Analysis: Climate Action in the 2020 City Budget

In October, Toronto declared a Climate Emergency - and promised accelerated action to make Toronto zero-carbon by 2050. A first test of the City’s commitment is the 2020 City Budget, which was released last week. Read TEA’s assessment - and find out how to get involved in the budget process.  

On January 10, the City of Toronto released its proposed 2020 tax-supported Budget. The Budget comes three months after Council declared a climate emergency - and committed to take strong action to prevent climate breakdown.

(Read what we won in the Climate Emergency Declaration.) 

The City has announced $5.9 Million in new or enhanced climate-related funding in the 2020 Budget - but they also have areas where they are falling short on the commitments that were made. 

The proposed budget includes some positive actions to address the climate emergency including: 

  1. Hiring deferred staff for TransformTO to support new construction standards, the renewable energy strategy, and City building retrofits ($0.80M, 5 new staff).
  2. Hiring new staff and committing funding to implement the Climate Emergency Declaration.
    • Plan for net zero by 2050 or earlier (e.g. develop carbon budget, ensure equity and Indigenous inclusion) ($1.08M, 4 staff).
    • Accelerate TransformTO actions (e.g. Green Will initiative to reduce commercial property emissions, Electric Vehicle strategy) ($1.21M, 5 staff).
    • Implement resilience strategy (e.g. map flood risks, heat network expansion, neighbourhood resilience ($0.65M, 4 staff).
  3. Hiring 3 new staff for tree maintenance and tree by-law oversight ($0.22M) and implementing green infrastructure projects that increase tree maintenance and planting ($1.97M).
  4. Conducting equity impact analysis of TransformTO in the budget process.
  5. New capital funding for the installation of renewable thermal energy on City buildings ($12.3M) and low-interest financing for community energy projects and home energy retrofits ($6.5M).

However, the proposed budget falls short of the urgency needed in some important ways.


1. The proposed budget fails to demonstrate adequate progress in reducing emissions: 

To meet its 2030 emission target of 9 megatons/year (Mt), the City needs to reduce emissions by 0.5 Mt annually. However, the only specific emission reduction named in the 2020 Budget is a 0.006 Mt associated with the implementation of the Toronto Green Standard for new buildings. [1] It is important that City Budgets report comprehensively across Divisions program outcomes and expected GHG emission reductions so that the public can assess whether City actions are sufficient to meet emission reduction targets.  There is also a lack of clarity in the proposed Budget on climate program deliverables. For example, it is unclear whether this budget will deliver an increased number of residential energy retrofits in 2020 - something that is clearly needed. (City loan programs have led to the completion of only 187 single-family home retrofits and 2,200 multi-residential building unit retrofits over the past five years, a mere 0.05% of all single-family homes in Toronto and only 0.3% of Toronto’s apartment units.) [2] 

2. The proposed budget lacks adequate investment in climate action:

Even with the increase in funding, Toronto’s climate spending is still inadequate: 

  • Operating budget spending on the climate emergency is well below that of other cities (Toronto’s proposed operating budget for TransformTO in 2020, estimated at $18M, works out to about $7 per resident; Vancouver’s $48M operating budget for climate action translates into $80 per resident). [3]
  • Ten-year capital spending for climate-related actions in the Energy and Environment Division budget is 27% lower than last year. Capital spending on climate ($150M over 10 years) is tiny compared with spending on the Gardiner expressway ($2.2B) and repairing roads ($2B).  It also falls far short of the City investment of $2B a year called for to achieve an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050. [4]  
  • Only 0.2% ($1.7 M) of City’s Fleet Services capital spending for the next 10 years is dedicated to the Green Fleet Plan, which prioritizes buying electric and other low-carbon vehicles, despite $9.3M being needed over the next three years. [5]
  • Only 1% of Parks, Forestry & Recreation’s capital budget in the next 10 years is dedicated for enhanced climate resiliency funding to deal with the impacts of extreme weather events, all of which is paying for past storms (2017-2019).
  • Proposed reductions to staffing levels in Social Development Finance and Administration, Children’s Services, and Public Health and large funding gaps for needed  TTC improvements and TCHC repairs are deeply concerning given the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable and equity-seeking populations.

3) The following Climate Emergency actions are not currently included in the proposed Budget - and should be added: 

  • Expansion of energy retrofits
    • Clear commitment of funding to ramp up the pace of single-family and multi-residential building retrofits (e.g. increased financial incentives and new policies such as home energy labelling).
    • Identify, and include funding for, the number of residential and commercial building energy retrofits that will be completed in 2020 and beyond (e.g. Green Will, HiRIS and HELP) in order to meet City emission reduction targets.
  •  Transit improvements and fare reductions
    • Expansion of access to discounted transit fares (Fair Fare pass) to a further 190,000 low-income riders as promised in March 2020, is delayed until 2021.
    • Clear timeline or funding for delivery of dedicated bus lanes on Eglinton, Dufferin, Jane, Steeles, and Finch.
    • Order of 60 new streetcars needed by 2022 to ensure the future viability of transit.
  • Protected Bike Lanes  
    • Capital funding to accelerate the implementation of the City's bike plan so that it is completed in 2030.
  • Climate resilience:
    • Increase spending for climate resilience in 2020 and over the next 10 years (including the ravine strategy and litter clean-up).
  • Climate lens:
    • Fund and implement a process to assess and report to the public on climate impacts of major City decisions, including financial decisions.
  • Establishment of dedicated climate fund: 
    • There is no mention of the City’s commitment to develop a dedicated climate action fund in the budget, or any mention of potential revenue sources (e.g. parking levy, congestion charge) which were supported by the TransformTO Reference Panel - to help fund climate action. 

The Toronto Environmental Alliance is continuing to analyze and monitor the City Budget. This page will be updated with new analysis. 


Speak at a public hearing on the City BudgetPublic hearings will be held on January 20 (in Toronto and Scarborough) and January 21 (in Etobicoke and North York) Visit to find out more or to sign up to depute. People can make a short 5 minute speech (a deputation). 

Send in a written submission: Send an email to the Budget Committee at [email protected] and urge them to act on the climate emergency in the 2020 City Budget.

Attend a budget townhall in your ward: Some Councillors hold Budget town halls in their wards. Check out Social Planning Toronto’s website for details: 

Planning to deliver a deputation and have a question? Get in touch with us at [email protected]



1. 2020 Budget Notes: Environment and Energy Division,, p. 2.
2. Numbers from Extending Successful Energy Retrofitting Programs, June 13, 2019,, p. 6.
3. See Toronto Atmospheric Fund, Carbon Emissions Inventory Report 2019 for 2016 and 2017 numbers. See 2020 Budget Notes: Energy and Environment Division for 2018 and 2019 forecasts,, p. 10.
4. TransformTO Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable and Prosperous Toronto: Results of Modelling GHG Emissions to 2050 (April, 2017), p. 135.
5. GL8.16: The City of Toronto 2019-2023 Green Fleet Plan (The Pathway to Sustainable City of Toronto Fleets Plan) and 2014-2018 Green Fleet Plan Results and Wrap-Up