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Ontario opens talks with industrial sector on carbon emissions caps

Ontario, Canada's largest manufacturing province, plans to open talks with large industrial companies aimed at finding ways to limit greenhouse gas without imposing a levy on emissions.

The government expects to release a draft of its plan to reduce large-industrial emissions for public comment in January as it attempts to skirt a federally imposed tax on emissions scheduled to come into effect in 2019. Ontario would set emission performance standards that industrial facilities would be required to meet that are tied to their level of output or production, according to a Dec. 18 statement. The proposal is part of Ontario's larger environmental plan released in November.

The approach to industrial emissions "does not enforce a blanket cap on emissions across Ontario and takes into consideration specific industry and facility conditions while allowing for economic growth," the statement said. While the province will not impose a tax, "the government intends to explore ways to recycle any funding that is collected back to industry to finance further greenhouse gas reduction technologies."

Ontario has reversed a number of climate change mitigation measures since Premier Doug Ford was elected earlier this year. The province ended participation in a cap-and-trade emissions scheme with Quebec and California and has also scrapped contracts for renewable power purchases and tailpipe emissions testing for cars. Ontario has joined Saskatchewan and Manitoba in opposition to a Canadian government proposal to impose a federal emissions levy in jurisdictions that do not institute their own version of the so-called carbon tax.

The Ontario statement said large industries accounted for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. The province's options to cut emissions are limited because the previous provincial government shut down coal-fired plants run by Ontario Power Generation Inc., which had been a large source of air pollution. The bulk of Ontario's electricity comes from nuclear and hydroelectric generators that are already considered low-emitting.

The province plans to consult with stakeholders through webinars and in-person meetings on the proposal both before and after it is made public in January.