Province to dole out $100M to help cities cut greenhouse gas emissions

Ontario is rolling out a new fund for municipalities in its battle against climate change.

Funding announcement comes amid dramatic rise in costly natural disasters

Severe spring flooding along the Ottawa River last spring is one example of the rising number of natural disasters that are costing the province millions in relief funding to municipalities. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Ontario is rolling out a new fund for municipalities in its battle against climate change.

At a news conference Monday, the province announced a $100-million fund that will be up for grabs by communities for projects to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.

The fund is part of Ontario's climate change action plan.

Projects could include retrofits to heating systems at arenas or energy-efficiency upgrades to water treatment plants.

Capped at $10M per project

Municipalities will be able to apply for 100 per cent of the cost of a project, up to a maximum of $10 million.

Municipalities interested in accessing the cash will need an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions produced in their communities, and a target and strategy to reduce those emissions.

Eligible projects are expected to revolve around heating, said Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Chris Ballard. However he also pointed to a bike-share program launched by the City of Hamilton in 2015 as an eligible project.

While there's no specific target, Ballard said the province is hoping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province by two megatonnes, or about one-fifth of one per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. 

Applications will be accepted until November, with the money doled out in 2018.

Costly natural disasters

Extreme weather events have been linked to climate change.

"More immediately and locally, we're experiencing the consequences of climate change right here, right now, in Ontario. It affects us in many ways.from infrastructure, energy and agriculture to tourism and health," said Ballard, pointing to recent severe weather including torrential rains that caused severe flooding.

Ottawa and Gatineau, as well as areas around Toronto, were affected by flooding back in May.

Those extreme weather events have meant an increase in the disaster funding Ontario has had to pay out to municipalities.

Between 2005 and 2010 the province paid out $8 million in disaster assistance funding to help communities recover from 17 natural disasters. From 2010 to 2015, that increased dramatically to $36-million for 43 disasters, according to Municipal Affairs Minister Bill Mauro.

"We've seen an increase in the number of extreme weather events like flooding, tornadoes, more frequent heat waves and severe episodes of freezing rain," he said.

The Ottawa-Gatineau area experienced significant flooding in May, and hundreds of residents are expected to apply for provincial disaster relief funding.

At the time, Mayor Jim Watson said it was the largest natural disaster the city had experienced since the ice storm in 1998.