Fed up over industrial wind farms popping up across their landscape, rural Lambton landowners gave the Ontario government a measure of the climate in their community Tuesday night.
Members of a local anti-wind lobby group capitalized on a public consultation meeting on climate change to air their concerns about the Green Energy Act to provincial officials.
In front of a small crowd in Sarnia Tuesday, wind turbine opponents repeatedly took aim at the Liberal government, suggesting they remain distrustful of them over the lack of public consultation around the Green Energy Act
“They poisoned the well for other green energy initiatives,” said Santo Giorno, a member of We’re Against Industrial Turbines – Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW).
But more than ever, the Ontario government needs buy-in from all residents to help reach targets set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades.
The Ontario Liberals recently released a climate change paper calling in part for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is tasked with developing a long-term strategy and five-year action plan on the hot button issue by the end of this year.
Ministry officials are now in the midst of first gathering public input from 15 Ontario communities to help shape the plan. All Ontario residents can also submit comments online through the Environmental Registry at ebr.gov.on.ca through March 29.
While the ministry has heard some recurring themes throughout its community visits so far, policy director Heather Pearson told The Observer she hadn’t heard mention of wind turbines in the context of the climate change discussion until Tuesday’s meeting in Sarnia.
“It’s the first time I’ve heard it in regards to the conversations we’ve been having on climate change,” she said.
The possible introduction of a carbon tax – another hot button issue – has received mixed response from the public across the province, Pearson noted.
In Sarnia-Lambton, the majority of people who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting panned the idea outright.
But some suggested the Ontario government could consider rather a tax incentive for those who choose to lower their greenhouse emissions.
“Use a carrot instead of a stick,” Giorno quipped. “You would get more buy-in.”
Rural landowners and city residents alike also spoke passionately Tuesday about the need to protect woodlots.
The Ontario government needs to expand tree planting across its communities, Sarnia city Coun. Anne Marie Gillis told ministry representatives.
“We have lost $1 million of trees in our tree canopy in the City of Sarnia alone…” she said.
Emerald ash borer has ripped through Canatara Park, forcing the city to bring down about 200 infested trees in the last few weeks.
Once emerald ash borer-infested trees are down, fellow city Coun. Brian White said the province should also have a plan in place to sell the lumber for construction and furniture building purposes.
“We should be putting more focus into commoditizing our green waste,” he said.
But regardless of the strategies to curb climate change, Sarnia resident Kevin Shaw told ministry officials their plan needs to take into consideration the public appetite.
“It can’t be top-down from the government and it can’t be seen as something benefiting large corporations but not private citizens.”
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