Climate change is one of the biggest issues we face, with cities around the world grappling with how to slash emissions and build more resilient cities.
In Toronto, buildings and transportation account for almost 90 percent of our emissions. While reducing emissions from these sources is a big challenge, it is also an opportunity to create a more healthy and equitable city.
Since 2016, all three levels of government have pledged billions of dollars to tackle climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These investments will build new transit and cycling infrastructure, expand renewable energy projects and retrofit existing buildings.
All of these climate actions can directly benefit communities by creating new jobs, providing better housing conditions and improving public health. Applying a community benefits approach can help leverage these benefits and ensure they are reaching community members who need them most.
Community benefits agreements are one mechanism that empower community members to directly engage in negotiations to ensure that residents benefit from local development. While the concept is newer to Toronto, it has been practised in other jurisdictions for many years.
In Toronto, the first major community benefits framework was negotiated for the Eglinton Crosstown Light Rail Transit. While transit expansions are a climate action that also improves air quality and transit access, the addition of the community benefits framework is helping to create local jobs, youth apprenticeships, and new opportunities for local businesses.
Why not use a similar community benefits approach for reducing sources of building emissions?
As our governments invest in climate actions, we need to look for ways to concretely apply a community benefits approach, to look beyond the scope of just reducing emissions and improve social equity, reduce poverty and uplift communities to be stronger and more resilient.
The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) advocates for a green and equitable city. Through community projects, research and advocacy work, we take an intersectional approach to climate action to ensure climate investments and plans work for communities and address other pressing issues in our city.