The Province of Ontario

Population: 13.5 million (2013)
GDP: C$692.4 billion (2013)
Country: Canada

Total GHG emissions per year: 166.9 Mt CO2eq (2012)

GHG emissions/capita/year: 12.3 t/capita (2012)

More than 13.5 million people live in Ontario, making it Canada’s most populous province. Its two largest cities are Toronto and Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

Ontario is rich in natural resources. Its rivers, including the Niagara River, provide huge hydroelectric resources. Forests cover nearly two-thirds of the province’s land. Ontario is Canada’s top jurisdiction for mineral exploration, producing more than 30 different mineral products.

Ontario’s highly diversified economy offers opportunities in numerous sectors, including services, manufacturing, forestry, agriculture, and mining. The service sector is the largest part of Ontario’s economy, at about 77 per cent, and includes business and financial services, professional, scientific and technical services, arts and culture. Major manufacturing industries include auto, information technologies, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Ontario has already felt some of the effects of climate change through rain and ice storms and severe flooding that have contributed to millions of dollars in damage to its infrastructure. These losses weigh on the economies of individuals as well as governments, and demonstrate why it is important to take action on climate change now, and not wait for more severe and costly damages.

In Ontario’s Far North, climate change impacts access to remote communities as winter roads are becoming harder to establish and maintain. It is impacting sensitive ecosystems in the peat lands and boreal forests. Severe weather anomalies in North America are causing produce shortages in Ontario stores. If left unchecked, climate change threatens communities, farms, health, and the economy and the natural systems that underpin them.

Ontario’s solution is to develop a forward-looking strategy that builds on the strong foundations it has established. It must innovate and invest in a high-productivity economy, one that values natural capital, and acknowledges the costs of climate change, and start on a path to sustainable prosperity.

  • Key Targets / Successes

    Climate policy and GHG emissions reduction targets:

    Ontario’s 2007 Climate Change Action Plan set greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets of:

    • 6% below 1990 emission levels by 2014
    • 15% below 1990 levels by 2020
    • 80% below 1990 levels by 2050

    Based on current data, Ontario exceeded its 2014 carbon emissions reduction targets. The province recently launched a comprehensive public consultation to help inform and develop a new forward-looking, long-term climate change strategy.

    Climate actions and emissions reduction successes: 

    Ontario is taking bold steps to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions by introducing a cap and trade system that will effectively reduce the amount greenhouse gas pollution going into the atmosphere by setting a limit on emissions, rewarding innovative companies, providing certainty for industries, and creating more opportunities for investment in Ontario.

    The “cap” sets a maximum limit on the amount of greenhouse gas pollution industry can produce. Over time, the cap is lowered, reducing greenhouse gas pollution. The “trade” creates a market for pollution credits where industries that do not use all their credits can sell or trade with those that are over.

    Ontario intends to link its market with North America’s largest cap and trade system currently in place in California and Québec. In the coming months, Ontario will work closely with both jurisdictions to align its market.

    The proceeds from the program will be reinvested in a transparent way back into projects that reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help businesses in the province remain competitive.

    Cap and trade is one of many actions Ontario needs to take to fight climate change. The province is releasing a strong, forward-looking climate change strategy, informed by a comprehensive province-wide consultation, including in-person discussions attended by more than 1,500, more than 300 ideas and 31,000 votes submitted through a new online consultation tool and over 420 comments on the Climate Change Discussion Paper.

    The strategy builds on Ontario’s recent climate action, which includes closing coal plants, curbing the use of cosmetic pesticides and protecting 1.8-million acres of land. These initiatives are resulting in fewer smog days and cleaner water.

    Ontario also made changes to its Building Code and put in place consumer conservation programs to improve energy efficiency in homes and offices. Ontario’s Growth Plan seeks to establish compact, complete communities and encourage transit-oriented design.

  • Current activities

    Flagship initiative:

    Ontario recently made an unprecedented multi-billion-dollar commitment to transform its commuter rail network. As part of this plan, the current fleet of fossil-fuel powered commuter trains is being replaced with a fully electric Regional Express Rail system that will operate trains in both directions every 15 minutes on over 450 kilometres of track. This transformation is expected to have a significant positive impact on mode-splits and will support intensification and efficient land use patterns in suburban areas leading to significant GHG reductions. 

    Renewable energy:

    Ontario’s Green Energy Act has helped attract billions of dollars in private sector investment in the clean energy industry. Ontario will continue to phase in more wind, solar and bioenergy with a target of 10,700 MW online by 2021 and a hydroelectricity target of 9,300 MW by 2025. Overall, Ontario will have 20,000 MW of renewable energy online by 2025 — representing about half (46%) of Ontario’s generating capacity by 2025.

    The Feed-in Tariff (FIT) Program was implemented in 2009 to allow individuals and companies to sell renewable energy — like solar, wind, waterpower, biomass, biogas and landfill gas — into the grid at set prices. As of March 31, 2014, about 2,600 FIT projects have received contracts, representing over 4,600 MW of capacity.

    Climate Change Summit of the Americas:

    Ontario hosted the first Climate Summit of the Americas, ahead of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan American Games from July 7 – 9, 2015.

    The Summit brought together Pan-American jurisdictions, as well as environmental groups and industry, to work towards common approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through broader adoption of carbon pricing mechanisms, and highlight opportunities for investing in a global low-carbon economy.

    At the end of the Summit, a total of 22 states and regions across North and South America signed the Climate Action Statement, committing to implement bold climate action to keep the global warming increase under 2 degrees Celsius - the internationally agreed limit to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

    Energy efficiency:

    Energy conservation and energy efficiency are key pillars of Ontario’s Conservation First initiative. As Ontario plans for its electricity needs over the next 20 years, conservation will be considered before building new generation and transmission facilities and will be the preferred choice wherever cost-effective. Ontario has a long-term conservation target of 30 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2032, a 16 per cent reduction in the forecast gross demand for electricity in that year.

    Broader public sector organizations, such as municipalities, universities, colleges, schools and hospitals, must report on energy use and GHG emissions and develop energy conservation plans.

    Clean transportation:

    New rules passed in 2014 will expand the use of greener diesel fuels to help improve air quality and reduce GHG emissions in the transportation sector, the largest contributor of emissions in Ontario.

    Ontario has also made significant investments to help manage congestion and improve public transit, major roads and bridges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA ) ‒ home to over six million people ‒ and across the province.

    The Big Move is Metrolinx’s Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) for tackling transportation issues in the GTHA. It provides a blueprint for an integrated, multi-modal regional transportation network. 

    High Occupancy Vehicle lanes encourage carpooling to move more people in fewer vehicles. Ontario also provides two cents per litre of annual gas tax revenues to municipal transit providers to increase transit ridership.

    Ontario businesses, individuals and organizations can receive incentives towards the purchase or lease of a new plug-in hybrid electric or battery electric vehicle. Ontario’s Electric Vehicle Charging Incentive Program (EVCIP), launched in January, 2013, provides incentives for the purchase and installation of Level 2 (208V-240V) charging stations. Over 430 charging incentives have been issued. And GO Transit launched a pilot project in 2013 allowing electric vehicle parking and charging infrastructure at 10 transit stations.

    Ontario has also provided grants for the purchases of alternative fuel vehicles or to retrofit heavy-duty vehicles with anti-idling technologies.

    Urban environment/smart cities:

    Ontario’s Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe is a 25-year vision and plan for managing population and employment growth in the province’s largest urban area. The Growth Plan sets targets for creating higher-density communities with smaller environmental footprints and includes policies on community design that promotes access to public transit, walking, bicycling, and aims to reduce car use.                    

    Sustainable land use:

    Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement outlines the government’s policies on land use planning and development, and guides municipalities in the development of their official plans and decisions on planning matters. Among others things, it provides strong policy direction for the protection of the environment, including natural heritage. It includes new and enhanced policy direction that will help support mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change.

    In Canada’s most populous region, the Greater Golden Horseshoe, provincial plans such as the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoethe Greenbelt Planthe Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Planand the Niagara Escarpment Plan work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging more compact and transit friendly communities, as well as permanently protecting Ontario’s Greenbelt — nearly two-million acres of farmland and natural areas that provide carbon sequestration and flood mitigation opportunities. 

    In addition, the Ontario government is working with private landowners and community groups to plant 50 million trees on private and public lands in Ontario by 2025, which is expected to store more than 6.5 megatonnes of carbon by 2050 and help restore forest cover in this area. 

    In Northern Ontario where average temperatures are rising more quickly than in the rest of Ontario, the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario includes policies to incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation considerations into planning and decision-making, where appropriate.

    The Far North Act enables plans for sustainable growth that protect the province’s natural resources by protecting at least 225,000 square kilometres of the Far North boreal region through interconnected protected areas designated in community based land use plans developed jointly by First Nations and Ontario.

    Agriculture, energy and GHG emissions:

    The Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan helps farmers learn and implement best management practices that provide economic and environmental benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Practices include manure management, feed efficiency and livestock management, nutrient management planning, precision agriculture, farm energy audits, and farm energy and water conservation measures.

    The Ontario Biogas Systems Financial Assistance Program supported the construction of 25 farm biogas systems. There are now 31 farm and rural biogas systems operating with more than 12 megawatts (MW) of electrical capacity — enough power for 10,000 homes. This is helping reduce GHG emissions from manure, generate renewable heat and power and reuse food industry waste materials.


    Ontario is supporting municipalities as they build capacity for adaptation planning. The province funded the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative’s Municipal Adaptation and Resiliency Service to support the development of local adaptation initiatives in the Great Lakes region, ensuring resources are available to consider potential climate impacts. 

    Ontario and Canada recently renewed the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health to restore and protect the waters of the Great Lakes, which represent over 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply. For the first time, an annex dedicated to climate change impacts has been included in the agreement. The annex will help Ontario and Canada build a better understanding of climate change impacts and advance the integration of this knowledge into Great Lakes adaptation strategies and management actions.

    Innovative financing:

    Ontario is the first province in Canada to develop a green bond program in support of the province’s environmental and climate change goals. Green bonds are an innovative financing tool with proceeds used for environmentally beneficial projects. Ontario is targeting projects in clean transportation, energy efficiency and conservation, clean energy and technology, forestry, agriculture and land management, and climate adaptation and resilience.

    Ontario’s inaugural green bond issuance of $500 million was successfully launched in October 2014, with orders approaching $2.4 billion. Green investors in Canada as well as the United States, Europe and Asia participated in the deal, bringing new international buyers to the Canadian dollar market. It is expected that Ontario’s green bond program will provide additional flexibility to the province by enabling it to raise funds while having a positive impact on the environment.

    Devolved powers and competencies relevant to climate and energy:

    Powers to take action on climate change exist at both the provincial and federal levels within Canada. The federal government is the clear constitutional lead on international negotiations, trade and commerce. Provinces have primary responsibility over natural resources and energy policy. Both have the ability to regulate and support the industrial sector, transportation, buildings and agriculture. Municipal governments fall under the constitutional jurisdiction of provinces. Municipalities directly administer many services and programs related to climate change, including land use planning, waste, transportation and buildings.

    Most important economic sectors:

    Ontario’s highly diversified economy offers opportunities in numerous sectors, including services, manufacturing, forestry, agriculture and mining. The service sector is the largest part of Ontario’s economy, however, at about 77 per cent, which includes business and financial services; professional, scientific and technical services; and arts and culture. Key manufacturing industries include autos, information and communications technologies, biotech, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Ontario has the fastest growing clean-tech sector in Canada, with 3,000 clean-tech firms employing 65,000 people and generating annual revenues of more than $8 billion. The Toronto region houses the majority of these economic activities, boasting strong manufacturing, trade, health, and education sectors. Southern Ontario, with its proximity to U.S. markets, is heavily industrialized, while Northern Ontario relies heavily on its natural resources. 

  • More info

    See Ontario’s Climate Change Update 2014 for emissions by sector, (numbers are for 2012 calendar year) and see 'Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan 2013' for power mix, (data is for 2013 calendar year).


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