This notice is regarding the development of a program that enables the creation of carbon offset credits in Ontario’s voluntary carbon offsets program. It does not relate to offset credits (compliance offsets) for use in Ontario’s cap and trade program.
Across Ontario we have seen an increase in prolonged heat waves, torrential rain storms, windstorms, even drought. These events have become more common – a clear sign of a shift in our weather patterns. This shift is called ‘climate change.’ It threatens our health and safety, our environment and our economy. Ontario is experiencing the impacts of climate change, which range from damaged infrastructure, extreme weather events such as flooding, to the reduced ability to grow food in some regions.
Ontario has developed a Five Year Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) 2016 – 2020 to fight climate change. This Action Plan outlines the various activities that the government will undertake to mitigate the effects of climate change across our province, which includes making government operations carbon neutral beginning in 2018. To this end, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has been directed by the Premier’s mandate letter and the 2017 Budget to develop a separate quality, branded, voluntary carbon offset class for use by government, the private sector and others, as an additional way to enable market participants to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This will support the government’s carbon-neutral commitment and enable the private sector and others to demonstrate climate leadership by reducing both their carbon and ecological footprints.
The proposed voluntary carbon offsets program is separate and distinct from the proposed compliance offsets program and capped emitters will not be able to use voluntary carbon offset credits to meet their compliance obligations under the cap and trade program. For more information on the proposed compliance offsets program, please see the regulation proposal notice posting at https://www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External/displaynoticecontent.do?noticeId=MTMzNTQz&statusId=MjAzMDc1&language=en. Under the proposed voluntary carbon offsets program, offset projects that wish to be issued voluntary carbon offset credits would be undertaken in accordance with a GHG quantification protocol approved by Ontario.
The development of a separate, quality, branded voluntary offset class provides a unique opportunity to leverage land-use activities to fight climate change and integrate ‘beyond carbon benefits’ such as environmental co-benefits like flood management into the design of this program. As we consider the role of land-use in mitigating climate change, we must also think of the complex interactions of natural systems and other important services they provide. Ecosystems provide many basic services that make human life possible such as flood protection and erosion control provided by trees; air and water purification and natural cooling on hot days provided by forests and wetlands; and pollination by bees of plants and flowers that provide us with food. These processes work together to make ecosystems healthy, sustainable, functional and resilient to climate change. Recognizing the importance of the complex interdependencies between natural and human systems and the need for a holistic, ecosystems-based approach is a message that the ministry has heard often in discussions with Indigenous partners. As such, the proposed voluntary carbon offsets program will support objectives outlined in Ontario’s Climate Change Strategy, including commitments to:
- Improve the resilience of our communities to climate change;
- Increase our natural capital; and
- Protect valuable agricultural lands, natural resources and ecosystems for the future.
Increasingly, governments, communities and businesses are considering the value of services provided by ecosystems and the value of natural capital. These services are often invisible in the way we measure economic growth, but are critical to our province’s prosperity.
Ontario’s proposed voluntary carbon offsets program will create a clear set of rules and requirements for anyone who wants to facilitate the creation of carbon offsets projects and to sell the credits generated from these projects to others. Ontario’s program for quality branded voluntary carbon offsets would:
- Provide a mechanism for government, the private sector and others to reduce both their carbon and ecological footprints;
- Facilitate participation by Indigenous, northern and agricultural communities and municipalities in the carbon market;
- Promote additional environmental co-benefits; and
- Drive innovation and support the transition to a low carbon economy.
Climate change does not respect national or provincial borders and GHG emissions anywhere affect people everywhere. Ontario’s proposed voluntary carbon offsets program aligns with Canada’s national and international climate change objectives and initiatives, including the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change as well as the international global development objectives defined by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
MOECC is engaging with Indigenous organizations, stakeholders and others to inform key components of the design and development of the proposed voluntary carbon offsets program including:
- Developing and/or adapting offset project methodologies; and
- Potential community-based pilot projects.
The discussion paper accompanying this post outlines the key elements of Ontario’s proposed voluntary carbon offsets program for the purpose of public consultation. It also presents questions to guide discussion and comment. Input received through this process will be used to inform the design of Ontario’s voluntary carbon offsets program.