Last month, the Ontario Government finally released its long-anticipated Climate Change Action Plan. It is a 5-year plan to reduce Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions by 15% below 1990 emission levels by 2020, 37% by 2030 and 80% by 2050.
The Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) is multi-faceted, wide-ranging and does not leave a single person or sector untouched. What is exciting for us at OSEA is that in its breadth and depth, it relates very closely to our vision and mission of championing a more sustainable Ontario with a decentralised, integrated and inclusive sustainable energy system. A system that is built on portfolios of sustainable energy technologies to power, heat, cool, and transport our communities.
The CCAP engages each person on an individual level, promising to create jobs and improve our quality of life. For OSEA’s diverse membership of individuals, public, private, and indigenous champions, the Climate Change Action Plan provides ample opportunities to create new business opportunities. Due to its diverse membership, OSEA is in the unique position to help its members identify those opportunities and to find the right partners to implement them. In the following I am outlining these opportunities as I see them for each of our member segments and the industries represented within OSEA:
Municipalities across Ontario have been grappling, to varying degrees, with impacts of climate change and climate change mitigation. They are also always looking for new opportunities to bring business to their regions to ensure good, sustainable employment opportunities for the members of their communities.
Thanks to the CCAP, municipalities are now being given the tools to undertake or further advance their Community Energy Plans. They are also being urged to undergo Community Energy Mapping initiatives to better understand their own contribution to climate change. Furthermore, municipalities are supposed to reduce congestions, create low-carbon, walkable communities and encourage the transition to electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles through improved city and land planning and regulations. Municipalities are further encouraged to work with the community to retrofit building stocks and set energy efficiency standards for new developments.
The CCAP is also looking to increase biogas production providing municipalities with a first-class business opportunity for its municipal organic waste, landfill and sewer gas.
For those municipalities who already have a Community Energy Plan with greenhouse gas pollution inventories a Challenge Fund or Program will be created to help match funding for projects to further reduce emissions, with the goal to “demonstrate best cost-per-tonne reductions”.
The government seeks to collaborate and partner with indigenous communities to address the challenges of climate change and to identify areas of collaboration and actions. Major areas of consideration are questions around how to transition remote indigenous communities to low-carbon energy options, how and whether to connect indigenous communities to the province’s electrical grid and whether and how to develop micro-grid solutions for remote, Northern communities.
A fund will be established to help finance “community-level greenhouse gas pollution reduction projects and for community energy and climate action planning in First Nation communities, particularly to reduce emissions from buildings and infrastructure, and for the development of carbon sequestration projects.”
Co-operatives and Community Organizations:
Co-operatives and community organisations should seize the opportunity to work with their municipality to tackle the climate change challenge together. This could happen through the collaboration on projects to build out renewable energy generation and storage capacity, to finance energy efficiency retrofits, to develop low-carbon transportation options and to invest in and develop community spaces, such as parks and high-density living spaces, which reduce or sequester carbon emissions.
Schools, Colleges, and Universities:
Educational institutions are tasked with the important work of research and innovation as well as with establishing and delivering training programs to develop the expertise needed to fulfil the CCAP. In addition to that, educational institutions will be supported to upgrade and retrofit their own buildings and facilities and to include renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
For Industry (in alphabetical order)
Agriculture and Forestry:
The CCAP aims to increase the renewable content in natural gas. This is great news for the agricultural and forestry sector for whom new business opportunities arise as producers of renewable natural gas for power generation, heating and transportation. Furthermore, the CCAP foresees to develop a land-use carbon inventory “to assess the potential of agriculture, forestry and other land uses, such as wetlands and grasslands, to emit, remove and store carbon.” It, therefore, seeks to expand the Greenbelt and protect the province’s grasslands.
Biomass, Water, and Wind Power:
Biomass, water and wind power will be important elements of micro-grid solutions in communities that have an abundance of these resources, especially in remote, Northern communities.
The building sector will see a drastic shift to improved energy performance and an emphasis on innovation for both existing buildings and new-builds. The government aims to introduce a new building code targeting net-zero emissions by 2030 and considers implementing initial changes by 2020.
Homeowners, large commercial building owners and managers, municipalities, institutional and industrial facilities are encouraged and will be provided funding for a wide-range of measures to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. Measures include upgrades to insulation, windows, boiler, chiller upgrades, as well as building automation systems.
Geothermal & Air-source Heat Pumps:
Geothermal and air-source heat pumps will become viable options for home and building owners who are looking for low-carbon heating alternatives.
Building owners/managers and homeowners alike are being encouraged to consider on-site, renewable generation to offset their energy consumption, with a goal of reaching near net-zero emissions. Solar power generation will also play a factor in the development of microgrid solutions.
The transportation sector is with 35% the sector with the highest carbon emissions, posing the greatest challenges and opportunities. The CCAP puts forward ambitious targets for carbon reductions from this sector. Most notably, the CCAP seeks to increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs), hydrogen and plug-in Hybrid vehicles in the province, through a number of incentive programs, including rebates for EVs, and the aggressive build-out of vehicle charging infrastructure. It further incentivizes the usage of low-carbon fuels by promoting fuel-switching, increasing the renewable fuel content in conventional fuels, and investing in public transit systems and short-distance railways.
For the individual Ontarian, the CCAP has some very exciting things to offer. On the one hand, the CCAP seeks to introduce new (i.e. HER&D, Climate Change Tools) or improve existing (i.e. Green Button) programs and tools that provide accessibility to information on consumer behaviours as well as available choices to change these behaviours. On the other hand, it promises to support low-income individuals throughout the transition to a low carbon province and to generate new employment opportunities for the people of Ontario.
The Climate Change Action Plan is a bold and ambitious plan to ensure that Ontario can meet its emission reduction targets. It remains the concern that the majority of the actions in the plan are tied directly to the proceeds of the Cap and Trade Program which will come into effect in January 2017. While we, of course, hope that the Cap & Trade Program will be successful right from the start, a less than satisfactory roll-out of the program could have negative effects on the implementation of the actions outlined in the Climate Change Action Plan.
That said, the Climate Change Action Plan provides the people of Ontario with a tremendous opportunity to create new business opportunities and jobs. It also fosters collaborations between different sectors and stakeholders to ultimately build a better, more sustainable Ontario. OSEA has long advocated for such an integrated, comprehensive, and systematic approach and we look forward to working with our members and the larger community to seize the opportunities of the Plan. Through its large and diverse network of stakeholders with different backgrounds and from different sectors, OSEA is in the best position to do so.
Written by Nicole Risse, Executive Director, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association