Tory move to revoke cap-and-trade ends hopes for $2M in funding for electric buses

A pilot project that would bring electric buses to Hamilton streets is stalled after the possibility of $2 million in funding was clawed back by Ontario's new Tory government as part of a campaign promise to scrap cap-and-trade.

Environment Hamilton says it's not optimistic the new government cares about climate change

Officials behind a pilot project that would bring electric buses to Hamilton are scrambling to find another source of funding after learning the Tory's government's move to revoke cap-and-trade killed the program they were hoping to cash in on. (CBC)

A pilot project that would bring electric buses to Hamilton streets is stalled after the possibility of $2 million in funding was clawed back by Ontario's new Tory government as part of a campaign promise to scrap cap-and-trade.

City officials were all set to send in their application for funding through the second round of the Municipal Greenhouse Gas Challenge this week when they learned the program had been revoked.

The news slammed the brakes on the electric bus pilot called Hamilton Takes Charge, which was banking on the government covering half of the $4 million needed for the project.

We're not all that optimistic that they have any focus on or concern about the climate crisis."- Lynda Lukasik, Environment Hamilton, speaking about Ontario's new government

Tom Chessman, Hamilton's manager of energy initiatives, said its created a "a big setback" for the city.

"We don't have a backup plan right now," he explained. "The ultimate impact could mean were going to have to purchase higher-emissions buses … so that's a big concern for us."

The cancellation comes as a result of newly elected Premier Doug Ford's campaign promise to scrap the province's cap-and-trade system.

A notice posted to a bright yellow box on the province's webpage about cap-and-trade reads:

"Effective July 3, 2018, we have revoked the cap and trade regulation, prohibiting all trading of emission allowances. We are committed to an orderly wind down of the program."

Cities front line for fight against climate change

Environment Hamilton executive director, Lynda Lukasik, said revoking the program will hurt urban municipalities which are on the front lines of the fight against climate change.

"Our concern moving forward is that at this point none of us have any details about how this new provincial government is going to fund this kind of program," she said.

"We're not all that optimistic that they have any focus on or concern about the climate crisis."

One of the main sources of greenhouse gases is transportation, she added, meaning electric buses would be "hugely beneficial" for the city. 

"Our argument is that if there's ever a time that we need higher levels of government to be committed to providing higher levels of support, it's now."

A driver charges an electric bus in Lin'an City in China. (The Associated Press)

Lukasik said her organization will be looking to the federal government to help with environmental issues in Ontario, if the province's own government will not.

The disappointment of the program being cancelled has forced the city to switch its focus to incentives from utility providers, said Chessman.

He said those incentives are now "absolutely critical" for lowering the costs of buying and operating more efficient equipment.

Schools losing cash too

The threat the city's electric bus plans comes after school boards across the province learned on July 3 that the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund would be eliminated and only work contracted on or before that date would be covered.

For Hamilton's public board that meant $2.15 million in cash it was counting on for updates.

Despite the losing a potential funding source, Chessman said the city is still committed to reaching its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and fuel economy by 2050.

"We were looking forward to advancing toward those targets through this program. Now we're just going to have to find another way to get there."

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