East York Mirror
A new report released this week paints a green picture for the Greater Toronto Area that needs improvement.
The Greening Greater Toronto report, unveiled by the Toronto City Summit Alliance Tuesday, June 24, details areas that need improvement such as carbon emissions, water quality, air quality, land use and waste. As well, it identifies priorities to improve the future of the Toronto region.
The report stems from the alliance's 2007 Toronto City Summit where more than 600 leaders from the government, business, labour and non-profit sectors from across the GTA called for a regional environmental vision that could build on existing efforts and leadership. The work on the report began in December and it measured several key areas to identify where the region currently is in areas such as waste, greenhouse gas emissions and water quality.
"We've been able to identify areas we can really hone in on to make a difference," said Julia Deans, Toronto City Summit Alliance CEO.
Toronto was ahead of the regional average on transportation (with 32 per cent of residents using public transit, walking or cycling to get around compared with 22 per cent region wide), greenhouse gas emissions, and waste diversion.
Despite the push at the municipal level for residents to divert a greater percentage of waste, the private sector's poor showing in this area flags it as an area for improvement. The regional residential diversion rate is 39 per cent (Toronto is at 42 per cent with a goal of 70 per cent by 2010), but the non-residential rate is just 18 per cent with paper making up 31 per cent of the waste thrown away by businesses and institutions.
Deans said these numbers show there are market failures when it comes to waste diversion in the private sector.
"The business people were surprised to see this was the case and keen to do something," she said.
This prompts the question of whether regulation at the provincial level is needed to boost these numbers.
"Our hope would be that the market could drive it and that it be given the chance to do this," Deans said.
The report points out the GTA has made some progress in addressing environmental issues, however, there are numerous challenges to overcome, among them: polluted water and beaches; aging, inefficient buildings; underfunded transit; and poor air quality resulting in premature death and hospital visits.
As a start, Greening Greater Toronto launched four immediate programs to address the region's environmental challenges including driving a large-scale retrofit of GTA commercial buildings; creating a local emissions reduction fund; introducing a green procurement initiative; and building a network of public education/demonstration centres.
"These are places you would be able to go and see what's the latest in energy-efficient light bulbs, for example, to boost people's awareness of what they could be doing in their own homes," Deans said of the centre.
For each of these five goals, Greening Greater Toronto has developed a set of indicators to enable the measurement and assessment of environmental quality. Data on the GTA's current performance against these indicators will provide benchmarks to be applied against other cities and regions, set targets for the GTA and measure progress over time.
"It's quite ambitious, but we have about 110 people involved so far," Deans said.
A task force of more than 100 individuals from leading environmental organizations, municipal and provincial governments, businesses, labour unions, the non-profit sector and academic circles worked together to create the report.