THE CHALLENGE FOR TORONTO
Toronto is experiencing a climate emergency, growing plastic pollution, and an affordability crisis that is putting people’s health and well-being at risk. We know a better future is possible for our city - one that is more green, climate-resilient, healthy and liveable. Cities need to act now to reduce emissions, protect people from more intense storms, heatwaves, and flooding, and build a zero-waste circular economy.
On October 24, Toronto residents will elect a Mayor and City Council who will hold power at City Hall during a critical window for climate action. We can’t afford delays and we need a Council of climate and environmental champions. The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA)’s 2022 Municipal Election Platform outlines three key action areas for Toronto’s next Mayor and City Council, focused on creating a more climate resilient, low-carbon and liveable city for all.
Goal: Toronto fully funds all actions in its TransformTO Net Zero Strategy, keeping on track to meet 2025, 2030, and 2040 climate targets, and accelerating investments in affordable housing, transit, and good green jobs.
2022-2026 Council Actions:
- Follow through on Toronto’s climate emergency declaration commitment to secure dedicated, sustained and equitable climate funding by implementing new revenue tools to fund climate action
- Scale up deep retrofit programs for all buildings including critical investments in projects that green buildings and increase the number of safe and deeply affordable housing units, including the City’s Multi-Unit Residential Acquisition (MURA) Program and High-Rise Retrofit Improvement Support (Hi-RIS) Program
- Build complete streets that protect pedestrians and cyclists sooner, especially in communities where walking and cycling infrastructure is the most lacking
- Accelerate the timeline for a zero-emission TTC and City fleets
- Improve public transit reliability by implementing all RapidTO bus and streetcar lanes in identified priority corridors
- Ensure the City’s arms-length entities like Toronto Hydro fully implement effective plans to enable Toronto’s climate commitments
|Why this is important: In December 2021, Toronto City Council adopted a new climate plan - the TransformTO Net Zero Strategy - which includes ambitious targets to cut Toronto's emissions. But the plan only has enough funding for small steps. Without deeper funding and investment, we won't hit our targets and we won't achieve the incredible benefits that climate solutions can bring to communities. Along with more funding from the province and federal government, Toronto needs steady, ongoing and equitable funding tools to hit big milestones like making all buildings net zero and getting everyone into green modes of transportation like transit, bikes, and electric vehicles. The Mayor and Council committed to creating new climate funding tools in the 2019 Climate Emergency Declaration, but it hasn’t happened. Meanwhile, other cities like Portland and Halifax are charging ahead with innovative tools to fund their climate action projects and bring good green jobs to communities. Funding the TransformTO Net Zero Strategy is possible, but the Mayor and Council need to follow through on their commitment to do it.
Goal: Toronto implements an effective plan to achieve its climate resilience goals to support communities to prepare for and respond to the impacts of extreme weather, including flooding and heatwaves.
2022-2026 Council Actions
- Review and overhaul Toronto’s heating and cooling bylaws for landlords to protect tenants from heatwaves, including setting a maximum safe temperature for rental units
- Implement a fair stormwater charge that will make polluters pay for stormwater reduction and flood proofing projects (such as green infrastructure and Ravine Strategy support)
- Develop local emergency preparedness initiatives to reach residents made vulnerable in extreme weather events, working with residents, community groups and service providers
- Expand access to critical amenities in public parks as places of respite, such as washrooms and water fountains, across the city and throughout the year
- Work with local communities to expand access to parks, ravines, green spaces, and shade, prioritizing investments in equity-deserving communities where access to public and/or private greenspace is limited
Why this is important: Canada is warming at twice the global average. In cities like Toronto, large amounts of pavement and tall buildings make temperatures even hotter, particularly in areas with less greenspace and more towers. By 2050, Toronto is expected to have 55 extreme heat days each summer - essentially, one long heatwave. This puts people’s health and wellbeing at risk. We need better ways to help everyone stay cool in their homes, at work and school, on our streets, and in our parks.
Toronto is also experiencing more intense rainfall and storms, and this means flooding will get worse. We need tools now to reduce the amount of pavement in our city, which creates stormwater runoff that damages our homes and infrastructure. A fair stormwater charge would mean that owners of large paved areas (such as parking lots) will help pay for the costs of managing the stormwater runoff they create, instead of the current system which makes homeowners pay more than their fair share. This tool could generate $270m/year in revenue* and create an incentive to replace pavement with green space.
Toronto’s first Resilience Strategy came with pages of recommendations in 2019, but no funding to make it happen. We need action now to protect residents from climate impacts and invest in actions to build community resilience.
*As indicated by Toronto Water staff in the July 14, 2021 Council meeting.
WASTE AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Goal: Toronto takes ambitious action to reduce disposables that pollute our environment and shift our city towards reusable alternatives that build a zero waste city with a strong local, circular economy.
2022-2026 Council Actions
- Pass regulations to eliminate unnecessary single-use items and require a shift to reusable foodware in businesses and City facilities as part of the Single-Use Reduction Strategy
- Maintain and expand public control and delivery of waste services (such as Blue Box collection and waste service for parks, small businesses and charities) to ensure public oversight, accountability and access to effective waste diversion programs
- Maintain Toronto's commitment to focus on waste diversion and do not send Toronto's garbage for incineration, which passes the burden of toxic pollution onto local communities
- Create a plan to ensure all Toronto residents, no matter what building they live in, have access to waste diversion tools including recycling and organics collection
Why this is important:
The City of Toronto has committed to achieving zero waste and to building a strong local circular economy, which will prevent pollution, create local jobs, and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from extracting and wasting resources. To achieve our waste goals, Toronto needs to take a number of steps. This means no more delays to a strategy to reduce unnecessary single-use plastics and taking bold action to shift to reusables instead of single-use foodware. Other cities are passing bold regulations to promote reusables - and Toronto can, too. City Council will also have to ensure that all Torontonians (including multi-residential building residents) have the tools to recycle and compost, making sure that the Blue Box program is delivered with high standards and strong public oversight.
Finally, to truly meet our waste and climate goals, Council must reject any proposals to burn our garbage, either here in our city or neighbouring communities like Peel or Durham. Incineration (or ‘energy from waste’) is expensive and creates toxic air pollution. Instead, Toronto should focus on diverting waste from the garbage - such as by increasing access to services and programs that help residents reduce, reuse, recycle and compost. Only one-third of the average household garbage bag is actually garbage, and the rest is recyclables, organics, or other divertable materials like hazardous waste. Sending this mixed garbage for burning is not an environmental solution.