Climate Action: Steps to Reduce GHG Emissions - NRU

Leah Wong
November 28, 2016
Novae Res Urbis

While Toronto is on track to meet its 2020 climate goal of reducing emissions by 30 per cent from 1990 levels, city staff say significant investment and action will be required to achieve its 2050 goal of 80 per cent emission reduction.

Recognizing that further action would be required to meet the city’s climate goals, the city and Th e Atmospheric Fund (formerly Toronto Atmospheric Fund) launched TransformTO, a community-wide, cross-divisional initiative to create a strategy to meet the city’s emission goals.

Yesterday parks and environment committee recommended that council approve the short-term TransformTO strategies and direct staff to report to council on the business case for these actions.

“We’ve not only reached a tipping point, we’ve surpassed the tipping point as it relates to greenhouse gas emissions... And in the wake of last week’s election south of the border we’re in a worse situation today than we were eight days ago,” Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina councillor Joe Cressy told parks and environment committee. “It’s incumbent on us to do the only thing we can do, which is to step up and lead and show other cities how to move forward.”

Staff presented a package of short-term strategies that it is recommending the city undertake to continue its progress on emission reduction. Environment project lead Linda Swanston told committee that if the city stays on track with its existing climate policies and actions it will meet, and exceed, its 2020 targets. However, a new strategy will be needed to
meet its 2050 targets.

Without adopting new strategies emissions are expected to flat line between 2025 and 2030. Swanston said investing in the short-term strategies will enable the city to get on the trajectory needed to meet the 2050 targets.

The strategies are bundled into fi ve groups—support energy efficiency in buildings, raise the bar for new construction and community energy solutions, advance sustainable transportation, lead by example and engage and collaborate with stakeholders. Staff estimate that the short-term strategies proposed have the potential to reduce emissions by up to 857,400 tonnes of CO2e. 

“This would drive us below the business as planned projected line of emissions and move us closer to where we need to be for 2050,” said Swanston.

The most signifi cant reduction is expected to come from improving energy effi ciency in buildings. Data from 2014 shows that buildings are the primary source of emissions in Toronto, accounting for 53 per cent of emissions, compared to transportation (35 per cent) and waste (11 per cent).

The proposed short-term strategies for buildings include enhancing the city’s Better Buildings Partnership to encourage property owners to improve energy effi ciency in their buildings, using innovative financing mechanisms to encourage clean energy investments and leveraging provincial funding to improve the energy efficiency and quality of social housing.

Staff recommends that council ask to have business cases for the implementation of the short-term strategies to be developed for the 2018 budget process. At yesterday’s committee meeting and at a Monday meeting of the subcommittee on climate change mitigation and adaptation, deputants raised concern that money would not be allocated to these strategies in the 2017 budget.

“The plan proposes to delay any new funding for the action plan until 2018... We need to have the money into the 2017 budget to ramp up these actions,” Toronto Environmental Alliance climate change campaigner Dusha Sritharan told committee. Given Canada’s commitments at COP21 last year and funding for climate change from the other levels of government Sritharan said it’s time for Toronto to take action.

“We are now at the point that the city needs to take action and council needs to show leadership on this issue... Climate change isn’t a thing of the future it is taking place now and we can’t afford to delay.”

The City of Toronto was once upon a time the world leader in doing things to try to establish local action on climate. It is simply unacceptable to lose sight of what our obligations are to each other and the future just because we have an austerity administration in the City of Toronto. - Gord Perks

Committee approved a motion from Ward 14 Parkdale- High Park councillor Gord Perks, which asks that staff report on the business cases for the short-term strategies outlined in TransformTO at the December 13 council meeting. He noted that in the past standing committees have set service levels before the launch of the budget, and that is not happening this year. Instead, service levels will be adjusted to meet the targets set by the budget committee. 

“The City of Toronto was once upon a time the world leader in doing things to try to establish local action on climate,” said Perks. “It is simply unacceptable to lose sight of what our obligations are to each other and the future just because we have an austerity administration in the City of Toronto.”

In May 2017 staff will report back to committee with a second TransformTO report, which will set a roadmap for achieving an 80 per cent emission reduction by 2050. In addition to showing the emission reductions that can be achieved with different actions, Swanston said the report will include a co-benefi t analysis that shows the impacts these actions could have on the local economy, social equity and public health.

Posted with permission of the publisher of NRU Publishing Inc. Original article first appeared in Novae Res Urbis – Toronto Edition, Vol. 20 No. 45, Friday, November 18, 2016