Climate change isn’t a standalone problem. Rather, it’s a symptom of something bigger—an unsustainable economic system that doesn’t optimally serve our planet or its people.
Turning this ship around will involve taking a step back, re-examining some seemingly-universal truths and determining what it will take to create a different kind of Ontario. One that prioritizes the health and prosperity of its people over endless consumption, destruction and profits.
This “green and just” transition is a direction many cities and regions across the world are already pursuing:
- Cities like Amsterdam, Brussels and Nanaimo, British Columbia, have all made commitments to base their COVID-19 recoveries on the Doughnut model of economics—a framework designed to meet the basic needs of all people while staying within the environmental limitations of the planet. (Source)
- Countries like Pakistan, Egypt and Costa Rica have also set ambitious targets to invest in green projects like clean energy infrastructure, electric vehicles, and mass transit while reducing fossil fuel subsidies by 2030. (source)
- The UK has legislated pollution limits that present and future governments must meet to make sure the country hits net zero in time.
- The European Union adopted a circular economy strategy in 2012—which sought to reduce waste and pollution, reuse products and materials and regenerate natural systems. Since its implementation, the region has actually seen an increase in job creation, primarily in the recycling, repair and reuse, rental and leasing sectors—proving strategic climate action can also result in strong social benefits. (source)
The Ontario Greens’ climate plan
The Greens believe Ontario must pursue a similar path—with the end goal of creating a resilient, fair Ontario. Our plan is a strategic roadmap toward cleaner air, better health, shorter commutes, and a burgeoning economy focused on growing green industries—like the manufacturing of electric batteries and vehicles, renewable energy production, water purification, and environmental landscaping.
Part of the plan hinges on re-adjusting Ontario’s priorities. To effectively track and measure our progress—and make sure we’re creating an Ontario that’s truly better for Ontarians and the climate—we plan to focus less on Gross Domestic Product and more on the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW).
While the GDP measures the goods and services an economy produces in a given year, it doesn’t accurately measure things like business waste, happiness or income inequality. The CIW, meanwhile, measures a region’s quality of life—things like community vitality, democratic engagement, education, environment, healthy populations, leisure and culture, living standards and time use.
With the right metrics in place, it will be easier to focus on the interconnected issues that are necessary to build a thriving province and help us reach net-zero carbon emissions in time.
Another component of the plan involves keeping track of our carbon emissions. The planet can only withstand so many more megatonnes of C02 in the atmosphere before the 1.5-degree target becomes a pipedream. As a result, every region across the planet—including Ontario—must pull together and emit its allotted fair share or less.
To keep Ontario accountable and make sure our total net greenhouse gas emissions stay within our target, we believe the Ontario government—current and future—should have to present an annual carbon budget and make sure Ontario doesn’t exceed its fair share of annual carbon emissions.
There will be a path forward for those whose livelihoods are affected by the transition and support for those least able to pay. No one will be left at the mercy of international energy prices to keep warm. In a safe, resilient Ontario, we will be prepared, together, for the climate changes we can’t stop and that are already here, with particular attention to those disproportionately affected.
An Affordable Transition
We recognize that low-income and vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by climate change and need targeted support. To keep the transition affordable, Ontario Greens will:
- Provide loan guarantees to make low-cost financing and rental options readily available for electric vehicles
- Reduce transportation costs by dramatically increasing access to affordable transit, safe active transportation and compact communities.
- Invest in green retrofits so owners and tenants have access to low-cost financing to reduce energy bills and protect Ontarians from international energy price jumps.
- Bring down the cost of key equipment, such as heat pumps, through bulk purchasing and government procurement.
- Focus on at least 25% of the overall benefits of public investments to reduce climate pollution in disadvantaged communities.
- Focus conservation subsidies on retrofits that reduce energy use for those unduly affected by the cost of energy, especially rural, remote, low-income and Indigenous communities and those with resistance (baseboard) electric heating.
- Require the Ministry of Environment to develop and report on a strategy to address environmental racism.
- Improve security for those most affected by the green transition through a climate bonus, higher minimum wage, enhanced safety net, training and job matching.
- Reduce inequity by improving substandard infrastructure in low-income communities, increasing diversity among those who make and implement public policies, and increasing support for those who need it most.
If you’d like to learn more about the Ontario Greens’ comprehensive climate plan and how Mike Schreiner plans to facilitate a green and just transition across Ontario, visit www.gpo.ca/climate.