TEA Address Provincial Committee on Bill 4

TEA has been deeply concerned with recent decisions by the Provincial government to scale back actions and investments in tackling climate change. That's why we knew we needed to speak up. This week, we spoke to the special Provincial committee to call for action that meets the urgency of the climate crisis and that prioritizes equity and prosperity.

Dusha Sritharan, TEA’s Climate Change Campaigner and Heather Marshall, TEA’s Campaigns Director, urged the committee to act on climate change with strong targets that meet the urgency of the climate crisis and to implement a climate action plan that prioritizes equity and prosperity.

Dusha Sritharan (left) and Heather Marshall (right) from TEA.

Below is a transcript of the address TEA delivered:

Dusha Sirtharan (TEA): Thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Dusha Sritharan and I am the Climate Change Campaigner with the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

Heather Marshall (TEA): My name is Heather Marshall, Campaigns Director with TEA. With over 60,000 supporters in the City of Toronto, we work to engage Torontonians on a number of environmental issues including climate change, waste and toxics.

Dusha: We are here today to express our concerns in regards to Bill 4 that will repeal the Climate Change Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act. Governments around the world are increasingly faced with the growing challenges and costs of climate change. Here in Ontario, we are no exception. Through more severe storms and flooding, damage to our roads, sewers and other infrastructure - we are already feeling the immense impacts of climate change. As governments around the world step forward to tackle these challenges, we cannot afford to lag behind.

The Ontario Climate Change Action plan provided us with a clear way forward for reducing our emissions. In addition, the cap and trade program provided funding supports for residents and businesses to reduce their emissions. In Toronto alone, more than $300 million dollars from cap and trade revenues was set to be spent on repairing social housing. This was money our city desperately needed to help prevent the closure of buildings in a terrible state of disrepair.

Without a climate action plan, we will derail climate progress across Ontario, and our ability to create many co-benefits for the communities who need it most. The plan isn’t just about reducing emissions. It’s about creating local jobs, supporting local businesses, improving public health and making people’s homes more comfortable.

Heather: Last week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report highlighting the risks and impacts of 1.5 degrees of global warming. The report makes it clear that we are already experiencing many harmful impacts from 1 degree of global warming.

Right here are home, we can see those impacts through flooding and extreme heat hurting people and damaging infrastructure in our cities; through unpredictable and extreme weather impacting our farmers and our crops; and in Northern Ontario, rising sea levels impacting the access to resources and livelihoods of those communities.

While the IPCC report raises red flags for the threats posed by climate change, it reaffirms that we have many solutions available to address our changing climate. The report recognizes that many governments are already investing in solutions to reduce our emissions, and we need to urgently accelerate those actions.

Dusha: As your government considers how to move forward in addressing these challenges, there are two key components we believe that are necessary for the success of a new plan.

First, a new climate change plan for the province must have clear binding targets that have been informed by climate science. These targets must also adhere to the commitments Canada has made under the Paris Climate Agreement. As highlighted in the IPCC report, these targets aren’t arbitrary or optional. The science tells us we must meet these target to stay below 1.5 degrees warming. We need to make the investments to prevent the harmful impacts posed by climate change, that would otherwise cost us a great deal more in the long run.

Second, we need to ensure that the plan prioritizes improving equity and creating prosperity. There is a huge opportunity to create local jobs, boost local businesses, and improve the quality of life for the people of Ontario. TEA has conducted research on the type of co-benefits we could create through investments in climate actions. From renewable energy projects to deep building retrofits to building new transit - we have a huge opportunity to create jobs and support local economies. By investing in building retrofits, we can help protect affordable housing, improve the comfort of homes for residents, and make it a lot more affordable for families to heat and cool their homes. We need a plan that prioritizes achieving these co-benefits.

Heather: In closing, we need your support in making this happen. Climate change affects all of us, and we need strong political leadership to help us innovate and drive solutions forward. Our organization will be watching this closely, looking for targets and a clear strategy to reach them in ways that improve the living conditions & working opportunities for people most in need. Communities have lots of good ideas about how to tackle climate change locally, so give them a chance. We only have from now until December to get this right.

Thank you so much for providing us with the opportunity to speak today. We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.