Ontario trumpets green growth potential at Americas summit

States and provinces across the continent can lead on climate action, says premier, highlighting economic benefits

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne (Pic: Flickr/Liberal Party)

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne (Pic: Flickr/Liberal Party)

By Megan Darby

Ontario played up its plans to link into Quebec and California’s carbon market as it opened a pan-American climate summit on Wednesday.

Its participation will expand North America’s largest cap-and-trade scheme, which is designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate low carbon investment.

The Canadian province hailed the chance to develop the emissions trading system, as representatives of 20 regions gathered in Toronto.

“Throughout the Americas, states and provinces are taking the lead in the fight against climate change,” said Kathleen Wynne, premier of Ontario.

“Together, we are building a more prosperous low carbon economy and demonstrating that good climate policy is good economic policy.”

Report: Ontario unveils plan to link carbon market with Quebec and California

Quebec leader Philippe Couillard and California governor Jerry Brown also declared their commitment to the climate cause.

Former Mexico president Felipe Calderon and US climate campaigner Al Gore were scheduled to give keynote speeches at the two-day summit. But Canada’s environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, spurned it for a festival in the Arctic.

The summit highlights a tension between Canada’s provinces and federal government on climate action.

Nationally, Canada has been criticised for weak carbon-cutting targets and a failure to grapple with soaring emissions from tar sands.

Ontario, Quebec, British Colombia and even oil-rich Alberta are showing more enthusiasm for greening their economies.

Report: Canada posts pledge for 2015 UN climate change deal

Yet a report by Ontario’s environment commissioner on Tuesday showed the relatively climate-forward province has a way to go.

Ellen Schwartzel warned that the region would miss its 2020 target unless its government took more aggressive action.

It has already closed its coal plants and needs to find further reductions on a similar scale, she advised. While the cap-and-trade scheme covers industrial emissions, the government must also tackle pollution from transport and buildings to close the gap.

“It is only five years away and projections indicate the province has a sizable gap to fill,” she wrote.

Last Sunday demonstrators marched through Toronto to demand green jobs.

Environmentalist David Suzuki, actress Jane Fonda and author Naomi Klein headed a procession of trade unions and green groups.

“This is the kind of coalition that will make the difference,” Fonda was quoted in CBC News as telling the crowd.

“Renewable energy — doing away with the fossil fuel-based economy — will create more jobs, more democracy and more justice.”

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