An agenda for positive change

Fourteen of Ontario’s leading environmental organizations have worked to put together an environmental action agenda for the  government of Ontario. 

To build the Ontario we want, we need to:

  • Reduce our climate impact while creating new economic opportunities in a low-carbon, clean-tech world
  • Take better care of the natural world that takes care of us
  • Help people live healthier lives in active, connected communities
  • Recognize Ontarian’s right to a healthy environment

Here’s how we can do that:


Reducing our climate impact while creating new economic opportunities in a low-carbon, clean-tech world

We need a solid plan to meet Ontario’s legally binding greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets.  This should include accelerating Ontario’s to a low-carbon economy, including increasing use of renewable energy, improving energy efficiency, and speeding up the adoption of electric vehicles.

We also need to meet our need for clean electricity economically by increasing the use of low-cost power from Quebec and reassessing the need for costly nuclear projects. 

Lowering transportation emissions must be a top priority given their growing climate impact.  We need to electrify the GO system, reduce freight-related emissions and end the construction of new 400 series highways.

Finally, we need to properly value the immense amounts of stored carbon in Ontario’s forests and wetlands and manage these globally important carbon storehouses properly through steps such as regional and/or strategic environmental assessments of new development projects

Action targets:

  • GHG emissions capped at 147 MT in 2022, which is approximately 20% below our 1990 level of 182 MT, as interim step toward 2030 goal of reducing emissions to 115 MT.
  • Ensure sufficient carbon-free electrical generation capacity is available to both close Pickering by 2018 and to initiate off-ramps if cost over-runs at the Darlington or Bruce nuclear stations occur or more economic options are identified.
  • Increase installed capacity for solar, wind and bio-energy to 25% of electricity supply by 2022 in conjunction with increased storage.
  • All cost-effective improvements to energy efficiency given priority over new supply options by 2018.
  • Increase the electricity intertie with Quebec by 4000 MW by 2025
  • Undertake a robust scientific assessment of stored carbon in Ontario’s forests and wetlands by 2020 in order to properly value and protect stored carbon.
  • Metrolinx’s regional express rail electrified by 2026 and carbon emissions of the GO bus systems lowered beginning in 2018.
  • Municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe formulate sustainable goods movement strategies by 2022.
  • Ontario’s modern Renewable Fuel Standard and/or the federal Clean Fuel Standard implemented by 2019.
  • ZEV target of 3.5% of sales as of 2018 escalating to 15.5% by 2025 to align with Quebec


Take better care of the natural world that takes care of us

We need a plan for meeting the Aichi targets agreed to by Canada and Ontario, which require protection of at least 17% of Ontario’s lands and waters.  We also need to better protect wetlands, one of our most endangered natural habitats types.

To protect wildlife, pollinators and human health, we need to dramatically reduce pesticide use, particularly neonicotinoids .

To protect our lakes, we need to reduce nutrient discharges to lakes and waterways to prevent dangerous algae blooms and other water quality problems. We need to increase the use of green infrastructure and meet onsite stormwater retention targets to reduce the impact of urban runoff on water quality in our lakes, rivers and streams.

And we need to respect the principles of the Endangered Species Act and reverse actions that have steadily undermined its effectiveness and the protection of species at risk.

Action targets:

  • At least 17 percent of Ontario’s lands and freshwaters protected by 2020, in accordance with Canada’s commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Ongoing trend of wetland loss in Ontario reversed by 2022, and all provincially significant wetlands, the globally significant Hudson Bay Lowlands, and Great Lakes coastal wetlands are strictly off limits to development (evaluation of significance must occur prior to development approvals).
  • Use of Class 2 (very hazardous) and Class 3 (moderately hazardous) pesticides reduced by 50% from 2018 levels by 2022.
  • 80% reduction in acreage of neonic-treated corn and soy crops, followed by implementation of a plan to achieve a full ban of all neonicotinoid seed treatments by 2022.
  • Overall emissions of nutrient pollutants to water from Ontario industries and municipalities reporting to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) reduced by 40% by 2028 compared to the 2015 reporting year.
  • 40 per cent total load reduction in the amount of total and dissolved reactive phosphorus entering Lake Erie’s western and central basins by the year 2025 with an aspirational interim goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020.
  • 15% of infrastructure funds dedicated to living green infrastructure
  • Remove the Endangered Species Act and the Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act from the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and reassign them to a ministry that will prioritize the protection of nature.


Help people live healthier lives in active, connected communities

To protect our communities, we need to meaningfully assess the cumulative impacts of multiple contaminants of concern from multiple pollution sources on air, water and communities, such as those around Sarnia’s Chemical Valley, and strengthen Ontario’s standards for sulphur dioxide.  We also need to reduce emissions of carcinogens and toxics to air and water and need to require full disclosure of toxic ingredients in consumer products.

To improve quality of life and reduce our climate impact, we need transit expansion and operating plans integrated with good planning, appropriate technology approaches so that  transit is frequent, convenient and affordable.  We also need to promote Active Transportation as a congestion relief and health measure in all communities.

We need to expand recycling and organic waste programs to achieve waste reduction targets, including introducing a deposit-return system for beverage containers.

And we must clean-up of contaminated sites, including remediation of mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system.

Action targets:

  • Cumulative effects of air and water pollution discharges considered in all decision-making by 2020.
  • Overall emissions of carcinogens and other toxicants to air and water from Ontario industries and municipalities reporting to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) reduced by 25% by 2022, with additional plans to be developed and implemented for 50% reductions by 2028 compared to the 2015 reporting year.  
  • Full disclosure of toxics in product labelling by 2020.
  • Full funding for the 2008 Big Move transit plan and cover 50% of municipal transit operating costs by 2021. 
  • Full and immediate transparency for transit funding decisions, including making public business case analyses (BCA) and all associated assumptions.
  • All municipalities have Active Transportation plans by 2021 with an emphasis on facilitating complete connectivity to local and regional destinations.
  • Every Ontarian has equal and convenient access to programs that allow recycling, composting and the safe disposal of hazardous waste where they live, work and play by 2021
  • Deposit / return system for beverage containers implemented by 2020.
  • Finalize and bring into force the currently proposed SO2 standards and revise the NO2 standards to levels as protective or better than the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards.    
  • Timely clean-up of contaminated sites in Ontario, including remediation of mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system by 2018



It is time to modernize the Environmental Assessment Act to create a system that allows for better consideration of cumulative effects and that includes regional and strategic assessments.  This should include the integration of a substantive right to a healthy environment and other procedural improvements in a revised Environmental Bill of Rights by 2020.

Action targets:

  • Next generation Environmental Assessment that provides for cumulative effects assessment, regional EA and robust public participation implemented in a new EA Act by 2021.
  • A substantive right to a healthy environment included in the Environmental Bill of Rights by 2020.