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February 2007 Deputation to City on Smog and Climate Change Plan

Remarks by Dr. Franz Hartmann,
Co-Executive Director, Toronto Environmental Alliance

February 20, 2007
Parks and Environment Committee

City of Toronto

Thank you for inviting us today. First, we would like to congratulate the Mayor and this Committee for having the foresight and fortitude to do this very necessary work. My other colleagues have already eloquently spoken about why we must act now to stop global warming. As we all know, what is at stake is nothing less than the future of our children.

But let’s take a moment and look to the present instead of the future. Today, right now, people are suffering due to smog. 1,700 people die prematurely every year because of smog. Another 6,000 end up in hospital.

So what’s at stake is not just our children’s future, it’s the lives of Torontonians, today.

Before turning to specific initiatives, let me say that TEA very much concurs with other presenters that the proposed Action Plan has specific targets and timelines.

Let me now turn to some specific initiatives that TEA believes will have a positive impact on reducing smog pollutants and ghg emissions.

We know that smog pollutants come from three sources: power production, transportation, and industrial emissions. Anything we do to clean and green these activities will help clean Toronto’s air.

Let’s begin with power production. Every kilowatt saved means less pollution because peak power in Ontario is largely produced by burning coal. So energy efficiency initiatives are especially important. The key constraint to developing energy retrofits always seems to be how to finance it. Why not develop a green mortgage program available to Toronto homeowners and businesses to finance energy retrofit programs. The mortgage costs would be paid for through energy savings.

We also need to create clean and green power. The city is the 100% owner of Toronto Hydro. This wonderful corporation is already a leader in energy conservation; now let’s turn it into becoming the country’s biggest producer of green power. Why buy green power from other sources –and pay a premium for it- when our own Toronto Hydro could build green power?

By green power we mean wind turbines, solar energy units, composting facilities that create power from our green bin program, and geothermal plants that could supply base load.

We also mean distributed green power. Toronto Hydro could offer programs that help local communities harnesses their collective buying power to purchase solar panels that feed into the grid; or purchase solar water heaters, or build neighbourhood district energy systems using heat pump technology.

Now let’s turn to transportation and the tools available to the City to give people reasons to leave their cars at home and use the TTC.

Why not develop a TTC expenditure policy so that every precious dollar spent on transit is designed to maximize TTC ridership? That means spending money to maximize the availability and reliability of the TTC, which is, in effect, the principle behind Transit City.

Next, let’s give a reason for people to drive less. We can do this by reducing the current subsidies we give to drivers. Study after study has shown how car use leads to huge environmental, infrastructure and health costs paid for by taxpayers. Let’s reduce these costs for the taxpayer and clean the air. Why not consider congestion charges (calibrated to fuel efficiency), and differential fees for parking permits based on a car’s fuel consumption? We also need to look creatively at the powers the city now has with the new City of Toronto Act. What about using the city’s new licensing powers to raise revenues from the sale of gas at the pumps and redirect the money towards the TTC?

In fact, the Act may hold a treasure chest of innovative ideas. We need to find them.

Few people think of food and transportation in the same breath. But the reality is that most of the food we eat is transported from far, far away. In other words, the food on our table got there by polluting the air and creating ghgs. Meanwhile, all around us is this beautiful Greenbelt full of farmers wanting to make a living selling food. Why not have a greenbelt-friendly procurement policy that, amongst other things, rewards local food distributors for selling greenbelt-grown food, when available, and penalizes local distributors for not selling greenbelt food, when available.

Now let me turn to the third major contributor of smog pollutants: industrial emissions. No business owner wakes up in the morning and thinks “today I want to pollute the air my family, my neighbours and my community breathes.” But the reality is that’s what sometimes happens. We need to create the conditions that allow these business owners to become part of the solution. That means, for example, a city program to support co-generation so that furnaces and boilers produce both heat and electricity.
To further help industrial emitters clean the air, we need to first identify who they are and what they’re emitting. Last week, TEA spoke about the importance of a Community Right to Know bylaw that would require polluters to publicly disclose the chemicals they use and the pollution they emit. This bylaw can be a very useful tool in helping industrial emitters transform into green industries. In other jurisdictions, a similar law has triggered emission reductions up to 90% and paired it with cost savings of $50,000 for the average industry.

Which leads to a key opportunity we think this Action Plan can realize: creating a green economy. Naysayers continue saying cleaning the air and reducing ghg emissions will harm the economy. But we are convinced that once businesses learn about the huge economic potential that comes from cleaning the air and stopping global warming, they’ll be the strongest advocates for sustainable solutions.

So what is this huge economic potential? Let me highlight some interesting statistics.

Texas. The land of big oil. Here is a quote from a recent report written by a Texas-based energy consulting firm:

“For every dollar invested in efficiency measures, Texas would recoup approximately $4.40 in economic benefits in the form of lower costs to consumers and savings for utilities from reduced electric generation and delivery costs.”

Unlike in Texas, when Torontonians buy energy most of this money leaves the city. Which suggests that spending a dollar on energy retrofits in Toronto would have an even bigger positive economic benefit for Torontonians.

Here’s another number:

A 2005 report by the David Suzuki Foundation calculated how many jobs would be created in Ontario building solar energy units and geothermal heat pumps. If Toronto got their share of these jobs, based on a per capita measure, it would be over 14,000 new jobs.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s go back to energy retrofits. A few years ago, I asked a key energy retrofit expert to figure out the job creation potential for doing energy retrofits in Canada. Extrapolating from these numbers, doing energy retrofits for buildings in Toronto could create over 60,000 direct jobs and another 163,000 indirect jobs.

Now let’s go into some uncharted territory. Imagine if the City of Toronto embarked on an energy efficiency appliance replacement program for all of its residential Toronto Hydro customers, roughly 590,000 households. That would mean 590,000 fridges, 590,000 stoves, and let’s say 590,000 washers/dryers and dishwashers, or almost 2 million energy star rated appliances. Imagine if these appliance were built in a Toronto  plant creating jobs for Torontonians who would then take their earnings and spend it in Toronto. Imagine if this plant became the source for energy star appliances throughout the GTA, a market over twice the size of Toronto.

The point here is that as this Committee develops a smog and climate change Action Plan, please consider designing programs that turn this Action Plan into a de facto green economic development plan for Toronto.

Here are some concrete steps that could be taken to realize this.

Consider setting up programs with post secondary education institutions to train workers who can do energy retrofits, install solar energy units, manufacture and install geothermal heat pumps, build energy efficient appliances.

Work with the labour community to harness the energy and skills they have. The Toronto and York Region Labour Council, for example, is a fantastic resource. In June 2005, they presented their vision to the Roundtable on the Environment on how to green Toronto’s economy.

Collaborate with Toronto’s universities, industries, labour representatives, and other levels of Government to launch the Toronto Green Industry Centre of Excellence that, for example, would help develop industrial pollution prevention practices.

Which leads to the final point TEA wants to address. There’s a reason Toronto is often described as a city of neighbourhoods. That’s because that’s what we are. We need to harness this neighbourhood power. Earlier I mentioned some ways this could be done. Here are some more ways:

Set up a program to establish ward or neighbourhood-based Green Action Teams. Each team would have the job of working with community businesses, BIAs, ratepayer associations, and service clubs to take advantage of the programs and opportunities flowing out of the city’s Action Plan.

Provide community-controlled revolving loan funds. The community would be given the responsibility –within specific parameters- of how to loan out money. One community may decide to invest in solar energy, another in geothermal heat pumps, yet another in building a wind turbine.

Specifically target programs to involve all Torontonians, regardless of their cultural background. New Canadians are a treasure of innovation and experience. Let’s make sure the Action Plan taps this.

There is so much more to say. But we want to end by saying thank you for this opportunity and we look forward to continue working with the City to help make Toronto the cleanest and greenest city in Canada.

Thank you