This year’s edition of our GTHA emissions inventory illustrates the need for a dramatic acceleration in climate action. Despite growing adoption of climate policies and clean technologies, overall emissions increased by 8% in 2022. Emissions increased across all regions and all sectors.
The data shows decisively that we need to phase out fossil fuels faster. The stakes couldn’t be clearer. As our team prepared this report, we watched global temperature reach new heights while wildfires burned in a record-shattering fire season intensified by climate change. Over 200,000 Canadians evacuated homes, including the entire city of Yellowknife, and the fires themselves will be the largest source of carbon emissions in Canada this year. We are the first generation in Canada to experience the impacts of climate change at this scale.
The combination of rising emissions and escalating climate impacts can be worrying, even frightening. While these feelings are rational, left untempered they can lead to apathy and paralysis. It’s important to recognize that the data does show areas of progress, where all levels of government, the private sector, and communities and individuals are making a difference. Climate policies and clean technologies are proliferating globally, and right here in the GHTA. We need to focus on that progress, while recognizing the need to move faster.
While transportation emissions increased, they began levelling off in the second half of 2022. EV sales increased by 75% and transit ridership increased by 58% across the GTHA. Policies and investments that support EVs and transit are working, and we need more of them. The federal government has introduced a draft regulation to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars. If approved, this regulation will dramatically reduce transportation emissions while generating major health benefits from reduced air pollution. We crunched the numbers, and the proposed regulation will result in over $90 billion in health benefits for Canadians, including approximately 11,000 avoided premature deaths.
The rate of home retrofit activity in Canada has increased by nearly four times since the introduction of the Greener Homes Grant in 2021. Uptake has been so high the program is running out of funds years ahead of schedule, and urgently requires a top-up. All levels of government have a role to play in supporting building retrofits at a massive scale, including introducing regulation. For example, Toronto is developing a mandatory emissions performance standard for existing buildings, providing a model that can be adopted by other cities across the GTHA. This will be a lynchpin to curbing building emissions, which make up 46% of our emissions.
While electricity emissions increased 26% in 2022, new federal regulations are in development to limit the use of gas fired powerplants. Communities like Brampton are saying no to new gas plants, and yes to clean energy projects. Ontario is becoming a global leader in battery energy storage, with 15 new projects in development, more than half with at least 50 per cent indigenous ownership.
There is growing interest across the GTHA in adopting key climate mitigation technologies, like heat pumps, EVs, and renewables, and the best news is that they’re now all more cost effective than the fossil incumbents on a lifecycle basis. New federal investment tax credits, retroactive to March 2023, will provide up to 30% rebates for businesses adopting solar, storage and heat pumps, further accelerating demand.
Nevertheless, getting on track requires a major course correction. We need to see emissions falling 9% every year to reach our climate targets. The most important priority is to stop locking in carbon by investing in new fossil fuel equipment and infrastructure. Every new gas power plant, gas-heated building, or gas-powered vehicle is a lost opportunity to invest in a clean energy future. Low carbon alternatives are available and cost effective. Our policy recommendations section provides a menu of climate action priorities for every level of government and corporations. We are the generation that’s taking this head on, so most importantly, don’t lose hope – take action instead.