Bill 208 2009
An Act to increase awareness of climate change
The "Tragedy of the Commons" occurs when many people put their immediate interests before the good of the group, ultimately degrading or even destroying a shared, limited resource. It has happened to farmland, forests, lakes and waterways; it has happened to entire species that have been made extinct; and it will happen to our entire planet if we do not take immediate and substantial action on this generation's greatest challenge: climate change.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2007 report, concluded that without dramatic reduction in human-induced carbon dioxide emissions, climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible effects on oceans, glaciers, land, coastlines and species". Its chairman is quoted as saying, "If there's no action by 2012, that's too late".
No single person, community, country, or continent alone is responsible for the degradation of our natural environment, and no single person, community, country or continent alone can act to reverse it. When facing this type of challenge, blame is often abundant, but solutions are not. Very little is achieved under these circumstances, and the degradation continues. Humanity must reverse this downward spiral by doing more to halt climate change, the world's greatest potential "Tragedy of the Commons".
Canada is a rich nation with abundant resources and a well trained, well educated people. We have the capacity to drastically cut our emissions, yet to date have failed to do so. We currently produce 2 per cent of the world's carbon dioxide and methane, which degrades our atmosphere and results in global warming. Reductions in the production of greenhouse gases by Canada alone will not save the planet, but leadership by Canada is very important.
Ontario has established targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below the levels produced in 1990. These targets reduce emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels by 2014, 15 per cent below by 2020, and 80 per cent below by 2050.
Conservation, renewable energy generation and closure of the province's coal-fired generating stations are some of the means by which these objectives will be accomplished. However, achieving these goals will necessitate active participation by all members of society and will require governments to pass more effective legislation.
Canada's greenhouse gas production per capita is one of the highest in the world.
The production of greenhouse gases in Canada has increased by 27 per cent over 1990 levels. The federal government signed an agreement that committed Canada to reduce greenhouse gas production, yet it has done virtually nothing since then to protect the fragile ecosystems we live in, and emissions continue to grow.
Encouragingly, it seems that the United States, under its new administration, is finally taking action to address the challenge of climate change, starting with President Obama's appointment of Nobel Prize recipient Steven Chu to the position of United States Energy Secretary.
The world's population in 1950 was 2.5 billion, in 2007 it was 6.7 billion and by 2050 it will increase another 2.5 billion. Additionally, in the next few decades it is expected that, as a result of ongoing economic development in the less developed world, 2.5 billion people will join us at our level of consumption of the world's resources. This will greatly increase greenhouse gas production by humans.
To quote Robert Watson, an American environmentalist: "[Mother Nature] is just chemistry, biology, and physics… Everything she does is just the sum of those three things. She's completely amoral. She doesn't care about poetry or art or whether you go to church. You can't negotiate with her, and you can't spin her and you can't evade her rules. All you can do is fit in as a species. And when a species doesn't learn to fit in with Mother Nature, it gets kicked out. It is that simple and that is why every day you look in the mirror now, you're seeing an endangered species". Humanity must learn to 'fit in', by taking concerted action to reverse climate change now. Failure will amount to creating a world that is permanently broken.
It is vital that Ontario's young people be made aware of the direction we are going as a province, a nation and a planet, with respect to climate change. It is appropriate to create an annual report card that will clearly show climate change trends and allow students to see whether progress in combating climate change is being made.
Therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows:
1. In this Act,
"greenhouse gas" means carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons or sulphur hexafluoride; ("gaz à effet de serre")
"school" means a school or private school within the meaning of the Education Act. ("école")
Climate Change Awareness Day
2. April 21 in each year is hereby named Climate Change Awareness Day.
Annual climate change report card
3. (1) The Minister of the Environment shall prepare an annual report card for the purposes of facilitating educational activities in schools relating to climate change on or around Climate Change Awareness Day.
Contents of report card
(2) The report card mentioned in subsection (1) shall contain the following key measures of the effects of climate change on the environment:
1. The estimated amount of greenhouse gases produced by all countries, by Canada and by Ontario,
i. in the previous calendar year, and
ii. where available, in each prior calendar year beginning with 1990.
2. The estimated parts per million of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere in the previous calendar year and, where available, in each prior calendar year beginning with 1990.
3. The estimated amount of greenhouse gases produced by the 10 highest-producing countries per capita in the previous calendar year and, where available, in each prior calendar year beginning with 1990.
4. The estimated lowest level of sea ice cover in the Arctic region in the previous calendar year and, where available, in each prior calendar year beginning with 1990.
5. The list of species added in the previous calendar year to the Species at Risk in Ontario List as defined in section 2 of the Endangered Species Act, 2007.
6. The list of species added in the previous calendar year to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk, being Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (Canada).
7. The estimated population of polar bears in Ontario in the previous calendar year and, where available, in each prior calendar year beginning with 1990.
8. Other measures as may be determined by the Minister of the Environment.
Distribution of report card
(3) The Minister of the Environment shall submit the report card mentioned in subsection (1) to the Minister of Education.
(4) The Minister of Education shall ensure that students in grades 5 through 12 at every school in Ontario receive the report card mentioned in subsection (1) on or before Climate Change Awareness Day in each year to facilitate educational activities related to the contents of the report card.
First report card
(5) The first report card mentioned in subsection (1) shall be prepared in 2010.
4. This Act comes into force on the day it receives Royal Assent.
5. The short title of this Act is the Climate Change Awareness Act, 2009.
The Bill names April 21 in each year Climate Change Awareness Day. The Bill also requires the preparation of a report card on the effects of climate change to be distributed to students in grades 5 through 12 in Ontario schools and private schools to facilitate educational activities on or around Climate Change Awareness Day.