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Ford government’s climate plan will cut jobs, not emissions, green advocates say

Ontario’s new climate plan won’t do much to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but it will cost the province jobs, say some people involved with companies in the emerging clean technologies sector.

Tom Rand of Arctern Ventures says the Progressive Conservative government’s policies have already cost jobs and hurt investment, and the new plan will accelerate those losses.

“There’s a global race on to build clean-tech solutions, to build technologies that allow us to decouple economic activity from carbon emissions,” Rand said. “Ontario just signaled that it is not serious about going after that market.”

Environment Minister Rod Phillips says the province’s plan will stimulate private investment in clean energy through a $400-million, taxpayer-funded Ontario Carbon Trust — which will encourage large polluters to adopt clean technologies. The plan does not include a tax on carbon.

The trust replaces the previous Liberal regime’s cap-and-trade system, under which greenhouse gas emissions were capped and companies bought and traded permits to pollute. The provincial government re-invested the money from the transactions in green industries.

“The idea of recycling the cap-and-trade money back into industries in order to allow them to reduce emissions at the scale of billions of dollars a year is a relevant and reasonable approach to saying Ontario was going go after the clean tech market,” said Rand.

“Throwing 500 million bucks at it and over a number of years, it’s not a serious effort.”

And Rand says it will be more and more difficult to keep those green tech companies in Ontario.

Robin Edger, the Ontario regional director with the Pembina Institute, a non-profit thank-tank that deals with energy issues, says cancelling incentive programs has already had an impact.

For example, he says, retrofit companies lost business when incentives to make homes more energy efficient were cut and car companies are feeling the impact of the cancellation of electric vehicle rebates.

“I think it looks good to throw $500 million at an industry. It sounds like a big number,” Edger said.

“But you spread that over a few years, it’s pennies. This reversal in direction on climate leadership will cost us jobs and clean innovative industries and put our economic future at risk.”

Edger says the new climate plan fails to acknowledge that other economies are transitioning to cleaner technologies and there is a global market for low-carbon products and services worth an estimated $7.5 trillion a year.

“This government’s plan does nothing for that sector. We’re not well placed to compete,” Edger said.

And there are doubts whether the climate-change plan will help Ontario meet its Paris Agreement targets by 2030.

“Not putting a price on carbon is still a huge concern for us because this is going to make it very difficult to actually get to the emissions reductions we want to achieve. We don’t have the investments to actually take those actions,” said Dusha Sritharan of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

The Progressive Conservative government won’t put a price on carbon and, in fact, Ontario is one of several provinces going to court to stop the federal government from imposing a carbon tax.

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