By MPP Toby Barrett

As an elected representative I am often asked – “What are you doing about climate change?”

The climate is changing. Severe rain, ice and windstorms, prolonged heat waves and milder winters are more common. These changes will continue to affect Ontario’s forests, waters and wildlife. All sectors of the economy are feeling the impacts and paying more for associated costs.

As of 2013, Canada is responsible for 1.6 per cent of global emissions, with Ontario responsible for less than 0.4 per cent

Recently, Environment Minister Rod Phillips announced a made-in-Ontario plan to keep our province beautiful by protecting our air, land and water, and to support people to do their share in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We must also do our utmost to help communities and families prepare for changes in climate.

This plan will ensure we balance a healthy environment with a healthy economy and is presently available for comment and suggestions on the Environmental Registry at https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4208.

Ontario’s plan represents a clean break from the status quo.

We understand the pressure Ontarians feel with rising costs of living as well as skyrocketing energy costs that have hurt our economy and our competitiveness. People are understandably frustrated to see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on policies and programs that do not deliver results.

That’s why a cap-and-trade program or carbon tax that punishes people for heating their home or driving their cars remains unacceptable.

With hard work, innovation and commitment, we will ensure Ontario achieves emissions reductions in line with Canada’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.

We will tap the resourcefulness and creativity of our diverse and thriving private sector by helping them invest in and develop clean solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

People in Ontario have already made significant contributions to meaningful climate action. We in Haldimand-Norfolk took a big hit for the team with the closure of OPG Nanticoke – one of the world’s largest coal-fired generating stations.

We must work to unlock further private capital to give Ontario businesses and residents new and more affordable ways to invest in energy efficiency, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most effective ways we can combat climate change is encouraging innovation and discouraging regulatory barriers to solutions.

Further, we will improve our understanding of how climate change will affect Ontario and help people understand those impacts.

With respect to climate change, I have always felt that farming and forestry is a big part of the answer.

It is essential that we continue to support programs and partnerships intended to make the agriculture, forestry and food sectors more resilient to current and future climate impacts. We will support on-farm soil and water quality programming and work with partners to improve agricultural management practices. Practices that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere include sustainable forest management, conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, and enhancing soil carbon in agriculture.

Forests emit greenhouse gases as trees age and die, while younger forests that are growing vigorously capture carbon from the atmosphere. Sustainable forestry practices can encourage forests to grow and increase carbon stored in forests and harvested wood products.

This government has set the stage for meaningful ecological and economic sustainability.  As I mentioned earlier, leave your suggestions and feedback at the website or email me at toby.barrett@pc.ola.org

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk