“On the day Premier Doug Ford pulled Ontario out of an international clean energy trading market, it spelled the end for 227 emissions-reducing projects across the province, reveals a leaked document.
A full list of the cancelled projects assembled by a government source — based on information obtained through their role and through multiple information requests — was shared exclusively with National Observer detailing a breakdown, by municipality, of the $2.9-billion fund the province had collected through the cap and trade agreement, revealing that those most affected by the cancellation were students, low-income Ontarians, municipalities and commuters.
Until now, details of what kind of projects that money was allocated for were scant, but the leaked list reveals a wide range of initiatives set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lost their funding, including schools, hospitals, small businesses and several social housing providers.
According to the leaked document, in Ontario, the money was set to fund 120 commuter cycling programs (each worth $25,000) in 120 jurisdictions across the province. It was set to help develop 41 green social housing programs, and 20 improvement or retrofit projects for social housing apartments. It was also going to go toward 11 electric vehicle charging stations and one electric-bus pilot in the city of Brampton (Canada’s ninth largest city).
Some of these projects had already taken off and allocated funding over four years — all of which has now been revoked, on top of 758 renewable energy contracts and other cuts for climate action funds for the 50 Million Tree Program, electric and hydrogen vehicle incentive programs and flood management by conservation authorities.
Standing on the steps of Queen’s Park on June 29, 2018, the day he was sworn in as premier, Ford affirmed his government’s first policy change would be Ontario’s withdrawal from the cap-and-trade carbon market with Quebec and California. The pledge was greeted with huge applause and cheers. The bill that made the withdrawal official passed in November of that year.
Later, Ontario’s fiscal watchdog would find the cancellation of cap and trade will cost $3 billion in lost revenue over the next four fiscal years.
The cap and trade agreement was set up by the former Liberal government and served as a multi-national pollution pricing system between Ontario, Quebec and California, who collectively agree to tailored limits — or caps — on the greenhouse gas emissions that large industrial polluters in each jurisdiction can emit every year.
Under this system, companies are able to purchase allowances to offset the pollution they expect to emit over a given period. All the revenues generated through the sale of these allowances go directly into government coffers and are then dedicated to green energy projects. And if a company emits less than the expected amount, they can sell their allowances to other companies that emitted more.
According to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), whose office the Ford government shuttered earlier this year, cap and trade raised almost $2.9 billion in government revenues from six auctions since January 2017 — $2.4 billion up to March 31, 2018, and $472 million in the final May 2018 joint auction with California and Quebec. The money was tracked in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account (GGRA)and used to “fund, directly or indirectly, costs relating to initiatives … that are reasonably likely to reduce, or support the reduction of greenhouse gas.”
In California, cap and trade funds have been collected from polluters and spent to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, the state spent US$1.4 billion on such efforts, investing in everything from electric cars, solar panels and clean energy transit lines. These programs have helped clean the air of pollution that makes people sick — reducing particulate emissions by 474 tons in 2018. The fund is also being used to reduce the amount of water that Californians use and to plant millions of trees.
Quebec also elected a right-leaning government in 2018, but it chose to continue the province’s participation in cap and trade, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In Ontario, the cancellation of cap and trade is shown as lost revenue in the Ford government’s first budget. It is mentioned only four times in the 382-page financial document, with few details about where the cap and trade funds the government had in its coffers had been spent. (In previous interviews, Ministry of Environment spokespeople have said the remaining money in the cap and trade coffer will allocated for “wind-down costs.”)
Ontario’s environmental commissioner — along with a Nobel prize-winning economist and much scientific research — touts the cap and trade program as the most cost-effective and efficient way to reduce the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. British Columbia, California and several European nations who have carbon pricing programs have reduced their emissions while maintaining strong economies.”