Toronto: Canada’s Example of a Best Climate Practice City

Toronto: Canada’s Example of a Best Climate Practice City

This post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Canada Country Manager Diane Szoller

In 2007, Toronto City Council unanimously adopted a climate action strategy and set the target of reducing emissions by 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. They unanimously reconfirmed the commitment in July 2017 and then adopted a short-term target of 30% emissions reduction by 2020 in a climate plan, TransformTO with goals to becoming a low-carbon city.

The Toronto Environment and Energy Division (EED) oversees TransformTO which now has a set of long-term, strategies as well to identify a viable pathway to 2050. This is a result of City Council voting unanimously on October 2, 2019 to declare a climate emergency and a stronger target of net zero by 2050 or sooner while building on TransformTO to conduct business with a climate lens that evaluates and considers climate impacts in all major Toronto decisions. Covid constraints of technical modelling, and policy planning, mean both will expect to begin in 2022.

Toronto’s GGEs reduction targets are now as follows (based on 1990 levels) –

GGE Reduction Target2018 StatusProgress
30% by 2020, from 1990 levels, of 26 MT37% lower than 1990 levels equals 16.2 MTOn track
65% by 2030, from 1990 levels of 26 MT equals 9 MT16.2 MTToronto must half its 2018 emissions at least within 10 years to meet the 2030 target
Net zero by 2050 or sooner in line with keeping global average temperature below 1.5 degrees C16.2 MT16.2 MT must be eliminated

Toronto has shown a steady decline in emissions from 1990 except in 2018, which had a cooler winter season which drove up natural gas usage and electricity use. Toronto’s three dominant sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) are: energy use in buildings; transportation fuels; and waste in landfills (see below).

Both charts found at https://www.toronto.ca/services-payments/water-environment/environmentally-friendly-city-initiatives/transformto/torontos-greenhouse-gas-inventory/#:~:text=Key%20findings%3A,cent%20reduction%2     0in%20GHG%20emissions.

Key climate policies during TransformTO implementation include:

Reference –  https://www.toronto.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/96aa-TTO-2019-Update-June2020-FINAL-AODA.pdf

On February 18, 2021 Toronto City Council passed its 2021 city budget. $11.8 mil was earmarked for Toronto’s EED 2021 operating budget specifically (a decline from the previous year’s $14.4 mil given 2020 Covid-19 expenses and lost revenues). EED’s gross expenditures for 2021-2030 are budgeted at $342.3 mil in its 10 yr capital plan to lead climate work.

Strengths and Shortcomings of the climate plan:

The strategy is ambitious and has had excellent results having surpassed its 2020 targets and committed to a target of 65% by the year 2030. Toronto is home to more than 2.9 mil people.

A September 2020 recovery COVID-19:

Impacts and Opportunities report advises Toronto “should continue to address climate change” and “ensure the momentum and ground gained through past strategies are not lost,” as the city emerges from the pandemic. National media CBC reported Councillor Jennifer McKelvie, chair of the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee, saw $611 mil in the 2021 budget across the board for projects in different divisions underway to combat climate change.

One shortcoming is a 2017 TransformTO report addressing climate solutions that projected $2 billion/year (between 2017-2050) as needed to achieve an 80% emissions reduction alone by 2050. This amount has not yet been budgeted for. The city recognizes COVID-19 will continue to present challenges in 2021 requiring a scaling back of deliverables in 2021. Political uncertainty and changing priorities at the provincial and federal level present challenges to develop and deliver programs that leverage funding or services from those governments. Reduction of CO2 emissions in Toronto is also dependent on the provincial government’s reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation. Outreach efforts must be scaled to reach a broader audience across the city and encourage wide-spread changes in behaviour. This will be a challenge given differing public views on the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as the validity of the science.

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