Forty-seven organizations call on Toronto City Council to declare a climate emergency

September 20, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

TORONTO: Today, 47 civil society organizations released an open call to Toronto City Council to declare a climate emergency and commit to accelerated climate action at the October 2nd Council meeting. The release of the statement coincides with millions of youth and their supporters launching Global Days of Action and climate strikes to pressure politicians to take swift action on climate change.

Mayor Tory’s own climate emergency announcement this morning signals that Canada’s largest city may be ready to join nearly 1,000 local, regional and national governments worldwide - including 449 in Canada - that have formally declared climate emergencies since 2017. 

However, concerns have been raised by civil society advocates that climate emergency declarations without clear commitments to hard targets and near-term actions can serve as a mask for ‘climate delaying’. 

“We are looking for hard evidence that our Mayor and City Councillors are committed to making real progress during this Council term,” says Emmay Mah, Executive Director of Toronto Environmental Alliance. “It’s unacceptable that climate change has become an intergenerational burden. People of all ages, including children and youth, are demanding urgent and meaningful climate action here in Toronto.”

The signatories are calling on the City to commit to 20 specific actions to reduce greenhouse emissions and to bring social and economic benefits to communities including: 

  • Set interim targets and annual reporting to put City on track to meet its 2030 emission reduction goals
  • Achieve net zero GHG emissions by 2040 or earlier  
  • Establish fair revenue tools to adequately fund climate action
  • Apply a climate lens to the City’s budget and other decisions 
  • Apply an equity lens to designing and delivering climate actions
  • Launch a full-scale building retrofit strategy 
  • Expand the number of dedicated bus lanes and transit priority zones
  • Start divesting from high-carbon City investments 

“The good news is that just about everything that Toronto needs to do will improve our quality of life. For example, properly insulating our buildings will make them more energy efficient and safe from extreme weather, and create jobs for people in the skilled trades,” says Mah. “If developed in a thoughtful and well-coordinated way, green workforce strategies can be inclusive and reduce poverty.” 

The call to action emphasizes that the City has a lot of work to do to strengthen the voice of Indigenous people, youth, workers and equity-seeking groups in climate-related decision-making. Toronto has explicitly committed to upholding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to applying an equity lens to its decision-making processes, and the City has an obligation to abide by these principles in the transition to a zero-carbon society.

“When Mayor Tory and Councillors head to C40 in Copenhagen in October, we expect them to accurately represent what they have committed to do.” says Mah. “If City Council passes a climate emergency declaration that includes civil society’s expert recommendations for action, then the delegation will have a chance to demonstrate to the world that Toronto is prepared to be a climate leader.”  

 

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MEDIA CONTACT: Emmay Mah, Executive Director, Toronto Environmental Alliance

647-330-4734 (c)   | emmay@torontoenvironment.org

FURTHER INFORMATION:

The Open Call to Toronto City Council to Declare a Climate Emergency and Commit to Accelerated Action is available online at: www.torontoenvironment.org/statement_climate_emergency

The 47 signatory organizations work across many sectors including community development, education, environment, health, housing, labour, social justice and transit, and have members and supporters in communities across the city. Signatories are listed in the statement (link above).