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City dwellers pollute less, study says

Toronto spewing fewer per capita emissions than rest of country

Mar 24, 2009 04:30 AM

Kenyon Wallace

When it comes to climate change pollutants, Toronto residents are among the greenest in Canada, says a new study.

The report, published in the April issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization, says metropolises, commonly denigrated as big, dirty places, are in fact spewing fewer greenhouse gases per capita than the rest of their countries.

"Blaming cities for climate change is far too simplistic," said author David Dodman, a researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, England. "There are a lot of economies of scale associated with energy use in cities. If you're an urban dweller, particularly in an affluent country like Canada or the U.K., you're likely to be more efficient in your use of heating fuel and in your use of energy for transportation."

Dodman found that the average Canadian is responsible for 24 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, while Torontonians just 8.2 tonnes.

But it's not all good news for the GTA. The study, based on data from 12 international cities, ranked Toronto as the third worst for per capita greenhouse gas emissions, behind Glasgow (8.4 tonnes) and Washington, D.C. (19.7 tonnes).

Dodman says four factors generally account for the differences among the cities: the electricity supply (nuclear versus coal), climate, quality of public transportation and wealth of consumers.

Christopher Kennedy, a University of Toronto engineering professor who has studied Toronto's greenhouse gas emissions, argued the study understates per capita emissions. "It's really a matter of what's being counted. As you start within the city and move out to the Greater Toronto Area, you pick up more auto-dominated sprawl, then you pick up cement plants, and you reach Mississauga. In studies, we've found you could quickly get up to 12 tonnes per capita in the GTA."

Dodman acknowledged his study excluded some sources of greenhouse gases, such as airports. He also noted greenhouse gas emissions were recorded where a product was made, not where it was consumed.

Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, said people in the GTA need to take responsibility for the carbon footprint of things they use but which were manufactured elsewhere. "Emissions may not be recorded here, but guess what? We live in one atmosphere. Are we cleaner because they're dirtier?"

Hartmann argued that eliminating manufacturing from a city may bring down its carbon footprint, but isn't necessarily better for the environment. Instead, he suggested keeping manufacturing local and making it green.

"That creates local jobs, creates a green economy and provides direct incentives for us here in Toronto to clean things up. If the factory is here in our backyard, we're going to want to make sure it's as green as possible. That's just smart."

As published at: http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/607161

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