Greening of Government

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In August 2007, the Ontario government released a climate change strategy entitled Go Green: Ontario’s Action Plan on Climate Change (the “Action Plan”). The ECO reviewed this strategy in Ontario’s Action Plan on Climate Change: Deserving of Credit? in our 2007/08 report. The following Action Plan measures were reviewed:

Greening of Government

The Action Plan highlights several initiatives to reduce the GHG emissions of the Ontario government:

  • retrofitting government-owned buildings;
  • modifying facility operations;
  • banning the purchase of incandescent bulbs for government facilities;
  • making energy-efficient procurement choices; and
  • powering MOE headquarters with renewable energy.

As a result of recent efforts, the government claims it has surpassed its target of reducing the electricity use of the Ontario Public Service (OPS) by 10 per cent between 2004-05 and 2006-07. In addition to corporate-level greening, several ministries and branches are reducing GHG emissions via projects undertaken by communities of practice, environmental committees, and grassroots initiatives.

Looking forward, the government states that it will reduce its electricity consumption by another 10 per cent by 2012. Government plans to achieve this goal include:

  • adopting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards for new government-owned construction and major renovations;
  • upgrading existing government office buildings to BOMA (Building Owners and Managers Association) Go Green Plus program standards; and
  • proposing that all electricity used by the Ontario Legislature be purchased from renewable sources.

The Plan also mentions that regulations under the new Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2006 could require ministries and other public agencies to prepare, implement, and report on energy conservation plans.

Besides reducing electricity use, the Plan states that the government will reduce GHG emissions by establishing two new fuelling stations for government vehicles that use a gasoline/ethanol mixture.

ECO Analysis

Measures in the Action Plan to reduce government GHG emissions focus almost exclusively on reducing electricity consumption. While the ECO acknowledges that reducing electricity use is important in addressing climate change, we note that the relative contribution of the electricity sector to Ontario’s GHG emissions will decrease as electricity generation in Ontario becomes greener (i.e., with the reduction and phase-out of coal-fired electricity). A concern remains that other approaches for reducing the government’s GHG production (e.g., greening of the OPS feet, procuring local food for OPS cafeterias, and minimizing air travel, to name just three options) are not included in the Action Plan.

The ECO notes that government greening initiatives in Ontario are often scattered, uncoordinated and poorly communicated. To ensure that government greening progresses, the ECO encourages the government to:

  • approve a comprehensive government greening strategy;
  • put greening requirements into law;
  • set up a central greening office with adequate funding;
  • work towards clear targets with progress measured by regular monitoring; and
  • apply government greening to the broader public sector (BPS).

Moreover, the ECO urges the government to recognize government greening as more than a chance to reduce its environmental footprint, reduce expenses, and serve as a model of sustainability. The size and power of the Ontario government (through both the OPS and BPS) allow it to drive the development of green technology and cultivate economic markets for sustainable products. It is by exercising this buying power and authority that the greening of the Ontario government can truly bring about substantial environmental change. For more information on the greening of the Ontario government, see The Greening of the Ontario Government from this year's report.

This is an article from the 2007/08 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Citing This Article:
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2008. "Ontario's Action Plan on Climate Change: Deserving of Credit?." Getting to K(No)w, ECO Annual Report, 2007-08. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 13-28.

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