The natural world is finite, so unlimited material growth is impossible. Ontario must use only what we need, make things last, and support low-impact producers of low-carbon products.
This will help reduce overall environmental impact. The transition will also create economic opportunities and careers in developing new technologies, materials, and low carbon industries.
Key metrics for materials and products will include:
- Low-carbon materials and products invented and made in Ontario.
- Carbon footprint of key materials such as petrochemicals and structural steel.
- Percentage of recycled material in new products.
We will protect Ontario industries as they decarbonize by phasing in our key policies for achieving sustainable materials and products depending on how quickly the federal government brings in effective Border Carbon Adjustments. (See Fair Economy.)
We would cut industries’ climate pollution by making the carbon pricing system for large polluters steadily more stringent, both by increasing the carbon price and by decreasing the amount of climate pollution that is permitted for free (Output Based Pricing System.) We would also enforce the polluter pays principle and charge the real cost of environmental damage and cleanup to the companies that cause it.
We’ll help polluting industries transition to clean technology:
- Provide low-interest loans for emerging low carbon industries.
- Require disclosure of the carbon footprint of all GHG intensive materials, such as petrochemicals, plastic, steel, cement, and aluminum.
- Buy Clean: starting in 2023, set a minimum and increasing percentage of large public procurements of GHG intensive materials that must be low-carbon, providing a market for heavy industries that are transitioning to low-carbon technologies and processes.
- Re-establish the Ontario Centres of Excellence’s grant and matching program, focusing on projects where polluting industries work with Ontario cleantech solution providers.
- Use proceeds from the Output Based Pricing System to provide seed grants for new technology.
Why accept offsets for FSC-certified cross-laminated timber?
Offsets are processes that take carbon back out of the atmosphere and lock it away for at least 100 years. Rigorous definitions of offsets are critical to the legitimacy and effectiveness of any net-zero commitment. Cross-laminated timber is a promising example, because it creates mass timber for construction from small, fast-growing trees that take carbon from the atmosphere. Cross-lamination makes it strong and durable, usable and re-usable for more than a century.
Carbon capture and storage
Many industries hope to reduce emissions by capturing their climate pollution before it is released into the atmosphere, and permanently storing this pollution. This type of technology is called “carbon capture and storage” or CCS (sometimes also called CCUS.).
While CCS is currently very expensive, the technology is just developing, and has many risks, and the permanence of its carbon storage is doubtful, CCS might play an important role if properly regulated.
Ontario Greens do not intend to subsidize CCS, but the absence of regulation is an unnecessary barrier to the private sector developing it. Accordingly, Ontario Greens would set up a predictable regulatory system for CCS, including:
- Technical guidance.
- Standards for siting, operations, monitoring and verification of permanent storage, and accountability for leaks.
- A clear, coordinated permitting process.
A low-risk alternative to CCS that relies on existing technology is to scale up the use of durable biomaterials that provide long-term sequestration of carbon, such as biochar or cross-laminated timber made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. Because trees and other plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, durable biomaterials can create offsets that will allow Ontario to reach net-zero by 2045 without completely eliminating all GHG emissions.
Sustainable Materials and Products
Protect nature by using less stuff
- Set targets to significantly reduce Ontario’s material and consumption footprints, and track and report on progress.
- Challenge designers, architects, engineers and contractors to minimize the use of high impact materials and to design for a circular economy at the end of a material’s first use.
- Put an immediate moratorium on new gravel pits. Instead, encourage aggregate recycling and minimize aggregate use by stopping sprawl and building with wood.
Also read our Zero Waste challenge.
Source minerals sustainably:
- Amend the Mining Act to comply with UNDRIP and the constitutional rights of Indigenous Peoples and to respect “no-mining” zones set by municipalities and First Nations.
- Require mining companies to:
- Obtain permission from surface rights owners and First Nations to conduct exploration.
- Enter local impact and benefit agreements.
- Pay a tax on waste that presents an environmental hazard.
- Design their tailings facilities to withstand the increased storm intensity that the climate crisis will bring.
- Hold sufficient insurance to pay for a catastrophic failure, no matter the cause.
- Fully pre-fund all mine closure costs, including remediation.
- Maximize collection and reuse of post-consumer minerals.
- Support the establishment of a global science-policy body on chemicals and waste.
Make things last
- Set durability standards so that goods are designed to last, and to be repaired.
- Adopt standards to steadily improve product and material durability, reusability, upgradability and reparability, increase recycled content and energy and resource efficiency and reduce the use of hazardous substances.
- Encourage product-as-a-service models where producers keep the ownership of, or responsibility for a product throughout its lifecycle.
- Encourage remanufacturing and high-quality resource recovery and recycling, while restricting single-use and countering premature obsolescence.
- Enact a right to repair consumer products, and an obligation to make parts available.
- Support tool libraries and similar sharing of goods and services.
- Build leading industries in energy storage (e.g. batteries), electric/ fuel cell mobility, smart transit and low-carbon biomaterials:
- Increase funding for research, innovation, demonstration and commercialization.
- Use procurement and industrial strategy to support commercialization and growth.
- Gather data and share knowledge.
- Expand innovation hubs and centres of excellence.
- Mandate extended producer responsibility for end-of-life batteries, and encourage their re-use for stationary energy storage.
- Build market share of low carbon materials, such as cement and steel:
- Develop a strategy for Environmental Product Declarations that accurately document a material’s carbon footprint.
- Recycle demolished concrete as an alternative raw material for making new concrete.
- Adopt standards to facilitate reuse of steel construction materials without remelting.
- Unlock private-sector cleantech investment, as recommended by the Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance.
- Incent public and private sector organizations to improve their productivity by purchasing Canadian cleantech.