The Ontario premier and members of her cabinet received a letter this week from an unusual alliance of organizations urging her government to swiftly adopt a meaningful price on climate-altering carbon pollution.
The letter shows that there is broad consensus among industry, trade unions and environmental organizations on the need to act now to address climate change by establishing a price on carbon. It is now clear that industry does not agree with oft-repeated claims that reducing carbon pollution will be a demerit to economic activity. In particular, the Cement Association of Canada is one of the signatories of the letter, despite the fact that they would be subject to a carbon price as cement production is a carbon-intensive process. The letter therefore stresses that continued uncertainty and inaction on curbing climate pollution is increasingly costly, threatening Ontario’s leadership role in the economy of the 21st century.
Before being defunded by the Harper government, the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) concluded that a “low-carbon economy is no longer a concept of the future,” and that a “price on carbon is fundamental to achieving the required efficiency gains and innovative drive to support low-carbon growth.” Adopting a price on carbon for Ontario would send a clear signal that Ontario is serious about expanding its green economy and creating the jobs associated with this development. This is one reason why trade unions are in favour of carbon pricing — Blue Green Canada, which unites some of the largest unions and environmental organizations, is another signatory to the letter.
Most importantly, though, a well-designed policy to put a price on carbon is vital for Ontario to meet its greenhouse gas reduction target for the year 2020. Just this week, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario concluded — in his latest report aptly named “Failing our Future” — that current policies in Ontario will result in a spectacular failure with regards to the 2020 target. A price on carbon could close much of this policy gap and by adopting a “made-in-Ontario” solution to curbing greenhouse gas pollution, Wynne’s government could also avoid subjecting Ontario households and businesses to the expensive and ineffective piecemeal approach being pursued in Ottawa. The good news for Ontarians is that bureaucrats within the government are already consulting on a carbon pricing policy for the province; the bad news is that the current elements of that policy are so weak that they would not achieve anything meaningful for the environment or the development of Ontario’s green economy (our comments to the government on this matter can be found here).
This week’s letter to the Ontario government is clear: support for a meaningful price on carbon is broad, the time to act is now and Ontarians expect their government to live up to its promised pollution cuts and lead the way into the economy of the 21st century.