As of April 1, 2019, the ECO became part of the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. This change occurred under the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018.

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Climate Action in Ontario? Start with a strong climate law

Ontario needs a strong new climate law. The government has proposed to do away with the climate law we have, and has proposed a new one to take its place. The proposed new law is Bill 4, The Cap and Trade Cancellation Act.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s new greenhouse gas progress report, Climate Action in Ontario: What’s Next?, says Bill 4 is much too weak.

The previous law and its cap and trade program made sure people and businesses that used fossil fuels paid for the carbon emissions they caused. This provided a financial incentive to reduce fossil fuel use. Plus, the money paid for these emissions went to government programs to help reduce emissions even more.


The government has promised a new plan that will put responsibility on polluters, and will also include an emissions-reduction fund. But a good climate law is the backbone of any plan, and the ECO is concerned that Bill 4 won’t do the job.

You can comment on Bill 4 until October 11 on the Environmental Registry. Ontarians are fortunate to have the right to comment on government laws that affect our environment – let’s use it!

If you’d like the ECO’s view on what makes a good climate law, you can read Climate Action in Ontario: What’s Next? We’ve also outlined a few things here that you might want to look for.

Three critical elements of a good climate law

A good climate law is needed to bring climate pollution down in Ontario. We think a good climate law needs:

  1. long-term, science-based greenhouse gas emissions targets, and five-year carbon ‘budgets’; targets should reduce emissions from 1990 levels by:
    a. 37% by 2030 and
    b. 80% by 2050
  2. a legal obligation to stay within these targets and budgets and
  3. regular progress reports the public can trust.

If a government fails to meet a carbon budget, it must explain why – and what it will do to fix the problem and bring emissions down.

The right tools for reducing emissions

A strong law would give climate action in Ontario a backbone, but the government would need policies and programs that work to reduce carbon emissions as well.

There are three types of tools that can work:

  • a polluter-pay system, that charges people and businesses when buying fossil fuels,
  • regulations, like fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, or energy efficiency standards for buildings and
  • raising money to pay for solutions, such as public transit or building retrofits.


Fortunately, the government is committed to developing a plan, and the ECO’s report shows we have many options and ways to reduce emissions that could work, with a strong new law.

Ontarians are also fortunate to have the right to comment and tell the government what they think. Visit the Environmental Registry to send your ideas and comment about Bill 4 before October 11.

Video Transcript

A meaningful climate law needs at least three critical elements:

  • long-term science-based, legally enforceable, emission budgets consistent with the Paris Agreement,
  • a legal obligation to stay within those budgets, and
  • credible, transparent reporting to keep the work on track.

It should use the three tools that work – polluter-pay, investing in solutions, and regulations – to drive down emissions and build a cleaner, more sustainable economy. And it must focus on large emission sources which have real technology alternatives. If you look at page 41 of my report, you’ll see all the stats. The largest source of emissions in Ontario isn’t industry, it’s individuals. And industry has no technology alternatives for about half of their emissions.

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