Last month, Premier Wynne announced Ontario’s new 5-Year Climate Change Action Plan. The plan sets out the key steps the province will take to transition to a low-carbon future. These actions will help achieve the greenhouse gas reduction targets of 80% by 2050.
Our cities are home to some of the largest sources of emissions, but can also play an important role in reducing them. The provincial plan recognizes the important role that municipalities need to play in moving towards a low-carbon future.
From investing in new cycling infrastructure to retrofitting social housing, this plan looks to help Toronto and other cities in Ontario achieve reductions in their emissions. For Toronto, there are five key areas where the new plan will have a big impact:
Green light for bikes: The new plan sets aside more than $150 million to help cities build safer cycling networks and infrastructure to make it easier for people to move around the city. The priority is to make it easier for commuters to choose cycling, which helps to relieve congestion on our streets.
Policy changes at City Hall: The new plan will allow Toronto and other municipalities to set green standards that reach beyond building construction, such as sustainable transportation management requirements. Additionally, all municipalities will be required to have climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies as part of their Official Plan.
Improvements in social housing: Toronto’s aging social housing stock will also receive funding for retrofitting older buildings. The plan earmarks over $380 million for cities to improve social housing and also looks for ways to protect low-income tenants from rising energy costs. Toronto will get a good chunk of this money because we have so much social housing.
A boost to electric vehicles: A major focus of the plan is to provide incentives that encourage residents to switch to electric vehicles. The plan includes free overnight electric vehicle charging and investments to expand the number of electric charging stations in Ontario cities.
Eliminates minimum parking requirements: Over the next five years, Toronto would be required to eliminate minimum parking spot requirements, especially in areas that are transit corridors. This will allow for more complete streets that include bike lanes, larger sidewalks and more trees.
Ontario’s new climate action plan gives Torontonians hope that the provincial government is taking concrete actions to tackle climate change.But this opportunity is even bigger than that.
For the first time in recent history, our municipal, provincial and federal governments are aligned to take action on climate change. This is an important window of opportunity and we can’t just cross our fingers and hope for the best. We must push for the transformative changes needed at all levels of government to realize this low-carbon future we all share.