TransformTO achieves stark decrease in carbon emissions. Is it enough?

'At the heart of it, we're not going to address climate change unless everyone is on board and taking individual action'

The CN Tower from a park along Lake Ontario
TransformTO aims to make the city healthier, happier, and greener.  Isabel Terrell/Toronto Observer

Toronto is on track to tackle climate change according to a report released last week that revealed the city’s 2020 goal has been surpassed. But some say the next phase of targets will be harder to reach in Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions inventory, released by The Atmospheric Fund, revealed a 33 per cent decrease in emissions since 1990. Under TransformTO, the city’s climate action plan, the target was a 30 per cent decrease by 2020. The next goal is a 65 per cent emissions reduction by 2030.

“By making cuts to initiatives like Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan — which included programs to help small businesses, families, social-housing providers and other public institutions reduce their carbon footprint and save money — the Ford government puts additional pressure on municipalities to take action on climate change,” MPP Ian Arthur, NDP sustainability and environment critic, said in an email.

The 2020 target was reached in large part due to the provincial coal phaseout, which ran from 2001-2014, to eliminate coal-fuelled electricity pollution, according to Mark Bekkering, manager of policy and research in Toronto’s Environment and Energy Division. While it’s easier to achieve climate-change goals with all levels of government on the same page, Bekkering said he is confident Toronto will reach its 2030 goal through TransformTO initiatives.

“We look to our government, whether it’s federal, provincial or municipal, to provide a certain amount of leadership, but at the heart of it, we’re not going to address climate change unless everyone is on board and taking individual action,” Bekkering said in an interview.

1990-2016 GHG reduction percentages in major cities

Data collected from The Atmospheric Fund. (Isabel Terrell/Toronto Observer)

Ford has been heavily criticized for his approach to Ontario’s climate-change initiatives this year, including the decision to move forward with scrapping the cap-and-trade program. That program aimed to reduce pollution by enforcing emission limits that could be bought and traded if exceeded.

Heather Marshall, campaigns director for the Toronto Environmental Alliance, says the next step towards a greener city is tackling gas pollution from heating and vehicles. With less provincial support, she says the city as a whole needs to start becoming more comfortable with bigger structural planning and funding towards environmental sustainability.

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Posted: Feb 11 2019 6:33 pm
Filed under: News