Climate change: lessons from Ontario

The Climate Change Agreement has been one of the most important political and economic decisions at the international level. It symbolises global collective action which has created new platforms for cooperation, with each country offering its own climate plan. In the past two years, the Government of India has made strides in creating policies that have facilitated clean energy initiatives. However, it still has a long way to go to achieve its clean energy targets.

As India stands on the threshold of a major transformation, it is crucial to look at other countries for best practice models in this area. Ontario, Canada’s largest province in terms of population and economic activity, is one such region that can present key insights to help India achieve its clean energy goals.

About 39% of Ontario’s total primary energy supply is provided by renewable energy sources. Last year, with the objective of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, Ontario also announced a new climate chan­ge strategy. As further proof of the province’s commitment to clean tech, coal went from 25% of Ontario’s supply mix in 2003 to zero in 2014. Early this year, the Government of Ontario also signed 13 agreements, worth US$59.4 million, with various state governments and businesses in India’s clean tech sector.

Ontario's Climate Change Action Plan, released in 2015, is a new framework that presents a coordinated approach to reducing emissions. Under the plan, any spending will need to be authorised under the Climate Cha­nge Mitigation and Low-carbon Economy Act, and will be subject to approval by the legislature. Ontario’s reduction targets are ambitious yet achievable, in line with global objectives.

Based on greenhouse gas reporting data, Ontario has met its 2014 target of 6% below 1990 levels. The province achieved this goal by taking bold steps, including closing all of Ontario's coal-fired electricity-generating stations. Ontario also plans to connect with First Nation and Métis communities (indigenous people residing in Canada represen­ting 4.3% of the total Canadian population) by partnering on regular symposiums across the province. These will focus on sharing knowledge on climate change, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge and would engage youth leaders and elders to share knowledge related to climate change mitigation. Such potential areas of collaboration should also be explored by India with its tribal communi­ties as well as rural population.

As per a WHO report, four Indian cities are among the world’s 10 most populated cities. High-emission vehicles have consistently resulted in the decline of air quality in India. Natural gas is a credible and clean fuel that is not just cheap but also efficient than other sources. Harnessing gas in India is a need of the hour, not just to meet the peaking demands of power across the country but to overcome this looming threat. It is estimated that North America now has a 100-year supply of natural gas and Ontario’s geographic location and natural gas infrastructure puts it in a strategic position to take advantage of North America’s changing natural gas market.

Significant partnerships
Leading Indian companies have made significant partnerships with Ontario’s clean tech companies. For example, India-based global consulting and IT service provider Mahindra Satyam collaborated with the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy to better understand how to leverage its smart grid research capacity. The new Smart Grid Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Waterloo is building one of the largest smart grid research groups in North America.

Tech Mahindra also joined forces with Ontario electric utility company Niagara-on-the-Lake Hydro Inc to create Intelligent Electric Vehicle Charging Systems. This pilot project demonstrates the effects of electric vehicle charging on transformers by creating a real-time transformer monitoring and analytics solution. The key benefits of the solution include the ability to take corrective action before transformers get overloaded. Ontario also has the resources to conduct research and develop new products and services. For companies in Ontario’s environmental sector, it has been a great opportunity to test new ideas and perfect breakthrough technologies for world markets, from industrial wastewater treatment to smart grid management software.

Almost half of Canada’s full-time R&D personnel are within the province, with more than $14 billion annually being spent on R&D. Ontario provides both the scope for innovation as well as market-ready clean technology models, which India can tap at this stage to achieve the goals of economic growth along with environmental conservation.

(The writer is Counsellor (Commercial – Ontario) and Senior Economic Officer at Government of Ontario, Canada)
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