Toronto cannot achieve the net-zero carbon emissions target adopted by City Council unless Ontario’s gas-fired power plants are phased out. “Natural” gas is actually methane, and it’s a potent fossil fuel often sourced from environmentally devastating fracking in the U.S.
Let’s zero in on electricity because we need more clean power to replace fossil gas used for space heating and transportation. Ontario’s electricity grid got a lot cleaner when we phased out coal-fired electricity generation. But the City’s latest emissions inventory showed an increase of 68% from natural gas from 2017 to 2018, and plans are afoot to increase gas-fired electricity which will make emissions skyrocket by over 300%. This problem is solvable. With a combination of aggressive conservation and efficiency, transitioning to renewable energy and storage (where costs are plummeting and competitive with gas plants), and purchasing clean energy from our neighbours in Quebec, phasing out natural gas in Ontario is entirely feasible and cost-effective.
That’s why a motion from City Councillor Jennifer McKelvie requesting that City Hall call on the province to begin the phase out of natural gas plants is so important. Toronto has declared a climate emergency and this resolution is a meaningful step recognizing that action is needed at all levels of government. Community members and organizations mobilized to support the motion with deputations and written submissions (see TAF’s here), yet debate and decision was postponed to “a later date” based on requests for more information that ignore the costs of inaction.
If you are wondering why Toronto should take on this role, consider that twelve other municipalities in Ontario including St. Catherines, Hamilton, Guelph, Halton Hills, Burlington, and Windsor have adopted similar resolutions. When faced with expensive investments that will triple emissions from electricity, it is not a wild idea for Toronto to say ‘enough is enough.’ As the largest economic centre in the country, the City of Toronto’s voice for a gas phase out should have some weight with the province and can encourage other municipal action to accelerate the transition to a healthier and more prosperous net-zero future. A gas plant phase out also mirrors the Biden Administration’s plans in the U.S to achieve a zero-carbon electricity system by 2035.
TAF urges City Council to consider and pass this motion as soon as possible. The data don’t lie: Toronto cannot meet its 2030 climate goals or the council-approved TransformTO plan if Ontario’s electricity is increasingly generated with fossil gas.
For more information about the motion and how to support it, visit the Ontario Clean Air Alliance campaign.