Building a low-carbon city - Toronto's blueprint for 2050

On April 26, 2017 The City of Toronto finally released a long-term action plan, called TransformTO, outlining how Toronto can reduce its emissions by 80% by 2050.

This is the end of a two-year process that brought together technical modelling results and community ideas to develop a path forward for reducing our GHG emissions while benefiting communities and improving health and equity. The full report is now published online, along with a short summary of the report .

After reviewing the Plan, we’d like to share some our key observations.

Strengths of the Plan

The new plan strengthens and builds on the City’s existing commitments to build a low carbon future for our City. New commitments include:

  • A new interim target for reducing Toronto’s emissions by 65% by 2030. This interim target is higher than many other cities such as Portland and Washington.

  • Bold new targets such as 100% of existing buildings being retrofitted by 2050; 100% of new buildings being built with near zero GHG emissions by 2030; and 100% of transportation options using low or zero-carbon energy sources by 2050.

  • A commitment to developing climate actions that also have other community benefits, such as advancing social equity, creating local jobs, helping those in need save money, and reducing poverty. This commitment is defined in a set of guiding principles that should be used to prioritize, design and deliver climate actions.

Areas for improvement

Although the new climate plan has some actions with strong targets, some actions lack clarity and sufficient resources. Toronto needs to strengthen specific actions and plans to help achieve their reduction targets:

  • While some of the climate targets are quite bold, others don’t go far enough. Waste diversion is a key climate solution under the City’s control and the target should be to reach a 95% waste diversion target by 2040 - not 2050. While other cities are passing 100% renewable energy by 2050 targets, Toronto is only committing to a 75% target and it’s a mix of renewable and ‘low-carbon’ energy sources.

  • The guiding principles for realizing other community benefits are a great start, but the city does not outline a plan for how this will be implemented. We need a concrete plan to ensure all of our climate investments will be prioritized in a way to maximize co-benefits, particularly for communities in need.

  • A number of priority actions can also meet other city goals such as poverty reduction. Council must direct staff to cooperate and coordinate across departments to ensure the new climate plan helps achieve targets outlined in the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy, Long Term Waste Management Strategy and other priority plans. 

  • The City also needs to show leadership by directly implementing actions of this plan. The City should commit to zero organics in the garbage in all City-owned facilities by 2022.

Prioritizing Investment

The City would like to maximize the community benefits of climate investments and ensure we ramp up our efforts to meet our emission reduction targets. However, the new plan requests no new funding for ramping up climate actions and engaging communities over the next three years. For a plan that relies heavily on community engagement to ensure the success of these actions, there is a very small pool of money dedicated to helping achieve this.

With ambitious goals like retrofitting 100% of existing buildings and diverting 95% of all our waste by 2050, we need to get a lot of people involved! That means investing in actions to engage diverse communities in Scarborough, North York, Etobicoke and Toronto East York to build a low carbon future. We need to see a significant increase in funding to help make this happen.

Take Action

TEA will be speaking to City Councillors to show our support for the new plan, and to share our ideas for strengthening and improving the plan. If you’re interested in taking action to show your support, please sign up for email updates. We will be in touch soon with more actions you can take to share your ideas and make sure City Council passes the new climate plan .