Green Party says Ontario not moving forward on effective climate change

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By VALERIE MACDONALD Northumberland Today

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s report demonstrates the Ontario government is not addressing climate change specifically enough and that a job-creating Green Building Program would both provide jobs and reduce greenhouse gases, says Cobourg resident and Ontario Green Party Deputy Leader Judy Smith Torrie.

While Environment Minister John Wilkinson says the report and plan entitled Climate Ready: Ontario Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan provides a framework for collaborative action, Smith Torrie said that for years the Environmental Commissioner has faulted the government for having no plan. Her party’s leader, Mike Schreiner, reiterated that in a media release, stating there is no “clear plan for the province’s own targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Schreiner and Smith Torrie both berate the government for failing to post the plan that covers the years 2011 to 2014 as a “policy proposal” as required by law because of its environmental significance.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s special report reviewing the government’s climate ready plan was released last week.

“Climate Ready identifies decisive actions to address adaptation needs in Ontario, but fails to clearly indicate how these will be prioritized for implementation over the four-year timeframe of the strategy,” Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller said after releasing his evaluation of the provincial plan.

“The strategy correctly identifies that adaptation initiatives are required across the mandates of many government ministries, but it doesn’t outline specific responsibilities for key ministries like energy, economic development and innovation, or northern development and mines,” Miller states.

As an example, Miller pointed out the increasing devastation from ice storms, specifically affecting the electrical grid, but noted the report offers no direct actions to be taken by the energy ministry.

Miller said climate change is already affecting our lives and Smith Torrie said this will only increase in the coming years.

That’s why it’s important for a Green Building Program that can provide specialized training and provide jobs to people who may not be employable without more training while “preparing our homes for the future,” she said.

“It’s a great bang for the buck…. And there is a ripple effect” through the economy, Smith Torrie said.

Retrofits adding insulation and draught-proofing homes go hand-in-hand with updating the Ontario Building Code so that homes, most of which last 100 years, can deal with hotter and dryer climate changes, reducing energy use into the future.

A recent storm in this area had only 90-km/h winds and it created significant damage, Smith Torrie said. Hurricanes will be at least twice that powerful.

“We have to build our infrastructure (energy, water, sewer, etc.) to withstand severe downpours,” she said.

Temperatures are already rising, Smith Torrie said, quoting Miller who said the increase would be in the range of 2.5 to 3.7 degrees Celsius (4.5 to 6.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050.

Some local organizations are already looking into climate change impacts such as the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority that is re-modeling the 100-year storm, Smith Torrie said.

“It’s more likely now.”

What the country is dealing with is more wet weather in the winter when the ground is frozen and run-off not being absorbed as it is usually in the form of snow, so there is no moisture in the spring. The result is soil becomes for friable, or crumbling, she said.

Not only in Ontario, but across Canada, climate change action “is essential,” Smith Torrie said.

“The most important thing is we have to move ahead with climate change. It’s already here.”

vmacdonald@northumberlandtoday.com