Mandate letter progress: Environment and Climate Change
The Minister’s response letter to Premier Wynne, outlining the results achieved on key mandate priorities in 2014-15.
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January 11, 2016
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario
Room 281, Main Legislative Building
It was an exciting year at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and I am proud to share some of our key achievements with you. My priorities for the ministry included taking meaningful and strong action to fight climate change, improving water quality and protecting the Great Lakes, establishing legislation to support increased waste diversion, enhancing polluter responsibility, protecting pollinator health and safeguarding Ontarians from toxics.
Moving Forward in the Fight Against Climate Change
Climate change is the most critical environmental, economic and public health challenge facing the world and our province. Without immediate and sufficient action by jurisdictions of all sizes around the world, our planet may soon pass a tipping point where the effects of climate change could become impossible to adapt to or to undo. The costs associated with climate change are already adding up. As you know, the risks of doing nothing far outweigh the costs of taking action and investing in climate-resilient solutions.
Ontario has already made progress with actions such as ending coal-fired electricity generation and meeting our 2014 target of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels. But more needs to be done.
Ontario is on track to meeting its 2020 targets of 15 per cent below 1990 levels. We have taken bold steps to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution and help transition the province to a prosperous low-carbon economy by:
- Becoming the first Canadian province to set a mid-term greenhouse-gas reduction target — our goal is to reduce emissions by 37 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.
- Announcing a cap and trade program in April 2015 that will price carbon in Ontario by imposing a hard ceiling on the pollution allowed in the economy. In November 2015, we released proposed program design options for our cap and trade program, which will be designed to meet our emissions-reduction goals in a way that promotes low carbon and high productivity in Ontario industries. This action will effectively reduce the amount of greenhouse-gas pollution in our atmosphere, reward innovative companies, provide certainty for industries and create more opportunities for investment in Ontario. The money raised through cap and trade will be reinvested in a transparent way into programs that further reduce greenhouse-gas pollution and help support Ontario households and businesses.
- Working collaboratively with Western Climate Initiative, Inc. to ensure Ontario is well positioned for its first auction of greenhouse-gas allowances in 2017.
- Releasing our Climate Change Strategy on November 24, 2015. The strategy will help achieve the province’s near and long-term greenhouse-gas reduction targets and improve Ontario’s resilience to the impacts of a changing climate. It also outlines the path to a prosperous, low-carbon society, where I will continue to work with Cabinet on the development of the Climate Change Action Plan, which will be released in spring 2016.
- Putting Ontario’s new Climate Change Strategy into action with the support of a new $325-million Green Investment Fund, which commits money for projects that fight climate change. These investments are part of the government’s plan for securing a healthy, clean and prosperous low-carbon future by transforming the way we live, move, work and adapt to our environment, while ensuring strong, sustainable communities.
- Working with the Ministry of Transportation to leverage the Green Investment Fund to develop a $20-million grant program that will create a network of fast-charging electric vehicle stations in cities, along highways and at workplaces, apartments, condominiums and public places across Ontario.
- Making it easier for large energy-intensive industries to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by replacing coal and coke with alternative low-carbon fuels, while ensuring public health and the environment are protected.
- Working with the new federal government on a national climate change strategy that reflects provincial as well as federal actions.
Internationally, Ontario also demonstrated subnational leadership in the fight against climate change by:
- Hosting the Climate Summit of the Americas this past July, which drew premiers, governors, Indigenous leaders and other government representatives from more than 30 jurisdictions across the western hemisphere to Toronto, mobilizing 22 Canadian and international jurisdictions to sign the Climate Action Statement at the Summit.
- At COP21, Ontario successfully promoted its leadership in fighting climate change and learned about experiences and new approaches in other jurisdictions, which will help our province better fight climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.
- Becoming a founding member of the Global Climate Leadership (“Under 2”) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), committing jurisdictions to setting 2030 emissions targets and specifying actions to achieve them, and recruiting new signatories for the MOU.
- Joining the States and Regions Alliance Steering Group and committing to publicly reporting on greenhouse-gas emissions through the Compact of States and Regions.
- Building a strong coalition with Québec, California, Manitoba and Mexico to work toward a North American carbon market.
- Signing a new MOU with Québec and Manitoba to facilitate their intent to link their cap and trade programs under the Western Climate Initiative (WCI).
- Signing a new MOU with Québec to continue collaboration on climate change and to implement our joint intention to link the Québec carbon market to the program being developed in Ontario.
Protecting the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are vitally important to the people of Ontario for our drinking water, quality of life and prosperity, but there is still more work to be done. We need to continue to invest in science and monitoring of our Great Lakes waters to better inform us of threats to the lakes. We will use this science to ensure we are making informed decisions to better protect and improve the quality of the lakes. Some examples of our leadership include:
- Reintroducing and passing a strengthened Great Lakes Protection Act, which is designed to give the province new tools to protect watersheds, beaches, wetlands and coastal areas.
- Through the Great Lakes Commission, signing the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement with Michigan and Ohio to reduce phosphorus loadings by 40 per cent. The Great Lakes Commission’s Lake Erie Nutrient Targets (LENT) Working Group, which includes Ontario, released in the fall of 2015 a Joint Action Plan to achieve phosphorous-reduction targets for Western and Central basins.
- Developing a 12-point action plan to address blue-green algae blooms.
- Implementing new water taking rules to manage large water withdrawals and transfers within the basin in ways that are consistent with the Great Lakes — St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement signed by Ontario, Québec and the eight Great Lakes States.
- Signing a new Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health.
- Providing a fourth round of funding through the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund, which is making $1.5 million available to local grassroots organizations and First Nations. Since 2012-13, $4.5 million has been awarded to 221 community-based projects that protect water quality, improve wetlands, beaches and coastal areas, and protect habitat and species.
- Establishing the Joint Committee on Water Management with Québec and signing the Lake Friendly Accord with Manitoba.
- Approving 22 locally developed Source Water Protection plans under the Clean Water Act.
- Monitoring for chemicals in Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, assessing coastal circulation and water quality patterns in eastern Georgian Bay, monitoring for toxic chemicals in the Niagara River, and sampling microplastics at the mouths of urban tributaries in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
Increasing Waste Diversion
In November 2015, our government introduced the proposed Waste-Free Ontario Act and released a draft strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy. The proposed legislation would increase resource recovery and waste reduction in Ontario by holding producers accountable for recovering resources and reducing wastes associated with their products and packaging. The draft strategy provides a roadmap for Ontario to leverage multiple planning, policy and economic tools to reduce the amount of waste generated by Ontarians, improve the resource recovery of these materials, and reduce the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions from the waste sector.
The goal is to foster innovation in product and packaging design and encourage businesses to design long-lasting, reusable and easily recyclable products. We extensively engaged with key stakeholders, including producers, municipalities, services providers and environmental groups during the development of the proposed legislation and draft strategy.
Improving Drinking Water for First Nations
To support the Premier in discussions with the federal government, we have developed a framework for a long-term plan to improve drinking water quality on reserves. The province will be engaging with First Nations and the federal government to determine a path forward on a long-term sustainable plan for drinking water.
We are also collaborating with First Nations and the federal government to fund clean drinking water in First Nations communities that need it most through the Small Communities Fund of the federal Building Canada Program.
Safeguarding People from Toxics
Ontario launched the Toxics Living List in October 2015 — an innovative way to continually update the list of toxic substances covered by the Toxics Reduction Act.
We are also releasing new data and a report on our website about the amount of toxic substances companies have used, created, and discharged, as well as summaries of plans developed for reducing toxic substances.
Environmental Assessment of the Ring of Fire
We support responsible and sustainable development in Ontario’s Ring of Fire that is protective of human health and the environment, and done in full consultation with the public and Aboriginal communities. We continue to coordinate baseline environmental monitoring with partner ministries. Additionally, after an extensive and careful review, with significant amendments, I approved Noront’s Terms of Reference for its proposed Eagle’s Nest multi-metal mine project.
Improving Pollinator Health
We are supporting the province’s strategy to improve pollinator health, which includes developing a pollinator health action plan to reduce exposure of pollinators to neonicotinoid insecticides and addressing a number of other stressors impacting pollinator health, including climate change and weather.
We have made progress toward the goal of reducing the number of acres using neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds by 80 per cent by 2017. Following consultations with more than 24 industry associations, and receiving 23,000 comments on our proposal, we amended Ontario Regulation 63/09 under the Pesticides Act with new rules for these pesticides — 97 per cent of the feedback we received on this initiative was positive. The new requirements will be phased in by 2020. Since the fall, we have been providing a free integrated pest management course to ensure grain farmers are better informed and able to meet the new regulatory requirements.
Ontario’s actions and leadership to protect pollinators are the strongest to date in North America on neonicotinoid pesticides, and we continue to work with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on outreach and implementation.
I look forward to continued progress on our complex and active agenda in 2016, and to working with my Cabinet colleagues to advance our government’s goals. I remain committed to open and transparent engagement with Ontario’s citizens and businesses. I will continue working closely with my ministry to ensure the government’s fiscal agenda is supported while meeting our key commitments.
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
|Mandate Letter Commitment||Progress to Date|
|Continue to focus your attention on ensuring clean air, water and land.|
|Work with industry, stakeholders and the public to achieve compliance with environmental standards.|
|Establish a new long-term climate change strategy.|
|Building on, and supporting, the most current science, lead the development of a new long-term climate change strategy for Ontario. This strategy will be forward looking to 2050 and will contain an action plan to help our government achieve its greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020. Implementing the strategy and achieving our targets will require an all-of-government approach and, as Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, you will work with and be supported by colleagues, including the ministers of Finance, Energy, Transportation, Municipal Affairs and Housing, Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Research and Innovation, and Natural Resources and Forestry to complete the strategy in 2015.|
|Developing initiatives to engage the broader public and stakeholders in a discussion about climate change and its risks.|
|Supporting the Secretary of the Cabinet and the President of the Treasury Board to ensure climate change is taken into account in the government decision-making process. This will include greenhouse gas (GHG) impact analyses for significant policies, legislation and regulations and adaptation considerations for public infrastructure investments.|
|Supporting the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister of Energy, and working with other provinces and territories, on the development of a Canadian Energy Strategy that includes co-ordinated efforts to reduce GHG emissions.|
|Developing new alternative fuel rules in 2014 to help big, energy-intensive industries reduce their GHG emissions.|
|Re-introducing a strengthened Great Lakes Protection Act, which recognizes the importance of the Great Lakes to Ontario’s environment, economy and the health of our citizens.|
|Further protecting the Great Lakes, including making Great Lakes shorelines and beaches cleaner and safer, through steps outlined below.|
|Negotiating the renewal of, and implementing, the Canada-Ontario Agreement respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. This will include developing a nutrient target by 2016 to address algal blooms in the Great Lakes and bringing forward recommendations to meet that target.|
|Continuing to engage local communities in clean-up and restoration efforts, including through the Great Lakes Guardian Fund.|
|Working with Great Lakes states to ensure the sustainability of the Great Lakes. This will include fully implementing the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Sustainable Water Resources Agreement by regulating intra-basin transfers.|
|Developing and implementing improved approaches to waste diversion. Your ministry will do so by building on the release of the Waste Reduction Strategy and working with industry, municipalities and other stakeholders toward the objective of re-introducing waste reduction legislation. The goal for your ministry is to ensure the ongoing sustainability and appropriate governance of waste diversion programs. This is critical to protecting the environment, recovering economic value in the waste stream and reaping GHG reduction benefits by using resources more efficiently.|
|Improving drinking water on reserves, with a focus on remote communities: the number of First Nation reserves without access to safe drinking water is unacceptable. You will work with the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, me — in my capacity as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs — and the federal government, who are primarily responsible for the provision of safe drinking water on reserves, to make substantive progress in this area. We will develop measurable, achievable targets to monitor progress.|
|Supporting the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs in efforts to strengthen pollinator health.|
|Working with business, industry and partner ministers to provide Ontarians with better information about chemicals linked with cancer.|
|Working with industry, ensure that products on Ontario store shelves such as children’s products are as safe as those in the US and the European Union.|
|Continuing to work on decisions relating to environmental assessments associated with projects in the Ring of Fire region. You will do so by working with the ministers of Northern Development and Mines, Aboriginal Affairs, and Natural Resources and Forestry. This will include ensuring that the regional and cumulative impacts of proposed development are considered.|
|Reviewing the legislative framework to ensure there is a comprehensive approach to holding polluters responsible for decisions that affect the environment. Your ministry will put greater emphasis on prevention and on the “polluter pays” principle, focusing initially on contaminated sites.|