Canada’s largest city, Toronto, has unanimously adopted a climate emergency resolution on September 20, joining hundreds of other municipalities across Canada. The city’s TransformTO Climate Action Plan, passed in 2017, had a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 80 per cent below 1990 city levels by 2050. The emergency resolution passed in September speeds up that timetable, with a new commitment to net zero emissions before 2050. (As of July 2019, the city was ahead of schedule with a 44% reduction below 1990 levels). The action was precipitated by a Call to Action , which includes a call for a “Just Economic Transition” and for “Equity and Inclusion” is described in a press release from the Toronto Environmental Alliance: “Forty-seven organizations call on Toronto City Council to declare a climate emergency” (Sept. 20). The Call to Action statement is here , the list of signatories is here , and it includes Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Toronto Community Benefits Network, Good Jobs for All, and BlueGreen Alliance. A spokesperson for the Toronto Environmental Alliance states: “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…. If developed in a thoughtful and well-coordinated way, green workforce strategies can be inclusive and reduce poverty.”
The mayor’s voluntary Green Ways Initiative is described in “Mayor John Tory enlists major institutions in emissions plan as Toronto declares ‘climate emergency’” in the Toronto Star. Developers, hospitals, and universities are being urged to cut their energy consumption and emissions – and one of those volunteer entities, the University of Toronto, announced its Low Carbon Action Plan on September 27. The University of Toronto maintains 266 buildings on three campuses, and more than half of those are over 80 years old. Other participants in the Green Ways Initiative include include Oxford Properties, Ryerson University, Toronto District School Board, Toronto Catholic District School Board, Toronto Community Housing, and the University Health Network.
The major criticism of the climate emergency resolution is outlined in “Toronto just declared a climate emergency, so why is it still fixing up the Gardiner?” at the CBC (Oct. 4), referring to the major highway artery across Toronto’s downtown. Journalist John Lorinc also pursues this in his article in Spacing (Sept. 30), which contends that the Gardiner Expressway redevelopment project accounts for 5% of the city’s entire $40.7 billion ten-year capital budget, which is money which could be better used to fund transit, such as the Queen’s Quay East LRT, or to finance the retrofitting of the city’s portfolio of buildings, including community housing. To these criticisms, the mayor is quoted in the Toronto Star and the CBC with this statement: “The amount we’re spending on rebuilding a small part of the Gardiner Expressway pales in comparison to what we’re investing in public transit to get people out of their cars entirely”.