A scathing new UN report warning of a climate catastrophe has environmental groups in Toronto sounding the alarm about greenhouse gas emissions and the consequences of severe weather patterns.
“These things have a real cost,” said Dusha Sritharan with the Toronto Environmental Alliance.
With global temperatures on the rise, scientists predict weather patterns are only going to get worse. The Toronto Environmental Alliance says the city’s current plan doesn’t address the important problem of resilient infrastructure.
“So that’s really, what green infrastructure do we need? How we need to change our roads, our pipelines, to respond to climate change and the impacts,” said Sritharan.
TransformTO, the city’s climate strategy plan, has instead focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with clear targets:
- 30 per cent by 2020
- 65 per cent by 2030
- 80 per cent by 2050
Already, the city says it is on track to meet the 2020 target – but meeting the 2050 goal will be difficult.
“For sure it will (be difficult), but it’s not impossible,” said Jim Baxter, Director of Environment and Energy Division, City of Toronto.
The city says it recently faced a funding setback, when the province cut the cap and trade program.
“The other part that we lost was support,” said Baxter. “It was as crucial for us to have all three levels of government supporting the notion of a lower carbon future. That’s key to moving forward.”
Mayoral front-runners John Tory and Jennifer Keesmaat have both pledged their support to fighting climate change.
Tory’s campaign telling CityNews in a statement:
“The Mayor championed TransformTO, Toronto’s climate change strategy, and fully funded it which supports projects like green retrofits to Toronto Community Housing and building communities that produce net zero emissions.”
Keesmaat, says more needs to be done.
“Part of it has to do with how we plan and design the city,” she said. “Getting rid of the old 1950’s infrastructure and creating a truly walkable urban city in every corner of our city. And a really big part of that is planting more trees, planning for flooding and water. We haven’t been doing this but we can be doing it.”
Advocates say the key is fighting the three major emissions producers: buildings, waste, and transportation.
“There’s significant scope for reducing our footprint by switching to more sustainable modes of transportation like public transit and biking and walking,” said Liz Sutherland, CycleTO’s director of advocacy and government relations.
“The grid that we have for cycling is very minimal in Toronto. There are a lot of places where there are gaps in the network where it isn’t safe to bike and we know many more people would bike if we had a safe protected network of bike lanes in Toronto.”
“It can’t be just talk on this issue, we need leaders who are actually going to commit to funding and making sure implementation is taking place,” said Sritharan.