Thursday, June 02, 2011

More Greenhouse Gas

It has become a bit of a habit for me. Each year around this time I find myself drawn to the Annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report put out by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Why do I do this? Am I looking for encouragement or trouble?

This is Commissioner Gord Miller’s third annual report.

The context is that as Ontario is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions it is imperative that progress is measured regularly.

Specifically, emissions (calculated in megatonnes) must be reduced relative to 1990 levels by:
*6% by 2014
*15% by 2020
*80% by 2050

In 1990 the level of GHG emissions was 177 megatonnes (Mt.) per year. By 2009 it had, in fact, dropped by more than the target (i.e., 6.5% to 165 Mt.) Not bad, but because of reduced industrial activity this result is somewhat misleading.

Now with the economy growing the Commissioner worries that there is “no plan, mechanism or tolls in place that would allow the 2020 targets to be met.”

Projecting a modest amount of economic growth (adds 23 Mt.) Factoring in the impact of the coal phase out in 2014 (reduction of 10 Mt.) means there will remain 13Mt “still on the table.”

The transportation sector is responsible for 56.8 Mts. Most of these emissions are produced by personal vehicles. So, it is surprising that apparently effective programs aimed at this sector have been dropped.

For example, the Green Commercial Vehicle Program was begun in 2008. It supported the purchase of low GHG emitting commercial vehicles. Planned for four years it was suspended after two.

Another good idea, the Ontario Bus Replacement program, was established in 2002. It resulted in an estimated 1.1Mt emission reduction. It was cancelled in the 2010 provincial budget. Now, when municipalities have to replace buses they will need to use the Gas Tax Fund which has been a source for other needs for the struggling municipal sector.

The government seems to know what to do. They just aren’t doing it.

Metrolinx’s Big Move, a much needed $50 billion Regional Transit Plan, was fully funded in its first phase. The 2010 budget (again) delayed monies for the second phase.

As far as another initiative, When The Mayor Smiles had put great faith in the intensification mandated by the Places to Grow Act. Miller points out, however, that 60% of new planned growth will still go to Greenfield areas and the density targets aren’t good enough to justify provision of an effective transit system in these areas.

I’ll come back to the report tomorrowish with some suggestions.

Hint: Don’t expect me to find inspiration from Ford Nation.