Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Climate Change Discussion Paper 2015 (EBR posting 012-3452)

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association for registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students who practise in all roles and sectors across Ontario. RNAO welcomes the release of Ontario's Climate Change Discussion Paper 2015 as an important step towards the radical transformation necessary to meet Ontario's greenhouse gas targets. While the province's contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is less than many other jurisdictions, it can continue to play a key leadership role to demonstrate what is possible to the rest of the country and to the rest of the world. Already, Ontario has led the way by shutting down the heavily polluting coal plants that also produced large volumes of greenhouse gases relative to the amount of electricity produced. However, we remain large per capita emitters, so we have a long way to go.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback. We are also pleased to respond to the specific questions posed in the discussion paper (Appendix A).

The Urgent Need for Action
As the discussion paper points out, climate change is very real -- happening today, not in a distant future -- and is a result of human activity that increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the air. This activity has radically changed the composition of the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide concentrations have risen steadily since the start of the industrial era, when they were about 280 ppm. Recent estimates have put concentrations over 400 ppm. That is a 43 per cent increase. The jump is unprecedented and the levels of carbon in the air far exceed those at any time in the last 800,000 years; the previous high over that period was 300 ppm about 330,000 years ago. This is alarming. When other greenhouse gases besides CO2 are factored in, the increase is even more worrisome -- about 60 per cent from the start of the industrial era by 2012 alone.

There is no dispute about the science, which paints an increasingly compelling picture of a bleak future unless strong action is taken. Appendix B to this paper contains some of the key conclusions of the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about global effects of climate change. Effects in vulnerable parts of the globe have been severe, but the Ontario discussion paper notes that our province is also experiencing significant climate effects, including severe ice storms and flooding, as well as dramatic warming in the far north. This is not just a matter of global justice -- it is a matter of self-preservation and survival.

Registered Nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students see this as a major health issue. By itself, reducing GHG emissions is essential to avoiding climate catastrophe, which would be disastrous for everyone, because whole regions would experience mass disruption and displacement of people. In addition to avoiding the unthinkable, there will be huge co-benefits to reducing emissions: improved air quality; more walkable and bikeable communities; improved transit; better connected communities; and protection of green spaces, as carbon dips will make for healthier human and natural environments.

Recommendations:

1. Design and implement a comprehensive program that will meet or exceed Ontario's emission reduction targets of 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 per cent below by 2050. Integrate a greenhouse gas reduction perspective into policy in all relevant areas, including across all ministries.

2. Implement a well-designed carbon pricing mechanism that is as comprehensive as feasible, and that ramps up in a predictable way to use market forces to guarantee Ontario meets or exceeds its greenhouse gas emission targets.
a. Implement a carbon tax. In the event that the inferior cap-and-trade system is used, ensure that it is comprehensive and that emission permits are auctioned -- not given away.
b. Incorporate the principle of fairness in any carbon pricing mechanism, to ensure that vulnerable populations are not made worse off, and to protect Ontario firms.
c. Use revenues from carbon pricing to fund carbon reduction programs, climate adaptation, and to address fairness issues arising out of implementing carbon pricing.
d. Report regularly on carbon pricing revenues and how they are spent, to strengthen transparency and accountability, and to maintain support for the program.

3. Develop and implement carbon reduction strategies for each major emitting sector. In particular:
a. In the energy sector:
i. Promote energy conservation and energy efficiency.
ii. Promote more green energy.
iii. When energy must be produced, increase reliance on renewable energy such as community-based, appropriately located and scaled water, wind, solar and bioenergy. Ensure new developments are subject to robust environmental assessments, including assurances of appropriate siting, scale and community involvement.
iv. Do not build new nuclear power plants or engage in major nuclear rebuilds, as such enterprises are too costly and too risky.
b. Increase commitments to fund transit and active transportation.
c. Promote urban design that facilitates transit and active transportation.
d. Update the gasoline tax, which has been frozen since 1992. Heed the the advice outlined in the Drummond report, and tax the value of gasoline, not the volume of gasoline. Phase in increases that all catch up to the 1992 tax rate, expressed as a share of the price of a litre of gasoline.

Get the full submission below.

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RNAO Submission on Climate Change252.18 KB
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