Ontario Jobs Can Fight Climate Change

Wed, 02/20/2013 - 16:12 -- Anonymous (not verified)

Yesterday’s Speech from Throne sent some promising signals that the new Premier will support measures that help tackle climate change and create good jobs.

A renewed provincial commitment to energy conservation is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for jobs. Energy conservation is the cheapest form of energy available. And it would mean Ontarians won’t need to foot the bill for costly new electricity generation.

Saving energy also creates jobs and puts money into the local economy. The federal ecoEnergy Retrofit program – which has unfortunately been axed – was estimated to put $10 into the economy for every $1 invested by government and helped homeowners save an average of 20 per cent on their energy bills. Its cancellation was opposed by a coalition of 1,600 manufacturers, suppliers, energy auditors and contractors, who estimated that 350,000 jobs could be created across the country if the program were extended.

As if that’s not enough, energy efficiency is also the cheapest way to cut carbon pollution. McKinsey, a global consulting firm, estimates reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy use can result in a savings of $35 per tonne, rather than a net cost. This means that we save money by tackling global warming.

Ontario can fill the void left by the federal government and get serious about making the province a leader in energy conservation. This can include programs to retrofit buildings and homes, working with industries to make factories more efficient and reducing energy use at peak times of the day. In some cases, it means removing barriers to businesses and municipalities who already want to do the right thing, but are caught in a regulatory tangle that prevents it.

Energy efficiency programs should be designed to support Ontario jobs. This includes the workers who retrofit homes and buildings as well as those who make the energy efficient products.

The Speech from the Throne also emphasized the need to address gridlock in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Given that the Toronto Board of Trade has pegged the cost of gridlock at $6 billion per year and said gridlock is the greatest threat to our economic prosperity, it’s obvious that something needs to get done before we strangle our cities’ economic prospects. Transportation accounts for a third of Ontario’s carbon pollution, so if the province is serious about tackling climate change, it needs to hit the roads.

Investment in public transit can not only lessen gridlock and reduce carbon pollution but, if built locally, it can create jobs. Building transit can create more jobs per dollar invested than building highways.

Now we look forward to concrete proposals on how the province will reduce energy use and ease gridlock, and they should help Ontario reduce its climate change impact and have clear strategies to create good jobs. These are important for our quality of life and economic prosperity, and should be areas where all parties can find common ground.

It’s also important for the province to keep growing the renewable energy sector, which has added more than 20,000 jobs since the Green Energy and Economy Act was passed in 2009. Following on the heels of one the hottest years on record, now is not the time to cool on renewable energy.

Not only will realizing the climate and job benefits of the emerging low-carbon economy take cooperation within the province, but also across provinces. The discussion about a Canadian Energy Strategy, being led by the provinces, provides the opportunity for Ontario to work with others to harness the economic and environmental benefits of the growing clean energy economy.