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Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner issued his annual Climate Change report last month, as usual scolding the provincial government for its inaction on both mitigation and adaptation. But this year, the report got an unusual reception: the new Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray, attended the announcement, and seems to be receptive to its message.

The Commissioner’s climate report, Looking for Leadership, calls especially for urgent action on greenhouse gases from transportation, mainly cars and trucks, the  biggest source of GHG emissions in the province. According to Commissioner Miller, “The 2007 Action Plan said the government would reduce transportation emissions by 19 megatonnes (Mt) by 2020. That goal, unfortunately, has now been cut by almost 80%. I have been given no reason why, and no explanation about what the Ontario government plans to do instead.”

The report also emphasizes the increasing threat that climate change poses to the insurability of vulnerable properties, infrastructure and homes, and the devastating financial consequences that would occur if insurance becomes unavailable or prohibitively expensive:

  • Insured costs of the July 2013 flood in Toronto were $940 million –the province’s most expensive natural disaster to date. Year-end losses in 2013 due to catastrophic weather totaled $3.2 billion across Canada (p.20).
  • Experts predict that insurance rates will go up, that some types of liabilities,such as flooded basements, will not be covered and that, in some locations, homes may not be insurable at all (p.71).
  • Key Ontario ministries have not yet stepped up to their responsibilities regarding the management of stormwater risks (p.80).

Having just spent a year as Minister of Infrastructure and of Transportation, and given his background as Chair of the late, lamented National Round Table on Environment and Economy, Minister Murray is well placed to provide the climate leadership the Commissioner is calling for. It’s about time…

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