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Ontario Government Budget & the Environment

Written by John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng., Editor

The Ontario government recently issued its budget for the 2019 fiscal year.  The budget was considered in some circles as not favouring the environment. One environmental activist organization went as far as calling it ““the most anti-environmental budget in Ontario” since Mike Harris was in power in the 1990’s.

For starters, the government cut $300 million from the budget for the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks. The cuts
from that Ministry’s budget come from the end of programs funded by the cap-and-trade system, as well as the cancellation of the Drive Clean program for passenger vehicles.

If one looks closely enough at the budget, there was some good news to professionals that work in the environmental sector, including the following:

  • A province-wide climate vulnerability assessment.  The Government will assess the best science and information to better understand where the province is vulnerable and understand which regions and economic sectors are more likely to be impacted.  Such an assessment is typical in the insurance industry and major companies.  The findings from the assessment will feed into the Province’s Climate Plan announced in November 2018.
  • Clean technology incentives.  The Government has taken steps to encourage private investments in clean technologies. Through the Ontario Job Creation Investment Incentive, the Province is paralleling the Federal Government in allowing businesses to immediately write off investments made in specified clean technology capital equipment. This incentive will make investments in clean energy generation and energy conservation equipment more attractive.
  • Industrial emissions performance standards.  The Government is currently developing emissions performance standards for industries to achieve further greenhouse gas reductions.  When the new standards are promulgated in a regulation, each industrial facility will be required to demonstrate compliance annually.

The budget included these and other sections that are encouraging indications the the Ontario government understands that value of the environmental and cleantech industries.

Canada’s draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: Impacts on Clean Technology and Brownfield Development

The Government of Canada recently released the Draft 2019–2022 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy for public consultation and tabled the Government’s 2018 Progress Report of the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.

The draft Strategy sets out the Government of Canada’s environmental sustainability priorities, establishes goals and targets, and identifies actions that 42 departments and agencies across government will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their operations and advance sustainable development across Canada.

Of interest to professionals in the environmental sector is some of the Government’s goals with respect to the greening of government. For example, the Government is aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from federal government facilities and fleets by 40% by 2030 (with an aspiration to achieve this target by 2025) and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. It also has the goal to divert at least 75% (by weight) of all non-hazardous operational waste (including plastic waste) by 2030, and divert at least 90% (by weight) of all construction and demolition waste (striving to achieve 100% by 2030), where supported by local infrastructure. The administrative fleet will be comprised of at least 80% zero-emission vehicles by 2030 according to the draft report.

With respect to real property, the proposed actions of the Canadian federal government include the following: (1) All new buildings and major building retrofits will prioritize low-carbon investments based on integrated design principles, and life-cycle and total cost-of-ownership assessments which incorporate shadow carbon pricing; (2) Minimize embodied carbon and the use of harmful materials in construction and renovation; and (3) Departments will adopt and deploy clean technologies and implement procedures to manage building operations and take advantage of programs to improve the environmental performance of their buildings.

For professionals involved in clean technology, the draft report calls for the implement of the Government’s pledge to double federal government investments in clean energy research, development and demonstration from 2015 levels of $387 million to $775 million by 2020.

The 2018 Progress Report shows how the Government of Canada is implementing the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, demonstrating that it is on track to meeting many of the commitments laid out in the Strategy. This includes highlighting the leadership role Canada has taken in working toward zero plastic waste and implementing measures to conserve marine areas, as well as actions on climate change.

With respect to clean technology, clean energy, and clean growth, the progress report touts the fact that through three consecutive federal budgets, the Government of Canada has made substantial investments in initiatives to support clean technology, clean energy and clean growth. These commitments include: (1) $2.3 billion in 2017 for clean technology and clean energy research, development, demonstration, adoption, commercialization and use; (2) $1.26 billion in Budget 2017 for the Strategic Innovation Fund; and (3) $4 billion in 2018 in Canada’s research and science infrastructure, much of which helps drive innovation towards a clean growth economy.

The draft Strategy updates the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, largely maintaining its aspirational goals while adding targets that reflect new initiatives, updating milestones with new priorities, and strengthening links to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In all, 29 medium-term targets support the draft Strategy’s goals, along with 60 short-term milestones and clear action plans.

Among other results, the 2018 Progress Report shows that

  • from 2016 to 2017, greenhouse gas emissions from federal government operations were 28 per cent lower than in 2005 to 2006—more than halfway to the target to reduce emissions from federal buildings and fleets by 40 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030;
  • as of December 2017, close to 8 per cent of Canada’s coastal and marine areas were conserved; and
  • from 2017 to 2018, visits to national parks and marine conservation areas increased by 34 per cent above the 2010 to 2011 baseline levels.

Canadians have the opportunity to provide comments on the draft Strategy until early Spring 2019. For further information: Caroline Thériault, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, 613-462-5473.