Glen Murray, Ontario: States, regions and provinces have power to change markets beyond nations

10 December 2015

Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment & Climate Change, Government of Ontario

PARIS: In the final days of COP21, Climate TV speaks to Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment & Climate Change, Government of Ontario, to find out what he considers the fastest way to transition to a low carbon economy and why sub-national governments have such a big role to play in the international climate negotiations.

The Minister begins The Climate Group’s Climate TV interview by recommending three simple and urgent actions to spur a low carbon future: “One: close coal plants and get rid of fossil fuels from energy, two: get to electric vehicles, hydrogen vehicles, hybrid vehicles as quickly as possible, and three: net zero your buildings – geothermal, insulation, whatever you choose to do – that’s it. Do it.”

While Ontario has led the way with a number of environmental initiatives such as these, Glen Murray point out that a much bigger positive impact can be made through collaboration – especially in building carbon pricing and cap and trade systems – which he says is just as critical as the COP21 process itself.

“Certainly in the part of the world I come from, North America, it’s partnerships with Quebec, California, ourselves, British Columbia, others, and hopefully Mexico joining soon, that’s the order of government that is actually putting a price on carbon, putting caps in place and reducing emissions.

“I’m more interested in that process than the INDC process or the formal treaty process, which I’m hoping is strong enough to continue to enable the actions of business, governments and cities.”

Ontario is one of the governments that submitted its climate data to the Compact of States and Regions, a reporting mechanism which earlier this week released its first-ever Disclosure Report boasting collective emissions reduction targets of 12.4 GtC02e by 2030 – which is greater than China’s current annual output. Yesterday Baden-Württemberg and California also welcomed 43 new signatories to the Under 2 MOU climate agreement, which is complementary to the Compact, and which The Climate Group is the secretariat of.

“We have been strong partners with The Climate Group on the Compact. We think that reporting is critical. Whatever other agreements you sign like the Under 2 MOU, people don’t have a lot of faith in it unless they see a transparent reporting system, and that’s what the Compact of States and Regions does. I encourage every government that is participating in GHG reductions to join,” says Minister Glen Murray.

Outlining some of the ways Ontario is working toward its climate targets, he says: “I think we’re doing the things that anyone else who is now below 1990 [emissions] levels has done. We’ve closed all our coal plants, that’s a huge exercise. We have introduced the Green Energy Act, feed-in tariffs for solar and wind. We’ve been working at funding new biofuel initiatives, low carbon fuel switching.

"And now that our coal plants are closed we’re really focused on two things: net zero buildings which is ground-source heat pumps, geothermal, on-site solar, invertors – and all of that technology, we’re rapidly deploying it. […] We’re also working on both deploying electric vehicle charging infrastructure, hydroelectric, hybrids, the whole range of net-zero vehicles.”

This week, Canada shocked COP21 by announcing it wants a climate deal to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius. But even while national governments are finally making strides at the talks, provinces such as Ontario are raising their own ambitions regardless.

Concluding the interview, the Minister echoes the voices of many of the world’s business and government leaders that have been heard at COP21 over the last fortnight. “When you’re working at that scale as a group of international and sub-national governments across borders you’re much more effective, because you’re big enough to change markets and change decisions about supply chains and technologies, where one jurisdiction on our own couldn’t do it. Canada as a country probably couldn't even do it. 

“One of the things that’s underestimated is the power of Baden-Württemberg, Ontario, California. Three large technology-based industries in different parts of the world working together changes markets at a scale beyond even what most nations states could do.”

  • You can watch more of our exclusive video interviews with climate leaders and experts by following the hashtag #ClimateTV on social media.

Text by Clare Saxon Ghauri, video by Ilario D'Amato

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