Federal Government decides to accept Made-in-Ontario Emissions Performance Standards

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Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks announced the federal government’s acceptance of the made-in-Ontario Emissions Performance Standards (EPS) Program as an alternative to the federal output-based pricing system. 

The made-in-Ontario EPS program is an Ontario-specific approach to contain greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while also allowing for economic growth.

“It is a more tailored program for Ontario’s environment and economy because it helps us to achieve emission reductions from big polluters and achieve our share of Canada’s 2030 emissions reduction target without driving away businesses and job creators,” Yurek said.

The program is a component of Ontario’s Environment Plan, which aims to make polluters accountable for their GHG emissions via a system that the Government of Ontario says is “tough but fair, cost-effective and flexible to the needs and circumstances of Ontario.”

As a result of an approach tailored to encourage economic growth while taking into account specific industry conditions for emissions, there will be no enforcement on a blanket cap on emissions across the province. 

Research by Dr. Nadine Ibrahim, Turkstra Chair in Urban Engineering and Lecturer in the UW Faculty of Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, contributes to a wide spectrum of urban engineering fields, appearing in journals including Nature Climate Change, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a press release on UW’s website. 

Ibrahim said the program has more benefits than the federal model.

“Sounds like a cap-and-trade to me, only it’s not quite that since it has the benefits of cap-and-trade, but not a blanket cap on emissions across Ontario. The province’s made-in-Ontario Emissions Performance Standards seem to get the best of both worlds – an economy that can continue to thrive (pandemic challenges aside) and a climate-conscious financial mechanism to incentivize compliance,” Ibrahim said. 

Similar to the federal system, the EPS program regulates GHG emissions from large industrial facilities by setting standards for lowering the emissions. The industries covered under Ontario’s new regulation are the same ones as the federal system. 

“There are no free passes, and no one is off the hook,” Yurek said.

Innovation amongst industrial facilities will be rewarded by the program and facilities will pay depending on their emission rates. The payments will be directly proportional to the emission rates. In contrast to the federal system, the EPS program phases-in stringency over time.

“[Which aims to] save Ontario industries the initial shock that is present in the federal plan and give industries more time to meet their obligations,” Yurek said. 

“There are no free passes,” Ibrahim said. “No one is off the hook… building in stringency over time are noble goals, but we don’t have the luxury to say, ‘time will tell’ because the timing is critical now, no Planet B, and there is no other better time.” 

Ibrahim also said the problem is not one sized, so the solution must have many sizes as well. 

“The made-in-Ontario Emissions Performance Standards is an effective way to contextualize solutions because the one-size fits all model does not work, particularly when it comes to environmental and climate change issues. It takes more effort for tailored solutions, but it is worth the effort when it serves to provide a pathway for compliance in these regulated industries,” Ibrahim said.

Yurek also believes the provincial plan will help achieve national and international emissions reduction goals.

“I am proud of Ontario’s EPS program. This program balances our province’s plan to fight climate change as we work towards our 2030 GHG emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement, with economic growth as economies in Ontario and across Canada are struggling due to impacts of COVID-19. With the help of our partners in industry and the federal government, I am confident that our made-in-Ontario plan is the best plan for our province, with important benefits for the health of our people and our economy, for generations to come,” Yurek said.

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