August 11, 2017

2017 Ontario Climate Symposium: Day 2 Plenary Panel

OCC 2017 climate symposium logo


Ontario’s Climate Action Plan in the Subnational and Intercontinental Context


  • Coordination at the state and provincial on climate change is considered to be crucial for success in adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change.
  • Ontario, Quebec, and California are having some success with their cap and trade market.
  • Provinces have had success with reducing emissions but are not on track to meet future targets.



Ontario has taken a leadership position on climate policy in North America, in partnership with subnational jurisdictions including Quebec and California. Moderated by York University’s Mark Winfield, the Day 2 panel featured a range of perspectives from Ontario and its key partners, and explored issues such as the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change, and the implications of a the Trump administration in the United States.

Dianne Saxe: Annual Ontario GHG Progress Report

Dianne Saxe, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, spoke about Ontario’s annual report on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. She also spoke about the major economic opportunity offered by climate adaptation measures, suggesting this could be the next industrial revolution.

In addition, Saxe touched on the Waste-Free Ontario Act, a measure slated to significantly reduce emissions by increasing resource recovery and moving toward a renewable circular economy. This is just one part in many needed to achieve a waste-free net-zero Ontario.

John Godfrey: Federal-Provincial Coordination on Climate Action

John Godfrey, Special Advisor to the Minister of the Environment and Climate 
Change and former Federal Cabinet Minister, spoke about how the Ontario Climate Action Plan is progressing.

The five-year plan includes major components related to transportation and building infrastructure. Two of the most significant aspects include plans to build the infrastructure to support electric cars, and beginning the massive work necessary to retrofit existing buildings to meet emissions standards.

As Godfrey argued, climate action requires that we develop policies that account for mitigation, adaptation, and economic development.

Among the plan components discussed, Godfrey asserted the need for Ontario to do better at supporting green businesses. Green business opportunities have the potential to lead to the most revolutionary changes. Ontario’s plan to support this revolution is to introduce a Green Ontario Fund designed specifically to help finance green business initiatives.

Barry Rabe: Subnational Climate Policy in North America

Barry Rabe, a Professor at the University of Michigan, presented on the American climate context, including state-level agreements with Canadian provinces.

As Rabe emphasized in his talk, the American climate change mitigation context has shifted significantly since the election of Donald Trump. Despite this, Rabe noted the fact that individual states have a lot of power to set their own climate change policies and agreements means hope if not lost.

California, for example, has cap and trade agreements with Ontario and Quebec. Moreover, there have been notable renewable energy efforts in traditionally “red states,” including wind energy in Texas. Therefore, Rabe argues, the American climate policy context is likely more resilient to political change than we might think.


Pierre-Olivier Pineau: Quebec Perspectives on Climate and Energy

Pierre-Olivier Pineau, Chair in Energy Sector Management at HEC Montreal, provided some context about Quebec’s approach to climate change mitigation, and its relationship with the rest of Canada and California.

Quebec is currently the lowest per capita GHG emitter in Canada, and has reduced its emissions to 10% under 1990 levels. Despite this success, Quebec will not reach its 2050 goal of being 80% below 1990 levels, even based on current trends.

Pineau also criticized what he calls “Quebec’s Climate Change Inaction Plan”, something he sees as a major barrier for Quebec to overcome if it is to meet its GHG goals. According to Pineau, the provincial ministries responsible for climate change mitigation are mired by severe bureaucratic inefficiency, including multiple disconnected committees across two provincial ministries.

As Olivier argued, for Quebec to meet its goals four conditions must be met:

  1. Better governmental integration and organization;
  2. Limitation on political interference;
  3. Adequate financial support; and
  4. Appropriate stakeholder engagement.