Submitted by: Sarah Robicheau, Student-at-Law
At the end of April the Ontario government released Climate Ready, its first Adaption Strategy and Action Plan, as well as Climate Progress, an annual report on climate change in the province.
Adaptation focuses on developing strategies for dealing with a changing climate by predicting the effects and identifying methods for improving resilience to negative impacts. Building infrastructure that is better able to withstand the extreme weather conditions associated with climate change is one example of an adaption strategy. Climate Ready, the province's first report focused on outlining Ontario's climate change adaption strategy, identifies five key goals and 37 actions to help the province face the impacts of climate change. The goals are as follows:
1) avoid loss and unsustainable investment, and take advantage of new economic opportunities;
2) take all reasonable and practicable measures to increase climate resilience of ecosystems;
3) create and share risk-management tools to support adaption efforts across the province;
4) achieve a better understanding of future climate change impacts across the province; and
5) seek opportunities to collaborate with others.
These goals make it clear the government sees opportunities in the changing climate, as well as challenges, and emphasis the importance of province-wide collaboration and research initiatives to better understand the variety of manners in which Ontario will be affected. The complete report can be found here.
Climate Progress, the province's annual report serves as a status update on the climate challenges facing the world and Ontario and the action Ontario is taking, and plans to take, to both fight the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to adapt to the changing climate. The focus of Climate Progress is broader than Climate Ready, as it sets out a vision for Ontario in the face of climate change on a whole, not just with specific regard to adaption strategies. Further, it seeks to articulate the role Ontario will play in the face of the challenges of climate change. Specifically, the report states the desire to see Ontario as a world leader in renewable energy, energy and water conservation, and clean water technologies. This goal has been reflected in significant legislation the province has introduced in the past few years including the Green Energy Act and the Water Opportunities Act. The report also speaks to Ontario's plans for a cap-and-trade program, reiterating the province's commitment to a 2012 start date.
The second section of the report, "Working Together – Ontario's Partners" highlights the role that municipalities and local communities play, among others, in creating an institutional framework for addressing climate change. The report identifies a number of community partnership programs, including Partners in Project Green, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, and the City of Guelph's Community Energy Plan, as examples of the work municipalities are doing to support businesses and individuals in building more sustainable communities. Given Climate Ready's identification of collaboration as a key goal for Ontario, this section seems to speak to some of the relationships that already exists within government working to address climate change.
The report also includes a brief section explaining how environmental considerations are incorporated into the policy development process; this section, although brief, provides some indication of the institutional perspective on the province's sustainability mandate. This section also includes an introduction to the Ontario Public Service Green Office, an agency dedicated to make the day-to-day operations of the government of Ontario more environmentally sustainable.
The entire report can be found here.