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Toronto moves toward net zero emissions by 2040, but advocates want specifics | CBC News

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A Toronto city council committee passed a new climate action strategy Thursday to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2040, but some say the plan doesn’t include enough specifics. 

Advocates gathered virtually Thursday morning to discuss the new plan and the amendments they wish to put forward ahead of presenting the plan to the city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee.

“We’re really looking to see that Toronto doesn’t just set these ambitious targets, but that the city sets clear and concrete action plans to meet these targets,” said Diana Yoon, a specialist with the Toronto Environmental Alliance. 

Yoon, alongside city councillors Mike Layton and Gord Perks, expressed concern that the city has made similar promises in the past but a detailed plan of action has yet to materialize. 

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“We need to cut emissions quickly, we have to improve housing and we have to create good, green jobs in our communities,” Yoon said.

The new proposal is set to go before city council on Dec. 15.

This effort follows last week’s recommendation from Mayor John Tory to speed up the net-zero timeline by 10 years, which would make Toronto one of three big North American cities to aim for this milestone.

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The city’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee met Thursday to discuss the new proposal, debating and voting on new climate targets for the first time in years.

Councillors want clear action plan

The new proposal aims to curb emissions by 45 per cent by 2025, and 65 per cent by 2030. 

The city’s climate action strategy, TransformTO, was first introduced in 2017 and two years later council voted to accelerate that strategy, originally aiming for a 30 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020, a 65 per cent reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050.

Layton wants to ensure that the city can follow through on the new target with specific directives.

“The plan is a good target, but it’s a plan for a plan,” he said at the meeting Thursday.

“The city’s climate report has the right targets, but it’s missing many of the specific actions needed to reach these targets” Layton said in press release.

“The good news is, it’s not too late. We can make the incredibly necessary changes to accelerate creative action on greening buildings and transportation.”

Coun. Mike Layton, pictured here in 2018, says the city needs to amend the new plan to include more specifics on how it will meet the new emissions target. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Layton, Perks and some of the city’s leading environmental organizations, recommended the following amendments to the proposal when it was discussed at the Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting: 

  • Create a plan for measuring action to ensure accountability and to track progress.
  • Commit to a carbon budget and create tools to pay for climate action in the future.
  • Start building cleaner and greener buildings now, not after 2030. 
  • Expand transit funding beyond 2022 and provide incentives for greener forms of transit.
  • Create bolder government programming that leads the development of programs to manufacture, finance and bulk purchase green technologies.

The city needs to start budgeting for these changes as soon as 2022, said Perks in the press release. 

“It is great the city of Toronto has a climate action plan, but if we do not adequately fund it, we will never reach our goals,” he said.

Environmental groups aligned with proposed amendments

In addition to the councillor’s statements, environmental organization ClimeFast presented a deputation at the Infrastructure and Committee meeting.

The group is calling for even more action. Its requests include making sure that Toronto Hydro is included in the city’s plan, more effort in engaging and educating the public and a willingness to make progress without waiting on the provincial and federal governments.  

The current proposal does in fact urge the provincial and federal governments to pass more climate focused legislation.

It’s clear the city is looking to take urgent action in light of the growing climate crisis and in reaction to situations like the flooding in B.C.

“We are in a critical moment in Toronto’s history,” Layton said.”It is clear we are facing an emergency and we need to act like it.”

A motion was put forward by coun. Mike Colle requested the Deputy City Manager of Corporate Services to report on the feasibility of creating a Climate Change Corps to support the goals and objectives of the Transform TO Net Zero Strategy. 

In his motion, Colle added that staff should engage organizations like the Carpenters Union local 27 and the Community Benefits Network in helping to create the Climate Change Corps.

“We are going to have to mobilize people from all parts of the city in this effort,” Colle said Thursday. “We can’t do it, just the city staff.”

Coun. Jennifer McKelvie, who chairs the committee, referred the motion made by Cole along with amendments by Layton to the director of environment and energy and city staff for review and to be taken up in the next city council meeting.

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