Photo: Provinces fight climate change despite federal inaction

graphic: Sarah Krzyzek

By Ian Hanington

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Most Canadians are well aware of the federal government's inaction on climate change. It has failed to regulate emissions, has no credible plan to reach even its very modest reduction targets, and has cut funding for government departments and scientific agencies working on the issue. Fortunately, some provincial governments are taking matters into their own hands. The Foundation is highlighting their progress (or lack thereof) in the 2011 Status Report of Provincial Climate Change Plans.

The report, which will soon be available to all levels of government and to the public, looks at and compares the provinces' efforts in confronting what is arguably the most serious challenge in human history. It encourages provinces to join a "race to the top" to implement the best solutions for climate change, and to pressure the federal government to get on board.

Although all provinces still need to strengthen their plans to reduce emissions, several have taken positive steps. British Columbia and Quebec have introduced economic incentives to shift to cleaner choices through carbon taxes and have regulated fuel-efficiency standards. The government of the Northwest Territories is also considering options for introducing a carbon tax.
B.C. and Quebec, along with Manitoba and Ontario, have committed to further pricing and reducing emissions through cap-and-trade systems, as part of the Western Climate Initiative, a collaborative effort among a number of U.S. states and Canadian provinces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nova Scotia has capped its electricity emissions, responsible for almost half of the province's emissions. And Ontario, New Brunswick, and Manitoba have shut down polluting power plants, with more shutdowns promised.

Ontario passed the Green Energy Act in 2009 to spur investment in cleaner renewable energy. This clean-energy law has already sparked billions of dollars of investment in green energy and the creation of thousands of well-paying jobs in the province.

The report shows that in the current political climate, provincial actions are crucial in the fight against climate change. It will be available on our website at