May 18th, 2016

NDP amendments to Bill 172 -- Liberal Climate Change Plan

The NDP submitted over 80 pages of amendments to make Bill 172 more fair, effective and transparent. 

The Liberal government voted down most of them. They did agree to the following key changes in response to NDP amendments all of these were weakened versions of the actual NDP amendments:

  • Apply a “low-income lens” when administering the cap-and-trade system and developing the climate change action plan
  • Require a report about the report to the Treasury Board assessing the likely impact of proposed climate change initiative
  • Improve transparency concerning the distribution of free allowances
  • Require the Minister to update the Legislature on the status of its climate change action plan every year, instead of every five years

NOTE: while Bill 172 requires the creation of a climate change action plan, it does not specify details such as those that have been recently disclosed by the Globe and Mail.

NDP amendment highlights:

Unless otherwise stated, the Liberals voted down all of these amendments.

  • Provide for financial and investment assistance to low-to-middle income residents and northern and rural residents to make the transition to a carbon free future (amendment ruled out of order). Provide for assistance to workers in carbon-intensive industries to allow for a “just transition” where their livelihoods are affected
  • Require that 25% of cap-and-trade funds be spent on GHG reduction programs that benefit “communities with disproportionate burdens” in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Require that 10% of cap-and-trade funds be spent within these identified communities. This amendment was inspired by a similar law in place in California, and had the strong support of CELA. Disproportionate burdens include burdens attributable to:

a)     disproportionate impacts of environmental pollution or climate change;

b)     income, unemployment, housing costs, a lack of access to transit or low-carbon infrastructure, or a lack of control over household emissions; or

c)     remote, rural or northern location.

  • The government supported a vastly weaker “NDP-inspired” amendment requiring a “low-income lens” when administering the cap-and-trade system and developing the climate change action plan. 
  • Require the Minister to update the Legislature on the status of its climate change action plan every year, instead of every five years (Liberals supported this). 
  • Align Ontario’s climate change policy with the global target of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees, and the aspirational goal set in Paris of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. Strengthen greenhouse gas reduction targets in line with the global goal, and require the Minister to use internationally-accepted methodologies developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when calculating GHG reduction targets. Require interim GHG reduction targets. 
  • Require a climate adaptation plan
  • Ensure a level playing field for domestic industries by requiring importers of carbon-intensive products to be subject to cap-and-trade regulations. The amendments specifically mentioned petroleum products, steel, cement products, automobiles, mined products, and pulp and paper products
  • Prevent the government from playing accounting games with cap-and-trade funds by keeping the existing Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account as it is: a transparent special purpose account tracking inflows and outflows of money. The government rejected this, insisting on the abstract accounting procedure described in Bill 172, which allows for accounting tricks
  • Prevent the government from diverting cap-and-trade revenue to non-dedicated purposes by requiring the government to spend the cap-and-trade revenue only on new programs, and not programs that have previously been funded within the fiscal framework.
  • Allow cap-and-trade funds to be used only for initiatives that “directly” reduce greenhouse gases, as opposed to “indirectly.”
  • Require the government to publish the ministry’s report to the Treasury Board of the likely impacts of the government’s proposed climate change initiatives, as the FAO had recommended. Government would only agree to publish a separate report about the report, which was not what the FAO had recommended, despite the government’s claims that it was.
  • Prevent the government from spending cap-and-trade funds on nuclear power projects
  • Rein in free allowances to large emitters that don’t need them. Limit free allowances only to energy-intensive trade-exposed industries. 
  • Require government to publicly disclose who is getting free allowances each year, how many, and why. (Government supported a weaker transparency provision)
  • Align offset requirements with WCI standards so that offsets must achieve results that are real, verifiable, enforceable, permanent,andadditional to results that would be obtained without the offset initiative. Government promised these standards would be in the regulations, and thus were not needed in the statute.
  • Give the Financial Accountability Officer and the Auditor-General clear oversight over the cap-and-trade program and the administration of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Account. 
  • Prevent the government from outsourcing the administration or enforcement of the cap-and-trade system to a non-public servant. Government would only agree to limit one outsourcing provision, but still allowed a much broader outsourcing provision.
  • Require the government to publish a 10-year outlook projecting the likely price of carbon.