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Ontario’s New Climate Change Plan and What it Means for Local Governments

Ontario’s New Climate Change Plan and What it Means for Local Governments


On November 29 2018, the Ontario government released their plan: “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.”  Included are announcements for updates and funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The action items summarized below are those relevant to local governments’ efforts toward climate change capacity building and infrastructure resiliency efforts.

Efforts to Update Policies and Build Partnerships that Improve Local Infrastructure Resilience

  • Update municipal wastewater and stormwater policies and consider updates to how those systems are financed. Noted examples include:
    • Ensuring municipal wastewater systems are monitored in real-time to track sewage overflows into Ontario’s lakes and rivers by encouraging “targeted investment and innovation.”
    • Reviewing and streamlining “land use planning policies and laws” to ensure communities are “planned and designed to be more responsive and adaptive to changing weather conditions” such as improving stormwater management.
  • Focus on the resilience of critical infrastructure through investment in “better technology” and “back-up generation and energy storage options”, so that services and infrastructure deemed vital can “better withstand and remain operational during extreme weather events.”
  • Potentially require both i) the replacement of winter roads that are “deteriorating as a result of changing weather conditions and shortened winter seasons”, and ii) the development of a “strategy to enhance all-season road connections to Northern communities.”
  • Modernize the Building Code and consult on “tax policy options affecting homeowners” to ensure homes and buildings are better able to withstand extreme weather events.
  • Collaborate with municipalities, stakeholders and conservation authorities to mitigate “flooding and other natural hazards”, conserve and protect vulnerable natural resources like wetlands.
  • Modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment process to promote streamlined service standards and planning, including working with municipalities to “develop climate and energy plans and initiatives to support building climate resilience.”

Efforts to Better Understand the Impacts of Climate Change in Ontario

  • Undertake a provincial impact assessment to “identify where and how climate change is likely to impact Ontario’s communities, critical infrastructure, economies and natural environment” with the goal of producing risk-based evidence to guide future decision-making at the local level.
    • This will involve “impact and vulnerability assessments for key sectors” including “transportation, water, agriculture and energy distribution” as well as working closely with “climate science modelling experts, researchers, Indigenous communities, and existing climate service providers to identify and create adaptation solutions.”
    • The Ontario government cites the two assessments conducted by the United Kingdom since 2008 as potential models for predicting future climate impacts through analysis of “risks, vulnerabilities and impacts of climate change” on key economic sectors and infrastructure, ultimately producing a roadmap to navigate “high” and “low” climate change risks.
  • Establish an advisory panel on climate change to advise on action development and implementation.

Efforts to Fund Ontario Initiatives

  • Review the Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program, with a goal of encouraging municipalities to “incorporate climate resilience improvements when repairing or replacing damaged infrastructure after a natural disaster.” It is noted that over $2.6 million has been provided to 11 municipalities since the launch of the program in 2016.
  • Continue working with municipal and federal governments through the green stream of the “Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program” to invest “up to $7 billion in federal, provincial and municipal funding over the next 10 years” to reduce emissions and make transit, transportation, local water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure more resilient.
    • Through the Investing in Green Infrastructure stream of the Investing in Canada Plan, the Government of Canada has outlined in Budget 2017 the investment of $21.9 billion into green infrastructure via Infrastructure Canada, including initiatives that will support the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Of that funding, $9.2 billion will be provided to provinces and territories over the next decade through bilateral agreements, and a “further $5 billion will be available for green infrastructure projects through the Canada Infrastructure Bank and $2.8 billion through a series of national programs.” [1]
  • Launch an emission reduction fund called The Ontario Carbon Trust, a carbon pricing scheme accompanied by a reverse auction that will contribute to an estimated 4% emissions reduction by 2030, confirmed to be available to municipalities.
  • Raising funds through the issuing of Green Bonds in collaboration with the Ontario Financing Authority.
    • The project categories included in the realignment of the bond program include “transit initiatives, extreme‐weather resistant infrastructure, and energy conservation and efficiency.”

Federal Impact on Ontario

These listed climate adaptation efforts do not exist in a vacuum within Ontario, as the Federal government is currently implementing Canada’s Climate Plan within the province. This includes the introduction of Pollution Pricing in January 2019, the direct proceeds of which will go directly back to individuals in Ontario in the form of Climate Action Incentives Payments, comprised of 90% of the revenue generated by pollution pricing backstops. These incentives will be distributed on a per-household basis via mailed cheques, “which will give most families more than they pay under the new system.”

Remaining revenues will be provided to participating provinces via new and existing funding streams, with particular focus provided to municipalities, schools, hospitals, non-profits and Indigenous communities. These organizations will receive devoted funding to i) offset the additional costs resulting from pollution pricing, ii) contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, and iii) contributes to the Actions for a Clean Growth Economy, which includes the mandate to “Invest in climate-resilient infrastructure and integrate climate resilience into building codes and standards” [2]