontario could create over a million net new jobs and grow its economy by over 20% in the next decade while doing its fair share of the emission reduction efforts needed to tackle global warming.

"By fully implementing the Green Energy Act and retiring the Pickering B nuclear facility, protecting our boreal forest, improving access to sustainable local food, reducing air pollution and curbing urban sprawl, we can demonstrate that action on climate change will be rewarded with good green jobs," adds Bruce Cox, executive director of Greenpeace.

"The science around the growing threat posed by climate change is overwhelming. We are stepping into dangerously unstable territory and we need to get back on safe ground by getting our polluting emissions under control while also preparing for the changes we know are already underway," says Justin Duncan, staff lawyer of Ecojustice.

That will require new approaches to everything from urban land use and protecting the waters of the Great Lakes to habitat and endangered species protection and waste reduction say the groups as they urge the province to take a wide ranging approach to protecting the environment and addressing the impacts of climate change.

"Just around the corner is a world where wasteful practices will be increasingly costly and efficiency will be richly rewarded. When oil prices hit triple digits once again and it is no longer free to dump greenhouse gas pollutants into the atmosphere, it is the places that have gotten smart about reducing their environmental impact and developing new approaches that will survive - and thrive," says Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

The 23 environmental groups will present their annual Priorities Platform to all parties and the government as lead issues to tackle in the next 12 months. A full description of the environmental priorities endorsed by the 23 groups is available at www.GreenProsperity.ca (en Francais www.prosperiteverte.ca).

The groups endorsing this initiative are: Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Canadian Environmental Law Association, Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, Citizen's Environment Alliance, Community Power Fund, Conservation Council of Ontario, David Suzuki Foundation, Earthroots, Ecojustice, Environment North, Environmental Defence, Forest Ethics, Great Lakes United, Greenpeace, Local Food Plus, Ontario Nature, Ontario Smart Growth Network, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, Pembina Institute, Sierra Club Ontario, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Wildlands League, World Wildlife Fund.

The Priorities

Show the way with climate leadership

Finalize a strong carbon cap-and-trade system that Ontario can take to the international climate summit in Copenhagen. This system should set the standard for Canada by embracing wide coverage and realistic prices that result in Ontario meeting its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Recognize our Great Lakes responsibilities

Create a Great Lakes Protection Act to significantly strengthen Ontario's leadership in restoring the environmental and economic health of the Great Lakes.

Build a more prosperous north

Create green northern jobs and save the Boreal Forest. Keep the promise of a new approach to Far North protection and reform southern boreal land use to meet growing demand for ecologically sustainable forest products and create new opportunities - and jobs -- for communities.

Give species a chance by giving them a home

2010 is the United Nations international year of biodiversity. In Ontario, mark this year by taking concrete action to protect the habitat of endangered species, starting with a habitat regulation that covers the full current range of threatened woodland caribou.

Power up green energy

Green energy is a key global warming solution and a rapidly growing economic opportunity. Retire the Pickering B nuclear plant and replace it with renewable energy along with greater efficiency and conservation as a first step toward fulfilling the tremendous potential of a fully implemented Green Energy and Economy Act.

Give polluted communities a break

The combined impact of many different sources of pollution is harming our communities. To reduce toxic air pollution, Ontario must amend the Environmental Protection Act to ensure a full accounting of existing air pollution sources and resulting health and environmental impacts before allowing any new or increased industrial emissions in communities. There must also be effective plans developed to reduce pollution in toxic air pollutant hot spots.

Let the public speak out

Stop developers, big polluters and other powerful interests from silencing public debate around urban sprawl, pollution prevention and other important public policy decisions. Ensure the public's right to participate in decision making by passing anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation.

Put local sustainable food on plates across Ontario

Wise investment is needed by the Government of Ontario to satisfy Ontarians hunger for local sustainable food. Relevant ministries must co-operate on the development and execution of a province-wide local sustainable food strategy. Government support needs to target infrastructure and systems that will enable greater processing and distribution of the food Ontarians increasingly desire.

Get the garbage out of packaging and products

It's time for companies to take cradle-to-grave responsibility for their products and their packaging waste. Amend the Waste Diversion Act to ensure full extended producer responsibility (EPR).

Full details on all of the above are available at www.GreenProsperity.ca (en Francais www.prosperiteverte.ca) .

For further information: or to arrange interviews, contact: Brad Cundiff, Green Living Communications, (416) 535-0205, brad@glcommunications.ca

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