Green New Deal News

Ford government starts two-year study of how climate crisis will impact Ontario

Ontario is embarking on a two-year study of how the climate crisis will affect the economy, key infrastructure and communities, the province said Friday.

The impact assessment will be done by the independent non-profit Climate Risk Institute. Though it’s an important first step to help the province prepare for and adapt to the fallout of the climate crisis, the government’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions are still lacking, said Sarah Buchanan, clean economy program manager at the green non-profit Environmental Defence.

“They’ve got one half of the equation here, but where’s the actual plan to reduce greenhouse emissions in Ontario?” Buchanan said.

“This is like watching your house burn down, and instead of calling the firefighters, calling your insurance company.”

The impact assessment delivers a key promise from the government’s 2018 environment plan. (The plan was criticized by green advocates, who called it scant, and by Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk, who said it was “not based on sound evidence or sufficient detail.)

“Our government is committed to tackling climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions and helping communities and families prepare for the effects of our changing climate,” said Environment Minister Jeff Yurek in a press release Friday.

“I look forward to receiving the results of Ontario’s first-ever climate change impact assessment, which will help the province, municipalities, Indigenous communities and local partners make more informed decisions on planning and infrastructure investments to keep communities healthy and safe.”

The Ottawa-based Climate Risk Institute is aimed at helping decision-makers build resilience for the impacts of the changing climate. In Ontario, the climate crisis is expected to bring severe storms, heat waves, floods and wildfires that happen more frequently and intensely.

The institute will examine how that will shape Ontario using climate data, land use patterns and socio-economic projections, the government said in the press release. It will also be mandated to consult Indigenous communities, the public and “key economic sectors.”

“The Climate Risk institute is pleased to be leading this climate change impact assessment of vulnerabilities to Ontario’s natural environment, economies, and communities, which is critical for prioritizing decisions that protect and create resilient investments, livelihoods, ecosystems, and public health and safety,” said Al Douglas, president of the Climate Risk Institute, in the government’s press release.

“The assessment will support decisions that are informed by science and local knowledge and will allow for a more strategic approach to climate change adaptation planning in Ontario.”

Paul Kovacs, chair of the government’s advisory panel on climate change, said in the press release that the assessment is a crucial step to help the province prepare for extreme weather to come.

Buchanan said she’s glad the province is doing the assessment, but also pointed to the government’s broad cancellations of green energy programs. If Ontario doesn’t work to reduce emissions, it risks missing a crucial and tightening window for lessening the impacts of the climate crisis, she added.

“What are you actually doing to reduce carbon pollution? What are you actually doing to fight climate change?” she said.

“It’s really frustrating to see this attitude of giving up on a problem that we need to take action on to reduce how horrible it’s going to be, to reduce the catastrophic consequences.”