In an effort to lessen greenhouse gas emissions, many governments around the world have taken steps to reduce the use of fossil fuels, the biggest human-induced cause of these emissions. But, more needs to be done.

In a recent report, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Dianne Saxe commended the province for focusing on reducing electricity use in homes and businesses, but she noted that most of the province’s emissions come from transportation fuels such as gasoline and diesel and heating systems in buildings that use natural gas (more than a third of Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions can be traced to transportation, and cars and trucks are responsible for more than 70 percent of those).

In early June, the province unveiled a five-year Climate Change Action Plan. The plan calls for almost $300-million to be made available for increasing the use of low-carbon trucks and buses.

Saxe concluded that “Ontario has made little progress towards its commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels 10 percent by 2020.”
“To get to our climate targets we have to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of transportation,” she says.  “It’s the only part of the economy in which our footprint has increased since 1990.”

In early June, the province unveiled a five-year Climate Change Action Plan. The plan calls for almost $300-million to be made available for increasing the use of low-carbon trucks and buses. To that end, incentives will be provided to eligible businesses that want to switch to cleaner vehicles, and a network of low- or zero-carbon fuelling stations will be built.

Up to $155 million in incentives will be available for fuel distributors to boost the availability of high-blend sustainable biofuels and develop required infrastructure upgrades. The plan also calls for new standards to increase the percentage of renewable content in transportation fuels.

Saxe hasn’t yet responded to the plan but others have, including the Association of Municipalities of Ontario President Gary McNamara. He says municipal governments have an important role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because they invest in infrastructure that helps lower the emissions and helps communities adapt to climate change.

To be effective on this front, he says, municipalities need financial support. “We need to be able to access the cap-and-trade revenue that underpins this plan,” says McNamara. “Relying on the nine cents of every household tax dollar won’t get us there.”

It remains to be seen how the plan will unfold, and if more money will flow into municipalities’ coffers to build greener communities, but Saxe remains hopeful about the future when it comes to combatting climate change. “I am optimistic that we will see some progress down the road,” she says. “The question is how much and how fast?”