Thank you for agreeing to go to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP 21). Your presence will send a strong signal to world leaders, our new Prime Minister, our Premier and concerned people everywhere, that Toronto wants to be part of the solution to the biggest economic, social and environmental crisis facing the planet.
Toronto is perfectly poised to become a global leader in promoting actions that both prepare our city for climate disruption (also known as climate change) as well as transform the city by using this terrible threat as a catalyst to dramatically improve our economy, our environment and our way of life.
Much will be discussed in Paris about how the world can better coordinate efforts. There are three innovative proposals we urge you to bring up in your discussions with world leaders and your fellow Mayors.
1. Encourage your fellow Mayors to commit to 100% Renewables by 2050. Cities, regions and even countries across the planet, are committing to 100% renewable energy by no later than 2050.
Vancouver has pledged 100% renewables by 2050. San Francisco has pledged to get there even sooner. They are two of 55 cities across the planet who understand that renewable energy is exactly what the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create excellent green jobs and economic activity. We know you cannot commit the City of Toronto to this before Paris, but you can talk to other urban leaders and show your personal support.
2. Promote a world-wide media campaign that highlights the huge costs of inaction and immense benefits of creating a low carbon economy. Scientists and decision makers know the consequences of climate disruption. So do national bank leaders and military leaders. Yet, the general public is still largely unaware of the huge costs of inaction and the immense benefits of creating low carbon economies. Without broad-based public understanding and support, the sort of transformational changes we need will be much more difficult to achieve.
Mr. Mayor, think of the many amazing solutions to climate disruption as a product and the public as a consumer that needs to be shown the benefits of the product before they buy it. In the business world advertising is what gets consumers to buy products. We need to use the same methods to get public support for solutions to climate disruption.
3. Embed carbon accounting in every government decision. Study after study has shown that the more carbon we emit into the atmosphere, the more damage we do to our economy, human health and the environment. Yet, today most governments never take into account carbon emissions when making decisions. For example, when Toronto City Council decides what transportation options to invest our precious tax dollars in, it doesn’t ask for information on the carbon emissions of the various options. Knowing this would help Council choose the option that is best for getting the city moving, for our pocket books and for the planet.
In the private sector, carbon accounting is being incorporated into decision making through “first generation” pricing mechanisms such as cap and trade and carbon pricing. The public sector needs its own mechanism, ideally one that can be used anywhere on the planet. The Paris Conference will be a wonderful opportunity for you to discuss with other urban and world leaders how best to ensure carbon emissions are taken into account when elected officials make decisions.
Mr. Mayor: by talking about these proposals in Paris, you will make it clear to your fellow Mayors and world leaders that you bring innovative thinking and problem solving skills to the table. While others focus on numbers, you can be the wise voice counselling innovative ways of getting us to collectively change our behaviour to be more financially, socially and environmentally sound.
Finally, I want to talk about what happens when you come back from Paris. You have the opportunity to become the leader of an amazing transformation in Toronto and to be seen as a top tier world urban leader. Your past experience as head of CivicAction makes it clear you can bring together “unusual suspects” and get them to see the merit of working together. Your commitments to acting on climate change that you made during the 2014 election campaign show you know climate disruption is a priority. Your past business experience makes it clear you know how to turn very big challenges into real opportunities.
Simply put, we need your leadership in Paris in and then in Toronto, for as long as you are Mayor.
With your leadership, Toronto can become the global leader in innovative solutions to climate disruption.
Executive Director, Toronto Environmental Alliance