Mayor Tory Seemingly Unchanged by Paris

All eyes were on Paris in December to see whether world leaders would make history and sign off on an agreement that would finally lead to real global action on climate change. 

For “glass is half full” people, the evidence suggests history was made by world leaders taking a big step towards a low carbon future and avoiding catastrophic climate change. For the “glass is half empty” crowd, there is also evidence that the Paris agreement will change little.

For Torontonians, the big question is whether the Paris agreement will have an impact on how governments help us cut carbon emissions and get our city ready for the danger climate change brings.

While the Premier and Prime Minister have made encouraging statements, Mayor Tory seems largely unmoved by his visit to Paris and the global agreement. While in Paris, Mayor Tory met many leaders, including the Mayors of Vancouver and Montreal. He no doubt heard about how cities like Vancouver are implementing innovative programs to reduce carbon emissions, like going 100% renewable by 2050.

Yet, when Mayor Tory arrived back in Toronto, he gave no indication that his discussions made an impact. In a press release issued shortly after returning from Paris, he stated the best way for the City to help meet Canada’s emission reduction targets was by reducing congestion, building transit and investing in housing. This is not new messaging from the Mayor. He has talked about these actions since before the 2014 election. And while all of these are laudable actions, the scale and speed at which they are happening are too small and slow to have any sort of positive impact.

It’s surprising, perhaps even a bit disappointing, that after meeting with other leaders in Paris, the Mayor concluded that all Toronto needed to do was more of the same.  While Toronto is no climate change laggard, it is hardly a climate change leader. Mayor Tory could have come back and committed to joining other cities in adopting a 100% renewables target by 2050. Or he could have stated he’s not going to let TTC fares go up yet again next year (higher fares act as a disincentive for people to take transit so people continue driving and creating pollution).

However, the good news is that while Paris apparently has not had an impact on the Mayor, it has had an impact on Torontonians. Climate change, or more accurately climate disruption, is now back on the public agenda and people are expecting Toronto’s Mayor to show leadership.

Mayor Tory will have a chance to do just that in the New Year as the city’s 2016 budget is discussed. And TEA will be there pushing the Mayor to lead. TEA is currently analysing the proposed city budget through a climate disruption lens. In the New Year, we will be releasing our analysis and creating tools for Torontonians to connect with the Mayor and City Council to let them know they expect the Mayor to lead and make sure Toronto does its part to meet Canada’s moral and legal obligations coming out of Paris.