As parents, we represent the “everyday” citizens of Ottawa: voters, taxpayers, and most importantly, parents concerned that with every passing day there is more evidence that our children’s health, well-being, and future existence is being directly and seriously impacted by climate change. We fully support phasing out gas-fired electricity generation by 2030.
It’s clear on all counts, made even more apparent with the recent IPCC report, that phasing out gas and transitioning to renewable energy would provide multiple short and long-term benefits to the health and well-being of all Ontarians, not just those of us in Ottawa.
Why we support phasing out gas-fired electricity generation by 2030.
A. Research and real-world examples show that solutions already exist with the capability to meet the reliability needs of Ontario’s electricity demands, and those solutions have been proven to work at the scale needed.
For example, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance’s report: Phasing Out Ontario’s Gas-Fired Power Plants: A Road Map provides clear direction for how replacing natural gas with renewables in Ontario would be achievable by 2030. (It shows how Ontario could reduce electricity consumption by 50% by 2030 just by implementing energy efficiency measures.) Further, a study undertaken by the Pembina Institute showed that “non-emitting renewable energy portfolios [such as wind, solar, battery energy storage] can reduce consumer costs along with climate and health impacts while delivering the same or greater services as gas plants.” (1)
B. Financially, phasing out gas will be economically advantageous to Ontario families. It is clear that renewable energies are the energy sources of the future.
Wind prices (at 3.4 to 7.0 cents/kWh) and solar prices (at 3.8-5.5 cents/kWh) are lower than Ontario Hydro’s current mid-peak rates of 9.4 cents/kWh. Prices are expected to continue falling through to 2030. (2) Water power is also a reliable source of electricity and has been offered to Ontario from Hydro Quebec at a very favourable price of 5.0 cents/kWh. As a practical example, the city of Cornwall has sourced its electricity from Hydro Quebec for the past 50 years and its residents pay an average of 35% less than Hamilton residents and 40% less than Toronto electricity customers.
C. Phasing out gas-powered electricity generation will have an enormous benefit to human health.
The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)’s Call to Action on Climate Health concluded that chronic exposure to fine particulate air pollution resulting from the burning of fossil fuels resulted in 7,100 premature deaths in Canada per year and annual health-related costs of $53.5 billion. (3)
The Government of Canada recognizes the impact of emissions on planetary and human health and says ”burning fossil fuels (such as coal and natural gas) and petroleum-based fuels (such as diesel and heavy fuels) has negative impacts on our environment and human health including producing a large part of Canada’s air pollution.” (4)
Children are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of air pollution and climate change as a result of fossil fuel combustion. Due to their rapid growth and immature immune and detoxification systems, unborn children and young children are particularly affected. (5)
The impacts on human health are significantly higher for members of vulnerable communities, particularly low-income and racialized communities, who are most often physically situated closer to the sources of pollution and least resourced to be able to deal with the impacts.
D. For a safe planet we need to rapidly decarbonize our economy. The recent IPCC report has made it clear: GHG emissions hasten climate change, leading to more frequent dangerous heat events, more extreme weather events such as flooding and drought which threaten food and housing security, and above all, irreversible damage to the environment.
Gas expansion is inconsistent with the Paris Agreement goals. In fact, the IPCC report says “Most scenarios see power generation almost completely decarbonized by mid-century, even in a 2°C world (IPCC, 2018, p. 112).” (6) In addition, according to the recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report all new fossil fuel projects must be stopped if we are to have a chance at meeting the goal of net zero by 2050 (7).
From a legal perspective, Ontario is currently being sued by seven youth climate activists for rolling back the province’s climate targets and replacing them with a significantly weaker 2030 target. (8) If, as in a growing number of jurisdictions around the world, the applicants win the case, this will put any plans to ramp up gas plants in jeopardy. Indeed, it would render such plans a liability.
The choice is clear: ramping up gas-plants production would take Ontario backwards; phasing-out gas plants and investing in renewable energy and the transmission of available hydro power from Quebec would help propel Ontario forward into a clean energy future, and help protect the health and safety of our kids.
(1) Reliable, affordable: The economic case for scaling up clean energy portfolios, Oct. 2019, Pembina Institute
(2) The Growing Market for Clean Energy Portfolios, 2019, Rocky Mountain Institute
(3) Howard C, Rose C, Rivers N. Lancet Countdown 2018 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers. Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Public Health Association, The Lancet; 2018 November
(4) https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/managing-pollution/energy production/electricity-generation.html
(5) Perera F. “Pollution from Fossil-Fuel Combustion is the Leading Environmental Threat to Global Pediatric Health and Equity: Solutions Exist” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2018
(6) https://www.iisd.org/system/files/2021-06/natural-gas-finance-clean-alternatives-global-south.pdf p. vi.