People in Ontario have seen the damage climate change and extreme weather can cause, and the many benefits addressing it can bring. The 2013 floods and ice storm alone cost the province $1.3 billion in private property and infrastructure damage.
With the release of its climate change discussion paper and an invitation for citizens, businesses and communities to provide input, the Ontario government is acknowledging that the challenge must be resolved by the combined efforts of a broad range of people.
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Ontario has already made the biggest contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in North America by closing its coal-fired power plants, a move the government says is "equivalent to taking seven million cars off the road." The province's promotion of clean energy through the Green Energy Act and protection of the Greenbelt's 1.8 million acres of farmland and green space, which sequester and store atmospheric carbon, have also helped in the fight against climate change.
But emissions in some sectors, like transportation, continue to rise. Ontario's commitment to putting a price on carbon, through cap and trade or other methods, shows the province is taking the issue seriously. Investment in transit and active transportation and promoting "smart growth" urban development are also crucial to reducing emissions and creating economic and quality-of-life benefits for the people of Ontario.
The province is already seeing the economic rewards of investing in clean technology and related industries. According to the government, "Ontario has the fastest growing clean-tech sector in Canada, with 2,700 clean-tech firms employing 65,000 people and generating annual revenues of more than $8 billion."
The discussion paper is open to public input until March 29, and the province will hold town hall meetings across the province through February and March.
The initiative comes in advance of a Climate Summit of the Americas, which Ontario will host from July 7-9, to build on international efforts to address climate change leading up to the Conference of the Parties in Paris in December.