An announcement was made at the University of Guelph-Humber by two of Ontario’s cabinet ministers who partnered up to present the launch of this new initiative.
Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, introduced the Climate Change Action Plan as a long-term project, getting government investment up to $514 million in grants and interest free loans for colleges and university repairs and retrofits.
She said the funds are intended for changes within schools such as boiler replacements and energy efficient windows. The intention is to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately make for greener campuses for students.
Hunter stood in front of the university’s plant wall and said “the great thing about this investment is that all of the funds come from Ontario’s cap-and-trade program. Our government’s plan to fight climate change is paying for newer and greener campuses for our students to learn in the best campuses possible.”
The province’s cap-and-trade program launched in 2016, and is partnered with Quebec and California to gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a cost-effective way.
The proceeds are expected to be approximately $1.8 billion annually over five years and are intended to be invested into government programs such as the Climate Change Action Plan.
Chris Ballard, Minister of Environment and Climate Change explained the program which sets a limit on gas emissions. Over time, the cap will be lowered. The trade allows companies to sell their extra permits, maintaining overall carbon emissions while making profit.
Ballard described this as the early stages of the next industrial revolution, dubbing it the ‘low carbon revolution.’
“This [revolution is] driven by urgent need to move away from putting any more carbon and other greenhouse gas pollutants into the air,” he said.
John Walsh, vice-provost and chief academic officer at the University of Guelph-Humber said the school’s current environmental initiatives include changing current lighting to LED.
According to Walsh, these initiatives are forecasted to reduce energy consumption at the University of Guelph-Humber by approximately 35 per cent.
“Through our partnerships with the University of Guelph and Humber [College], we are proud to be continuously evaluating ways in which to conserve energy and reduce emissions because sustainability is a top priority for us all,” Walsh said.
Franco Vaccarino, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Guelph highlighted ways his school has already taken significant strides towards improving campus life, including its Green Gryphon program which has reduced natural gas consumption by 2.3 per cent, resulting in annual savings in $2.2 million.
Vaccarino credited the investment made by the Ontarian government with helping make even more improvements possible throughout his campus.
“This commitment from our province to invest in campus retrofits is going to help the University of Guelph to continue striving for an energy future that’s both sustainable as well as reliable,” he said.
Rani K. Dhaliwal, senior vice-president, planning and corporate services and CFO for Humber College also spoke about the college’s aggressive target to reduce its carbon footprint.
“Humber is on track to reduce water and energy use by 50 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2034,” she said.
Humber College student, Bailey Nantais was at the announcement.
“You want it to feel like you’re doing something good for the world. I’m happy about it, I think it’s what needs to be done,” Nantais said.
Yet, not everyone was pleased. Humber College student Kathleen Lynch questioned the government and school’s ability to deliver on the promises.
“These people after all are politicians, they’re going to say sweet stuff but I’m extremely cynical,” Lynch said.