Photo courtesy of Toronto Public Library. ‘Leave your car at home week’ with Councillors Tony O’Donohue and Art Eggleton, 1979.
Written by Philip Jessup, TAF Executive Director 1999-2008
I first met Councillor Tony O’Donohue at the 1988 Changing Atmosphere Conference in Toronto, a predecessor to the UN climate treaty process. The policymakers and scientists gathered agreed that the changes in the atmosphere due to human pollution “represent a major threat to international security and are already having harmful consequences over many parts of the globe,” and declared that by 2005 the world should reduce its CO2 emissions by 20% below the 1988 level.
Tony told me he would get that that target adopted by Toronto City council, and he did. He had played a key role in getting Council to prevent the manufacture of ozone-depleting chemicals in Toronto, one of the first cities worldwide to do so. To implement the CO2 target, Tony spearheaded Council’s Special Advisory Committee on the Environment (SACE) which I co-chaired. Among its recommendations: an energy efficiency office and creation of Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF).
As the first President of TAF he favoured large, trend-setting, high-impact projects. To name a few: switching the entire City’s streetlights from incandescent to metal halide which more than halved electricity consumption; funding the feasibility study for the deep-lake district energy cooling system (now Enwave) which cools dozens of downtown buildings; and a first-of-its-kind street calming effort to reduce vehicle emissions which eventually expanded throughout the city.
Tony was an environmental visionary who kept his feet on the ground and got things done. Through his vision and collaborations, including with Mayor Art Eggleton, and Councillors Jack Layton and Dan Leckie, he created an important legacy for Toronto.