Sometimes you gotta spend the green to go green.
(Please disregard for a moment that we have multi-coloured bank notes).
The Ontario government has announced it will spend $7 billion over the next four years in an effort to reduce the province’s carbon footprint – the second highest in Canada after Alberta. The extensive climate change plan will affect almost every aspect of our lives, including the way we get to work and how we heat our homes.
“We are on the cusp of a once-in-a-lifetime transformation. It’s a transformation of how we look at our planet and the impact we have on it,” reads a preamble to the plan signed by Ms. Wynne. “It’s a transformation that will forever change how we live, work, play and move.”
That transformation includes almost a dozen major initiatives, including (per the Globe and Mail):
– $3.8-billion for new grants, rebates and other subsidies to retrofit buildings, and move them off natural gas and onto geothermal, solar power or other forms of electric heat.
– $285-million for electric vehicle incentives. These include a rebate of up to $14,000 for every electric vehicle purchased; up to $1,000 to install home charging; taking the provincial portion of the HST off electric vehicle sales; an extra subsidy program for low– and moderate-income households to get older cars off the road and replace them with electric; and free overnight electricity for charging electric vehicles. Time to buy that now-affordable Tesla.
– $280-million to help school boards buy electric buses and trucking companies switch to lower-carbon trucks, including by building more liquid natural gas fuelling stations.
– $354-million toward the GO regional rail network. (Any chance the TTC can get in on that?)
– $200-million to build more cycling infrastructure, including curb-separated bike lanes and bike parking at GO stations.
– $375-million for research and development into new clean technologies, including $140-million for a Global Centre for Low-Carbon Mobility at an Ontario university or college to develop electric and other low-carbon vehicle technology.
– $1.2-billion to help factories and other industrial businesses cut emissions, such as by buying more energy-efficient machines.
– $174-million to make the government carbon neutral. This will include retrofitting buildings, allowing some bureaucrats to work from home and buying carbon offsets.
While spending will take place over the next four years, some of the most significant benefits won’t be realized until much later. Goals for the climate change plan include 12 per cent of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2025, all new homes by 2030 to be heated with electricity or geothermal systems, and to cut emissions 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.
That’s a pretty lofty goal given Ontario will be home to roughly six million more citizens between those two periods.
While there was tension and debate at a recent cabinet meeting outlining the plan, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said it ended with “100 per cent consensus” to move forward with the project.