NEW – ON: Auditor General’s report finds GHG targets at risk due to increased use of natural gas
In November 2020, provincial Auditor, Bonnie Lysyk, released a series of Value for Money Audit reports on the government’s environmental record. Of particular interest to CPA members are the results of one audit entitled, Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy Use in Buildings.
As CPA members are aware, Ontario governments have actively promoted natural gas expansion projects, even where uneconomically viable, across the province for years. This audit reports that since 2005, natural gas use in buildings has increased by 15 per cent – three times more than for uses in other applications. As a result, buildings are the third-largest source of emissions in Ontario, contributing 40 megatonnes (Mt) or 24 per cent of the provincial total. Of these emissions, about 76 per cent result from the use of natural gas.
In 2018, Ontario established a target to reduce GHG emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. Lysyk’s study concludes that the province risks missing this target, in part, because climate change and the reduction of GHG emissions is not a cross-government priority. The report also finds that none of the three auditees (the Municipal Affairs Ministry, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), and the Energy and Mines Ministry) focus on climate change or the reduction of GHG emissions in decision-making, increasing the challenge to reduce emissions in the buildings sector to achieve the 2030 target. The report contains 19 recommendations in total, with 31 action items to address audit findings. It may be accessed here.
The report findings align with the CPA’s interactions with the OEB regarding natural gas expansion projects. Lack of integrated emission reductions policies and plans among the board and primary ministries result in disconnected one-off policies favouring some sectors over others.
This focus on the provincial government’s environmental record at the two-year mark of the Made in Ontario Environment Plan provides the CPA with an opportunity to re-engage with the environment minister and his cabinet counterparts to offer near-term solutions utilizing provincial propane suppliers.
The CPA will also engage with representatives from the audited ministries to propose that government could take immediate steps to look beyond natural gas, and work to reduce GHGs by converting more oil furnaces to propane.