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Ontario needs an extreme heat preparedness plan

TORONTO– Ontario Greens Leader Mike Schreiner called for an Ontario extreme heat preparedness plan as temperatures across the province continue to soar amid the climate crisis.

TORONTO– Ontario Greens Leader Mike Schreiner called for an Ontario extreme heat preparedness plan as temperatures across the province continue to soar amid the climate crisis.

“Ontario urgently needs an extreme heat preparedness plan,” Schreiner said. “As the climate emergency worsens, summers are getting hotter and hotter. And as we saw last summer in British Columbia, extreme heat can be deadly and catastrophic. Being caught out unprepared could have devastating and lethal consequences for Ontarians.”

Extreme heat is a natural disaster that the climate crisis will keep making worse. The Intact Centre on Climate Change’s models show that the frequency, length and intensity of heat waves will increase significantly over time in various Ontario regions.

As with many impacts of the climate emergency, extreme heat will impact those in more marginalized and vulnerable situations the most. As warming intensifies, lower-income communities, people with disabilities and seniors will be disproportionately at-risk from extreme heat events.

We need to act now on an extreme heat preparedness plan to build a climate-ready Ontario and protect the most at-risk individuals and communities:Give everyone access to cooling during extreme heat

  • Provide financial assistance for lower-income individuals and families to access personal and household cooling devices like high efficiency heat/cool heat pumps, thermal blinds, awnings and fans
  • Protect tenants by requiring landlords to provide cooling centres in large multi-unit residential buildings that lack air conditioning
  • Mandate maximum temperature limits in apartment buildings, similar to minimum temperature requirements in the winter
  • Make heat pumps that heat and cool available to consumers with no money down, zero- interest financing, to be repaid through utility bill savings or property tax.

Increase greenspaces in urban settings

  • Provide matching funds for municipalities to plant trees and other native plants in areas where low-income residents suffer the most from heat and lack of greenspace
  • Support municipalities to create ‘infill greenspaces’– parks, parkettes and gardens within existing neighbourhoods that are accessible to all.
  • Bring back nature in cities, starting with green roofs, school yards, and turning surplus parking lots in tree deserts into mini-forests

Universal cooling in congregate settings

  • Ensure all hospitals, LTC homes and shelters have consistent air conditioning and make a plan to implement air conditioning in all schools

Make infrastructure and homes more heat-resilient

  • Create a $2B/year dedicated Climate Adaptation Fund to help municipalities make their infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change including extreme heat
  • Update the building code so new homes are more heat-resilient, including improved insulation

Increase access to cooling centres

  • Work with municipalities to increase the quantity and quality of cooling centres
  • Develop a coordinated plan to get low-mobility people to cooling centres

Bolster clean local back-up power generation and storage so cooling devices can stay running during power outages

  • Rapidly scale up clean local power generation (e.g. solar) and power storage to help keep people and businesses’ power on during heat waves and after severe storms
  • Encourage bi-directional EV charging so EVs can provide local power in emergencies
  • Create grants and loans so that vulnerable communities can own their own local renewable energy supply
  • Revise the mandate of the Ontario Energy Board to include long-term electric utility resilience

Immediately support unhoused Ontarians who are severely at risk from extreme heat

  • Invest in immediate measures like increased access to shelters and cooling centres for unhoused Ontarians while getting to work on building 180K affordable homes

Properly track heat-related deaths to inform future preparedness