Ontario and Quebec are moving ahead with plans to create a cap-and-trade system to fight climate change because they couldn’t wait any longer for the Canadian and U.S. governments to come up with one of their own, Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday.
The provinces have grown impatient with Ottawa’s sluggish pace in creating a national carbon-trading regime to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he said. So Ontario has followed Quebec in introducing legislation yesterday that will pave the way for cap-and-trade in the province, he said.
“The reason that we are going to move ahead together with Quebec is because we can’t wait for Washington or Ottawa to move ahead,” McGuinty said. “And we want to make sure we have in place a framework at least — before we can talk about putting a price on carbon ... that allows Ontario businesses to know where the future is going to be.”
But that future is still murky. McGuinty couldn’t provide specifics about how the system will work, who would be targeted, whether it would set hard caps on emissions, or even penalize polluters who don’t follow the rules.
He also dodged questions about whether Ontario’s worst polluters — its coal-fired generation plants — will be forced to bear extra costs under the system, which could be passed on to taxpayers.
The government has delayed the shutdown of its coal-fired plants until 2014 at the latest, but a regional cap-and-trade system is expected to be in place by 2012.
A cap-and-trade system places a ceiling on greenhouse gases and lets participants buy and sell emissions permits within that cap. Those who don’t meet the emissions targets can buy credits from others with a surplus.
Quebec and Ontario reached their own agreement on cap-and-trade last June, which was scheduled to be in place by 2010 but was pushed back by two years.