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3. Smog Report Card 2008 - B+

In July 2007, Toronto City Council unanimously adopted Change is in the Air, the most comprehensive smog and climate change action plan the city has ever considered. More than 18 months later, Torontonians have good reason to celebrate the City's achievements.

Implementing Change is in the Air is no small feat. It contains about 70 action items. As we noted in our 2007 Smog Report Card, plan implementation got off to a rocky start after Council put it on hold while a four month debate on new revenue tools was completed. Since then the City has made progress on many key recommendations. However, some recommendations still wallow without any action and others have been met with significant delay. In fact a recent staff report shows that 38% percent of the recommendations are completed and 62% are still outstanding.* Most notable is continuing delays in developing a plan to build green energy in Toronto.

Below we provide an abbreviated version of our usual Smog Report Card, evaluating and grading the city’s progress on reducing smog and combating climate change.


We have already detailed some high profile initiatives that are underway as part of Change is in the Air in our analysis of Council’s voting record. These include the Mayor’s Toronto Renewal Initiative, the Renewable Energy Bylaw and the Community Right to Know Bylaw. In addition to these, Toronto has:

Adopted Phase 2 of the Green Fleet Transition Plan to replace vehicles with fuel efficient alternatives and move towards using more environmentally friendly fuels, expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the city fleet by 15,000 tonnes.

Established Live Green Toronto. Program development began in Spring 2008 to provide Torontonians with the information tools and funding they need to reduce greenhouse gas and smog emissions in their homes and neighbourhoods. $700,000 in grants has been awarded thus far.

Continued loans for sustainable and renewable energy projects. The City is on track to invest $64 million in zero-interest loans over five years for energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy projects on municipal, school, hospital and broader not-for-profit sector properties.  

Adopted a local food procurement policy. In October, City Council adopted a local food procurement strategy with a target of 50% buy local as soon as possible. An implementation plan is due Spring 2009.

Adopted Bike Plan Completion by 2012. In December, City Council approved the necessary funds to finish a 1,000 km bikeway network by 2012.

Our 2007 Smog Report Card identified other priority actions the city should take to further aid implementation of the plan. To date, the City has moved on the following requests:

Adopt a moratorium on further TTC fare increases until the end of this Council term. We were pleased with the Mayor’s comments that there would be no TTC fare increase as part of the 2009 Operating Budget. While this fell short of a promise of no more fare increases until after the November 2010 election, it is a promising start.

Ensure planned service improvements for the TTC for 2008, addressing overcrowding and implementing the Ridership Growth Strategy (RGS). The improvements happened as scheduled.


Endangered by Delay

While much has happened in 18 months, other key commitments have seen little action. Our analysis suggests that over 30% of the Change is in the Air plan recom- mendations have been delayed, which we discuss in more detail later in this report. Our greatest concern is the lack of coordinated planning and movement to achieve Toronto’s renewable and sustainable energy goals. Specifically:

No plan for how city facilities will reach the 25% renewable power target. In 2000, the City committed to obtain 25% of its electricity needs for city facilities from green sources. Change is in the Air directed the Chief Corporate Officer to report back on how this could be done starting in 2008. This report has yet to be presented. If City Hall hopes to enlist Torontonians to meet its aggressive and necessary GHG reduction targets, it has to first practice what it preaches by switching to green electricity.

No Implementation Plan for Sustainable Energy. The City has aggressive greenhouse gas reduction targets and has put forward a comprehensive sustainable energy plan to help achieve these targets. However, there is no implementation strategy that sets out how the city would make the reduction targets a reality. A report was to be tabled in November 2008 but was withdrawn at the last minute. This delay involves 5 recommendations from Change is in the Air, having a significant impact on the success of the overall plan.


Missing in Action

Missing in action are the following recommendations from our 2007 Smog Report Card:

Sign a long term contract with Toronto Hydro Energy Services Inc. by October 2008 to purchase 50-100 MW of green power. Purchasing green power would get Toronto on the path towards its green power targets and is especially important considering the delay in putting forward a comprehensive sustainable energy plan.

Publish an annual “State of Toronto’s Air” report. This report should provide Torontonians with a summary of actions taken by the City on reducing smog over the past twelve months including: 

  • Status of city targets related to smog reduction;
  • How air quality has been affected by these actions;
  • Money invested in improving air quality. 

Recently, staff did a report on the status of Change is in the Air recommendations however, the report provides little overview of how actions taken are helping Toronto’s air and is written in very bureaucratic language. The report was buried in a Committee Agenda and was received without discussion. In conclusion, the report and its contents were inaccessible to the general public.


Smog and Climate Change Grade

2008 marks the city's second B+ grade - the first was awarded in 2004. This grade could have easily been an "A" had the Sustainable Energy Plan and other key recommendations of Change is In the Air not been delayed. The voting record shows that City Hall's political commitment to combating smog and climate change is at an all time high. The delays are largely bureaucratic and systemic in nature. 

*City of Toronto. Jan. 19, 2009. “Implementing the Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan”. Staff Report to the Executive Committee of Toronto City Council.

**Breakdown of Final Grade