On the heels of Provincial announcements about a cap and trade policy and new sources of funding for transit, TAF is ready to provide some well-researched findings on just what policies we need to prioritize to help save the climate. And, you guessed it, carbon price and funding for transit are two of the top four policy priorities identified.

After more than a year of research and reflection, TAF is proud to share our latest research report:

Low Carbon Policy Priorities: Best Practices and Key Opportunities for Significant Emission Reductions.

With 20 years of grant making under our belt, TAF has learned some important lessons, including how to accelerate carbon reduction through policy reform. In fact, through a scan of the potential impact of actions funded by TAF grants over the last couple of decades, we confirmed that TAF’s support of policy advocates showed the most potential for significant carbon reductions in Toronto. From coal phase out to the establishment of the Green Energy Act, to changes to Toronto building code and energy reporting and benchmarking requirements, policy change drives low-carbon solutions to scale in a very effective way.

However, knowing which policies to advance, and how, is a challenging matter. To address this, TAF undertook a recent study with support from our policy researcher Rebecca Mallinson. We asked three questions:

  • What have we learned from TAF’s past grant making about supporting policy change?
  • Which policy instruments, at the provincial, federal and municipal levels, have the potential to significantly reduce carbon and air pollution?
  • Of these policies, which have the greatest potential to curb carbon emissions in Toronto?

Taking the time to reflect on these questions has offered some very important lessons for TAF about how to direct our future grant investments. In the first section of the paper, we undertook six case studies of past TAF policy grants. From these, we drew 12 lessons on how to identify and support excellence in policy advocacy. These included knowing how to leverage key windows of political opportunity, ensuring clarity of focus, undertaking compelling research to support the benefits of the policy, and backing the right advocates to carry the file.

We then reviewed some key policy options, focusing on the built environment, transportation, waste, and urban planning and considering how policies improved business cases for low-carbon action, provided information, analysis and capacity building, set codes standards and regulations and/or affected public sector investment decisions. The list of options was long, but in the end, four critical policy options emerged for immediate action:

  • Putting a price on carbon
  • Requiring large buildings to publically disclose their annual energy use
  • Increasing funding for expanded public transportation
  • Applying a “Conservation First” principle to the management of natural gas.

The full report provides some key insights and background about these and other critical policy opportunities that set the stage for significant urban emission reductions.

We invite you to join with us in ensuring that these critical, high-impact policies are given full consideration. Please share your insights with us about your own sense of the low-carbon policy landscape, and the best ways to leverage critical policies to ensure we keep moving the carbon emissions down. And let’s remember, we can be pleased that the Province of Ontario is moving forward with key policies on our priority list, but, as we learned from our best practices scan, we must continue to keep a close watch to ensure policies are well-designed and fully implemented so we can reap the benefits for the climate.

As for TAF, we are focusing our grants and internal resources on advancing these priority policies by:

  • Providing a multi-year grant to Environmental Defence to promote strong carbon reduction policy for Ontario, including carbon pricing.
  • Presenting clear information to the City of Toronto on the benefits of energy use disclosure through an Energy Reporting Requirement bylaw, convening a multi-sector group to explore the possibility in early 2014 and supporting the City’s current exploration of options to advance energy reporting locally.
  • Providing a founding grant and advisory support to members of the Move the GTHA collaboration, a multi-sector group working to increase public investment in an effective regional transportation system in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area.
  • Sponsoring new research on best practices in American jurisdictions with respect to applying conservation demand management programming in the natural gas utility sector, and promoting the use of this research in Ontario’s 2014 consultation process concerning natural gas conservation policy for Ontario.