Cablegate: Ontario Environmental Policy Unchanged, New Minister Brings

DE RUEHON #0107/01 1001328
P 091328Z APR 08




E.O.12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ontario Environmental Policy Unchanged, New Minister Brings
New Strategy

Sensitive But Unclassified -- Please protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Ontario's environmental policy remains unchanged
following the October 10, 2007 provincial election, which returned
Liberal Premier McGuinty's government to power for a second term.
Ontario remains on track to stop shipping municipal solid waste to
Michigan by the end of 2010. The province's message to the U.S.
about contentious issues such as cross-border air quality, remains
consistent - U.S. ozone standards are too lax. But the way the
message is delivered has changed with the appointment of John
Gerretsen as the new Environment Minister. Gerretsen's more
pragmatic and multilateral approach towards advancing Ontario's
environmental agenda is a strategy that seems likely to prove more
effective than his predecessor, Laurel Broten's aggressive and more
inflammatory style. END SUMMARY.

No Major Ontario Environmental Policy Shift

2. (U) The McGuinty government's second term environmental policy
seems largely consistent with pre-election environmental policy
despite the Ontario Premier's appointment of a new Minister, John
Gerretsen. The province is maintaining its commitment to its
five-point climate change plan entitled "Go Green: Ontario's Action
Plan on Climate Change," released in August 2007. The 2008 budget
re-stated the province's intent to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2014, 15% below 1990 levels by
2020, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To help achieve these
targets the government says it remains committed to phasing-out all
coal-plants by 2014. Ontario is also still implementing
"MoveOntario 2020," a C$17.5 billion plan that includes 52 rapid
transit projects in the GTA and Hamilton, including construction of
902 kilometers of new or improved rapid transit, to reduce the
number of cars on the road.

3. (U) Ontario's Next Generation Jobs Fund is a C$650 million
program to generate new high-paying jobs by supporting the
commercial development, use, and sale of clean and green
technologies. The province is also investing C$150 million to help
Ontario homeowners fight climate change, conserve energy, and adopt
green technologies. The McGuinty government is continuing its
efforts to plant 50 million new trees in southern Ontario by 2020.
These three major programs continue environmental policy initiatives
carried over from its first term.

--------------------------------------------- ------
Ontario On Track to Stop Shipping Trash to Michigan
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. (U) The province is committed to living up to its pledge made in
2006 to end the flow of municipal solid waste (MSW) to Michigan: a
20% reduction by 2007, a further 20% reduction by the end of 2008,
and a total elimination of MSW shipments by the end of 2010. To
meet this timeline, Ontario has initiated some key projects. One of
these is the January 2008 decision to build a new C$150-250 million
waste incinerator, the first in 16 years, in the Greater Toronto
Area's (GTA) Durham Region, which will have a capacity to dispose of
between 150,000 and 400,000 tons of trash per year. Also, the
province announced on February 21, 2008 that it aims to double the
amount of household hazardous or special waste that Ontario diverts
from landfills and the environment over the next five years.

5. (U) On February 28, 2008 the Ontario Environment Ministry stated
that it had given Liberty Energy Inc. - a California-based company -
the go-ahead to build a C$120 million, energy-from-waste incinerator
in Hamilton, Ontario designed to handle up to 400,000 tons of sewage
sludge and 150,000 tons of other organic waste such as tree
trimmings, greenhouse waste, grass, and garden clippings. As well,
on March 4, 2008, the government highlighted that the Malton,
Ontario polystyrene-recycling plant, the only one in the province,
which closed in December, 2007, would reopen later in the year.

6. (U) In other recycling news, on March 28, 2008, the Liberal
government announced plans to develop a province-wide tire recycling
program to be implemented later in the year. At the moment, Ontario
is the only Canadian province without such a program. Environment
Minister Gerretsen highlighted that Ontario motorists will likely
pay a fee of a few dollars when they buy new tires to build up the
infrastructure needed to ensure that the tires are recycled at the
end of their life-cycle. Other provinces levy fees of between C$3
and C$5 when people buy passenger vehicle tires; the money is used
to recycle old tires into products from running tracks to roof
shingles. This program will also help Ontario meet Michigan's 2010
waste disposal deadline as the Canadian Rubber Association estimates
that of the 12 million tires the province discards each year,
roughly half are shipped to the United States where they are burned
as fuel.


TORONTO 00000107 002 OF 003

Ontario Focused on Climate Change

7. (U) On March 7, 2008, the province announced the creation of a
Climate Change Secretariat, which is expected to start by the end of
April 2008. The secretariat will work out of the premier's office
and hold "climate change results" meetings every five weeks with the
premier, senior politicians, and bureaucrats to assess interagency
progress on the government's climate change action plan.

8. (U) The province also is committed to participating in a
broad-based North American emissions trading (cap-and-trade) system.
Ontario is pursuing partnerships with like-minded provinces and
U.S. states to strengthen regional initiatives such as the Western
Climate Initiative (WCI), Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI),
and Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord (MGGA). Ontario has engaged in
discussions with Quebec to set up a cap-and-trade system, is an
observer at both WCI and RGGI, and may seek observer status at MGGA.

9. (U) On January 16, 2008 Ontario joined the U.S.-based climate
change initiative, The Climate Registry. Through the Registry,
Ontario works with jurisdictions such as British Columbia,
Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec, as well as American tribes and
the over 3/4 of the U.S. states, which are members. The Climate
Registry aims to develop and manage a common GHG reporting system
that will measure, track, verify, and publicly report GHG emissions
across borders and industry sectors. The Registry will support
voluntary, market-based, and regulatory reporting programs and will
provide transparent and consistent GHG emissions data from its
members, as well as a robust accounting and verification

10. (U) At the Vancouver meeting of Canadian Premiers in January,
Premier McGuinty said Ontario would organize the first-ever national
climate change summit to provide an opportunity for all provinces
and territories to share experiences and ideas to develop strategies
for coping with climate change. About 150 policy-makers,
researchers, and scientists from across Canada attended the March
31-April 1 science-focused Toronto Summit, entitled "Planning for
Today: The Climate Change Adaptation Summit." The group agreed
that data collection and management and information sharing must be
improved. The summit also highlighted that public infrastructure
will have to be adapted to handle higher winds and extra rainfall.
"Governments must build infrastructure like roads, bridges, and
water pipes to withstand the harsher conditions of tomorrow's
weather," said Paul Kovacs, executive director of the Institute for
Catastrophic Loss Reduction at the University of Western Ontario.
"The trouble is that scientists are fairly certain about global
weather trends, but not so certain about what that might mean at the
province or city level," he noted. The Environment Ministry is
organizing a climate change technical workshop for this June.

New Environment Minister Brings a New "Style"

11. (SBU) While Ontario's environmental policy message to the U.S.
remains consistent -- the U.S. should do more to improve air quality
- the new Environment Minister John Gerretsen's strategy is less
publicly confrontational and more typically "Dutch" (i.e. pragmatic
and multilateral). The new Minister is not pulling his punches, but
he seems unlikely to travel to the U.S. to deliver finger-pointing
speeches as did his predecessor in 2006 when she railed against the
inadequacy of U.S. air quality policy at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C. On March 14, 2008, Ontario issued a press release
criticizing as too lax new U.S. ozone standards of 75 parts per
billion (ppb), announced earlier in the week by the U.S. EPA. But
Gerretsen is tackling the trans-boundary pollution issue from a much
more multilateral approach. He has only been Environment Minister
for four months, but on his watch, Ontario has already joined the
pre-eminent U.S.-based climate change initiative, The Climate
Registry, and is currently in talks with U.S. jurisdictions about
establishing a North American carbon-trading system.

12. (SBU) COMMENT: The environmental policy goals of Ontario
Premier McGuinty's second-term Liberal government are consistent
with the priorities established during his first term in office
(2003-2007). The new Minister, however, has brought a fresh
approach to Ontario's efforts to achieve those goals. Minister
Gerretsen is naturally less emotional and more pragmatic in his
approach to climate change and trans-boundary air pollution policy.
Gerretsen's push to work with other like-minded U.S. state and
Canadian provincial leaders to achieve their shared goals through
multilateral cooperation such as The Climate Change Registry, is a
welcome sign that Ontario's environmental policy has matured and
will focus on achieving "the possible" rather than the futile public
posturing of his predecessor against the perceived shortcomings of
U.S. environmental policy. We believe Gerretsen's new cross-border
strategy will show results in the long term and will reduce

TORONTO 00000107 003 OF 003

frictions in the highly interdependent Ontario-U.S. relationship in
the near term. END COMMENT.



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