Now rapid acceleration of climate action and investment is needed
Responding to the global climate emergency, the City of Toronto is proposing a bold new climate target: net zero by 2040. If approved by City Council in December, this will be among the strongest climate targets set by any level of government in Canada. We applaud the City of Toronto for setting an ambitious, science-based target consistent with global commitments to limit climate change to 1.5C.
The new target is accompanied by a strategy to accelerate climate action. This is critical, because “the City’s data shows that emissions have plateaued, indicating that acting incrementally will not be enough to put us on the net zero trajectory.” These words come from Toronto’s proposed TransformTO Net Zero Strategy posted last week; the plan and target will go before the Infrastructure and Environment Committee on December 2, and City Council December 15th.
A rapid and immediate acceleration in climate action is needed to get on track for net zero by 2040. The City’s technical modelling shows that fossil fuels, primarily natural gas used in homes and buildings and gasoline used in cars, need to be completely phased out by 2040. To put that in perspective, that requires deep retrofits to every home in Toronto in the next 18 years – an average of 65,000 housing units retrofitted each and every year if we start immediately. That’s about a six-fold increase in the number of retrofits occurring today, while ensuring every retrofit is to near-zero emissions.
Toronto has a solid foundation to build on. Leading-edge initiatives such as the Toronto Green Standard and the Home Energy Loan Program were first of a kind in Ontario, and have been adapted by other cities across Canada. But Toronto cannot afford to rest on its laurels. Below we outline some of the key components of the proposed strategy, and our take on how it needs to be strengthened to achieve net zero by 2040.
The new climate strategy proposes to continue implementing the Toronto Green Standard update schedule set in 2017, and the Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy adopted earlier this year. This is a good place to start, but these action plans were designed to meet Toronto’s old climate targets. Meeting the new target will require accelerating them, specifically we recommend:
- Accelerate the schedule for updating the Toronto Green Standard (TGS). The near zero design standard needs to be in place by 2028 to ensure near zero new construction by 2030.
- Accelerate development of building emissions performance standards for large buildings. These standards need to take effect in 2025 to preserve a path to the 2030 target. Realistically, this requires developing performance targets and policy details in 2022, in order to provide the buildings sector with two years notice to plan for compliance.
The proposed strategy sets aggressive targets for renewable energy, calling for 50% of total energy use to be renewable/low carbon by 2030. To get there, the City will assemble a taskforce of industry experts to develop a plan for how to accelerate renewable energy by 2023. A comprehensive plan is needed, but we need shorter-term action to get on track. We recommend:
- The City and Toronto Hydro should partner to develop and pilot a turnkey, no-up-front cost program for solar PV and storage systems, leveraging bulk procurement and city financing programs. This can be implemented quickly, offsets emissions from natural gas plants, and creates good, green jobs.
The proposed strategy targets 30% of vehicles on the road being fully electric by 2030. To get there, the City will require 100% parking spaces in new residential development to be EV-ready, work across divisions to accelerate charging infrastructure in other areas, and report back in 2023 with options for incentivizing EV adoption and/or disincentivizing fossil fuel vehicles. The only missing piece is an expansion of on-street charging, specifically:
- The City should build on the success of the on-street vehicle charging pilot by expanding on-street charging beginning in 2022, working in partnership with Toronto Hydro.
The City is proposing a standing stakeholder advisory group to guide implementation of the net zero strategy, which is critical. However, there is no new funding identified to support implementation in 2022. We offer the following advice on implementation:
- Ensure the new climate plan is fully resourced through additional funding beginning in 2022
- Ensure the Climate Advisory Group includes representation from Indigenous, youth and other equity-deserving communities, and is empowered and resourced to provide independent advice and accountability.
- Ensure meaningful involvement of residents in the design, development, and evaluation of actions, including the recommendations provided by Toronto Environmental Alliance to support community hubs and other local support networks as key social and physical infrastructure for strengthening community climate engagement and resilience.
Read TAF’s official submission and complete list of recommendations here.
Toronto is making good progress, achieving the 2020 target to reduce emissions by 30% based on 1990 levels. The next phase of work as outlined in this strategy will require even more effort and resources. TAF urges committee members, Toronto Councillors, the Mayor, and City staff to ensure this plan includes tangible and fully funded actions to reach the net zero target. We look forward to collaborating with the City on implementation.