Ontario’s Environment Plan: Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations

On November 29, 2018, the Ontario government released its Environment Plan: Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations. This Plan outlines, in broad strokes, the government’s intended actions and policies for addressing many environment-related issues in Ontario, including the pollution of air, land, and water, the reduction of litter and waste, and the emission of greenhouse gases (“GHGs”). The government is accepting comments on the Plan until January 28, 2019 through the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Following consultation, the government intends to establish an advisory panel on climate change and to begin implementing some of the initiatives identified in the Plan.

Some of the more specific policies outlined in the Plan relate to climate change initiatives. The government indicates that it intends to implement policies to encourage the use of low carbon vehicles, and that it will implement industry-specific emissions performance standards, increase the required ethanol content in gasoline, and establish an Ontario Carbon Trust to assist in funding projects that will reduce emissions of GHGs at the lowest cost. As we reported in previous blog posts, the federal government’s climate change plan and Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act will require that provinces implement a $20/tonne price on GHG emissions starting in 2019, which will increase by $10/tonne annually until it reaches $50/tonne in 2022. If a province or territory has a system in place, but that system does not meet federal requirements, the intent is for the federal system to supplement the provincial or territorial system. The Ontario Plan does not refer to putting a specific price on carbon and it is difficult to see how it could meet the requirements of the federal plan.

The Ontario government also plans to modernize the Building Code and to develop tax policies that support homeowners in taking measures to protect their homes against extreme weather events. With respect to litter and waste, the government has indicated its intent to move towards a producer responsibility model for products and packaging in Ontario, to decrease the amount of organic waste going to landfill, and to develop a plastics reduction strategy. Further, the government also indicates that it will tackle the issue of excess soil by developing policies to ensure that excess soil is managed appropriately and not unnecessarily sent to landfills. The government will also revise the brownfields regulation to reduce barriers to redeveloping contaminated lands, and modernize Ontario’s environmental assessment process.

Given the broad nature of the policies outlined in the Plan, anyone interested in guiding the development of environmental laws and initiatives in Ontario, especially those related to reducing and managing the emissions of GHGs, should consider commenting on the Plan before January 28, 2019. We would be happy to assist in preparing commentary.

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