Premier Kathleen Wynne and Environment Minister Glen Murray want to give every building in Ontario an energy retrofit, get more drivers to switch to electric cars and make the entire government itself carbon neutral.
The province on Tuesday released a "high-level" Climate Change Strategy, long on rhetoric but short on details, as Ms. Wynne and Mr. Murray gear up to attend the United Nations climate change conference in Paris next week.
"As a province, as a country and as a planet, we are now moving confidently toward a positive, practical vision of a low-carbon future," Ms. Wynne said at the Royal Ontario Museum, standing in front of a troop of cabinet ministers, as she released the plan. "We saw this positive, practical progress on Sunday when Alberta stepped up to tackle their challenges. We saw it yesterday when the premiers and the Prime Minister sat down for the first time in years … And we'll see it next week in Paris."
The strategy outlines several areas that the province will target as it seeks to slash emissions. One is retrofitting existing buildings and changing the building code for new buildings to make them more energy efficient. Another is "promoting the uptake" of electric cars and hybrids.
Ms. Wynne said she hoped the federal government would help pay for some of these programs, such as by providing financial incentives for people to retrofit their homes.
The strategy also reiterates the government's emissions-reduction targets and its plan to set up a cap-and-trade program. It commits the government to rewrite land-use planning and infrastructure standards to make them more resistant to climate change-related weather problems.
The government is still working out how all of these programs will work, as well as how the cap-and-trade system will be structured. These details are expected to be released early next year.
Ms. Wynne said the government will also put its climate targets, as well as details of its climate-change strategy, into law, to show that the province is serious about meeting them.
Ontario currently burns 6-per-cent less carbon than it did in 1990; the plan is to drive that down to 15 per cent by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. She also said the government will look to give more money to the province's clean-tech sector to help them develop new technologies.
"We need to look across the economy for greenhouse gas reductions. The highest-emitting sectors are transportation, industry and buildings. So this new strategy identifies strategies in each one of those areas," she said. "We know how to be climate-change leaders, and with our country and the international community behind us … we know that we will meet the challenge of our time."
Mr. Murray, said the government will take the money raised from cap and trade – which estimates peg at about $2-billion per year – and put it into programs to move the province toward a low-carbon economy. He said the idea is to compensate consumers for the extra costs of carbon pricing.
"Is there a cost that's being passed onto consumers by this? We're hoping not," he said.
Mr. Murray also hinted that one program the government is pursuing could see charging stations for electric vehicles at LCBO outlets.
And he put into perspective the enormity of the plan.
"We're talking about transformational change … over the next 30 years, we need to retrofit every single building," he said. "This isn't small potatoes stuff."
David Paterson, VP Corporate and Environmental Affairs at General Motors of Canada, attended the announcement and said he would like to see the province develop infrastructure such as charging stations to help the auto industry sell more electric cars.
"We at GM believe the future is going to be electric cars," he said. "That's the investment we're making."
NDP MPP Peter Tabuns lamented the lack of specific details in Ontario's plan. He said he suspected the Liberals decided to issue the vague document so as not to allow Alberta to steal Ontario's thunder on the climate-change front.
"I think they looked at Rachel Notley and the amount of coverage she got the other day and thought 'this is a great idea, let's do this,' " he said. "If they come before all of you without a plan, without numbers, without targets – what kind of an announcement is that? It's not an announcement."
The speed with which Ms. Notley crafted Alberta's climate policy – she managed to draft a complete plan in less than six months – is also showing up the glacial pace Ontario is taking in developing its own strategy. Mr. Murray was handed a mandate to create a climate-change strategy in June, 2014, but the final plans will not be in place until early next year.