Tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.
To protect the health of Ontarians, the province must move as rapidly as possible to stop burning fossil fuels, to take care of the greenspace, wetlands and forest that we still have, and to restore what we can. It costs much less to prevent climate chaos than to cope with it after it happens, and it will be much less disruptive for peoples’ lives.
The Green Party will put health first
When health is taken into account, stopping climate pollution is an opportunity, not a cost. Even meeting the comparatively modest federal climate targets would save about 112,081 lives between 2030 and 2050 due to air quality improvements alone.
People are healthier in communities with:
- Clean air, sustainable water and healthy food.
- Safe streets and good public spaces, including greenspace.
- Vibrant, inclusive local economies.
- Good mental and physical health.
- Freedom from recurring climate disasters like forest fires, droughts, floods and food shortages.
Kick the fossil habit
Clean up air pollution and climate pollution by kicking the fossil habit through the policies set out in Crush Climate Pollution in our top priorities, plus:
- Stop fossil fuel subsidies, including tax breaks and the Independent Electrical System Operator’s subsidies that offset the carbon price paid by gas-fired power generators.
- Require public capital cost decisions to take future climate damage into account, estimated at $300 per tonne of climate pollution (“shadow cost of carbon.”)
- Require all large public and private organizations to disclose and reduce their carbon footprint and climate-related financial risks.
Protect people from toxic pollution, especially vulnerable communities.
- Establish and enforce industry sector standards for air and water pollution that protect health.
- Require government to consider cumulative effects when setting pollution standards and issuing permits.
- Require industry to virtually eliminate pollution of air and water with persistent toxic substances, as the government promised to do decades ago.
- Establish higher standards for air and water pollution in areas where vulnerable communities are exposed to cumulative health risks from multiple industries (environmental justice).
- Improve environmental equity mapping and use it in pollution permitting decisions.
- Increase real-time air monitoring across the province, prioritizing communities with higher levels of pollution, and creating a community notification program to provide real-time data and alerts.
- Give residents in vulnerable neighbourhoods a right to be heard by the leaders of industries that expose them to dangerous pollution.
- Update health standards for substances of greatest concern, such as PFAS “forever chemicals”, lead and tritium in drinking water, nitrous oxides (NOx) and fine particulates (PM2.5) in outdoor air, and CO2 and radon in indoor air.
- Require full disclosure of toxic ingredients in consumer products, including fragrances, fast fashion, textiles, cosmetics and personal care products, and flame retardants in furniture.
- Ban the sale, manufacture, import and distribution of PFAS in food packaging, prohibit the use of PFAS in firefighting foam; and adopt strong PFAS drinking-water standards.
Improve access to nature and greenspace
Access to safe, healthy greenspace has lifelong benefits to people’s physical and mental health.
Greenspace also improves resilience, provides wildlife habitat, builds a relationship with nature, cleans stormwater, and moderates extreme heat, and can be used to grow food.
Access to greenspace can be challenging, especially for vulnerable communities in urban areas. Ontario Greens will therefore support urban municipalities to create accessible, local, infill greenspaces so that, by 2030, there is one within a 10 minute walk of all homes.
Enhance environmental rights
- Create a legal duty to consider the well-being of future generations, through a Well-being of Future Generations Act.
- Strengthen the Environmental Bill of Rights to include:
- The Canadian Index of Wellbeing.
- An enforceable substantive right to a healthy environment and to keeping its ecosystems and watersheds intact.
- Restoring the independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, to report annually on environmental quality, overall well-being, and government’s progress in achieving the goals of this plan.
- Allow citizen lawsuits to enforce pollution limits, a citizen’s right to sue major climate polluters, to seek a court order requiring them to cut their pollution.
- A robust right to public participation in environmentally significant decision-making in Ontario.
- Support enshrining environmental rights within the Canadian Constitution.
Prepare for what’s coming
Prepare for the climate changes we can’t stop and that are already here, with particular attention to vulnerable people. We will:
- Plan how to manage the health risks to people, including heat, wildfire smoke, flooding, drought and insect-borne diseases.
- Prepare municipalities, infrastructure, buildings, agriculture, and forestry to withstand the increased effects of climate change.
- Create a dedicated $2 billion per year Climate Adaptation Fund to get this overdue work underway.
- Require all large public and private organizations to evaluate their vulnerability to climate shocks and stresses, and to plan how to manage them. This will include providing support tools for building and infrastructure vulnerability assessments.
- Integrate climate resilience into land use planning and approvals, and when designing, sizing and siting infrastructure.
- Expand natural infrastructure on private and public lands to increase resilience to climate risks. (See Sustainable Water.)