#TWIEN: Global community braces for crucial climate talks at COP24

A weekly recap of noteworthy headlines in provincial, national and global environment news.

This week in environment news: BC unveils new climate plan, Ontario scraps Green Energy Act, McKenna releases Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, and the international community meets in Poland to discuss collective climate action

Dec. 3 – Dec. 9

Ontario Government repeals Green Energy Act (Bill 34), proposes Restoring Competitiveness Act (Bill 66)

Ontario’s Greenbelt region encompasses 7200km of protected lands including farmland, wetlands, forests and green spaces across southern Ontario.

Environmentalists raise concern over Ontario’s newly proposed Bill 66 which could put the Greenbelt in the hands of developers and businesses. On Thursday, as the government was wrapping up for the year, PCs introduced Bill 66 Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act focusing on certain changes in environment regulations as well as childcare and labour protections.

Since Ford’s coming to power in June, the PC government has been strongly focused on cutting red tape and administrative burden across various sectors. Part of their slew of promises was to scrap Ontario’s cap-and-trade system and green energy act – claiming both programs reduce Ontario’s competitiveness and incentive for business, while taking money out of pockets of Ontarians. If Mr. Ford made one thing very clear since being in office, it’s that he has more interest in expanding the province’s ‘Open for Business’ opportunities than improving environment protection plans.

In regards to the environment, certain clauses of Bill 66 include:

  • Enabling municipalities to pass bylaws giving them the discretion to exempt certain developers and businesses from various regulations. This is to reduce the burden of administrative processes and speed up project proposals.
  • Allowing certain developments including sections of the Clean Water Act, the Great Lakes Protection Act, the Lake Simcoe Protection Act and the Greenbelt Act to be exempt from a list of bylaws, further endangering protected lands as well as the quality of ecosystems inhabiting these lands.
  • The bill also repeals the Toxics Reduction Act meant to reduce pollution by preventing industrial uses of certain toxic chemicals.

Other provisions of Bill 66 seek to reduce certain childcare and labour protections to reduce administrative burden and accelerate business in Ontario. The bill will continue to be debated once the government reconvenes in February.

BC announces new climate plan

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver (left), Environment Minister George Heyman (center) and BC Premier John Horgan (right) celebrate new climate plan. Source: National Observer

Just a week after Ontario’s announcement of its new climate plan, BC released its CleanBC program. With heavy focus on electrifying BC’s energy sector, the two thirds of the plan provides a series of incentives for industries to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously promoting economic growth and creating a market for green energy.

Key provisions of the plan include:

  • Gradual increase in carbon tax – BC was the first province to implement one almost a decade ago. Today the price sits at $30/tonne.
  • 100% zero emissions on all new vehicles by 2040
  • Net-zero ready buildings by 2032
  • Rebates and tax credits issued back to households to off-set energy costs
  • 19 million tonnes of GHG reductions annually by 2030
  • Vast investment in infrastructure to support polluters’ transition to low-carbon

These sweeping changes constitute 75% of BC’s emissions with solutions to the remaining 25% to be announced in the next 18-24 months. The remaining amount is expected to address the future of the $40b LNG pipeline project announced last year. Environmentalists are skeptical whether BC’s ambitious targets will also include emissions generated from future pipeline projects.

As Michael Liebrich points out in his recent piece on the future of a low-carbon world, “it is clearly riskier to bet against this march of clean energy and transportation than to bet on it.” – and BC is very much aware.

Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna announces Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 

The Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) sets out Canada’s environmental sustainability priorities, establishes goals and targets, and identifies actions to achieve them. It outlines what the government will do to promote clean growth, ensure healthy ecosystems and build safe, secure and sustainable communities over a 3-year period.

Canada’s draft 2019 to 2022 is currently open for public consultation until April 2, 2019. Detailed provisions can be found on the Canadian Government website here.

World leaders meet in Katowice, Poland for UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP24)

‘System change not climate change’ read posters of climate activists at COP24. Source: Reuters

It’s been a long week of for heads of state as they bury their heads in discussion over climate action in Katowice, Poland. In 2015, the global community met in the city of lights to address collective climate action and adopted key targets to reduce carbon emissions through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that would collectively stabilize warming temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Three years later, world leaders meet in Poland to revisit Paris targets and set new goals under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Federal environment minister McKenna headed to Poland today for the remaining 5 days of the COP24 summit.

Here’s what’s making headlines so far:


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