It's been a long time since Toronto was willing to go this green

Opinion May 07, 2017 by David Nickle York Guardian

It has been some time since Toronto politicians have made a call to confront climate change in any significant way … really, since the long-ago era of David Miller, amalgamated Toronto’s second mayor.

Miller, we may recall, attacked the prospect of climate change with gusto. He championed light rail transit, energy-efficiency and green, low-carbon-footprint development and retrofits, and ambitious waste diversion targets. Toward the end of his second term, he chaired the Clinton Foundation-funded C40 Cities initiative that gathered the leadership in some of the world’s largest cities together to fight climate change.

Miller’s initiatives were ambitious, and traces of them do remain seven years after he left office. The Tower Renewal Program, which retrofits concrete apartment towers built in the postwar years to be more energy-efficient, persists on the city’s website. The green roof on top of Toronto City Hall is in the company of more than 500 other green roofs on buildings around the city. His successor Rob Ford was not entirely able to destroy the Transit City light rail plan that Miller and former Premier Dalton McGuinty devised.

But under our current Mayor John Tory, the elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway will continue to carry carbon-producing cars to the Don Valley Parkway. Bike lanes in Scarborough and on Jarvis Street killed by the Ford administration have stayed dead.  Waste diversion is slackening, too. In all, Toronto seems to have been taking an extended breather in the battle against climate change these past few years.

Until last week, that is.

That was when the city’s Parks and Environment Committee took a look at what might be the most specific and ambitious anti-climate change plan that the city has ever seen. Dubbed TransformTO: Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable and Prosperous Toronto, the plan sets out an extremely ambitious timetable for reducing Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions, by 80 per cent (from 1990 levels) by the year 2050.

It’s a Miller-era plan on steroids. By 2050, all buildings would be retrofitted to minimize the greenhouse gas they produce, and by 2030, all new buildings would have a near-zero greenhouse gas emission. Transportation, likewise, would all be low- or zero-greenhouse-gas-emitting. Three quarters of the energy consumed in the city would be from low-carbon and renewable sources. Nearly all of Toronto’s solid waste — 95 per cent of it — would be diverted from landfill, which is to say recycled or composted.

The committee happily endorsed the plan, after hearing from members of the public gathered into what amounted to a cheering section, and it will go on to council. How will it fare there?

Well, there are factors for it and against it.

It is definitely a blast from the David Miller past.  The public consultations that preceded it were led by Parkdale-High Park councillor Gord Perks, an old environmental ally of Miller’s back in the day and a thorn in Mayor Tory’s side these days. It is bound to be very costly, too — at least in the short term.  

But there are strong indicators in the plan’s favour.

The largest factor is the growing reality of climate change. As councillors at the committee debated Thursday, the skies outside city hall were darkening as prelude to days of rainfall and potential flooding — exactly the kind of weather event that is predicted to become more common as human-caused climate change progresses.

At the same time, to the south, the ugly dishonesty of climate-change denial is made manifest in the Donald Trump White House and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and Congress. It sets as clear an example as one might hope for, of exactly what not to do.

The plan also speaks to more than environmental science. It argues persuasively that such initiatives as building retrofits and public transit enhancements also improve social equity and provide considerable economic stimulus, and lay the groundwork for a more stable and sustainable local economy too.

And there is one other factor that weighs in its favour, at least so far as the May Toronto Council meeting goes.

Council will not have to decide whether to fund the plan until the 2018 budget process gets underway.

The start of that process is not so far off, of course. But for now — right now, as the water rises from a spring deluge and Torontonians reel from a political deluge, all coming from the south of us — there are few downsides to a vote for Toronto to do our part to save the planet.

It is worthy work, and it’s high time we got back to it.

David Nickle is a reporter and columnist covering Toronto City Hall for Metroland Media Toronto. He can be reached at dnickle@insidetoronto.com. Follow him on Twitter at @davidnickle, and InsideToronto on Facebook email: dnickle@insidetoronto.com.

THE CITY: It's been a long time since Toronto was willing to go this green

TransformTO plan may be the most ambitious anti-climate change plan this city's ever seen

Opinion May 07, 2017 by David Nickle York Guardian

It has been some time since Toronto politicians have made a call to confront climate change in any significant way … really, since the long-ago era of David Miller, amalgamated Toronto’s second mayor.

Miller, we may recall, attacked the prospect of climate change with gusto. He championed light rail transit, energy-efficiency and green, low-carbon-footprint development and retrofits, and ambitious waste diversion targets. Toward the end of his second term, he chaired the Clinton Foundation-funded C40 Cities initiative that gathered the leadership in some of the world’s largest cities together to fight climate change.

Miller’s initiatives were ambitious, and traces of them do remain seven years after he left office. The Tower Renewal Program, which retrofits concrete apartment towers built in the postwar years to be more energy-efficient, persists on the city’s website. The green roof on top of Toronto City Hall is in the company of more than 500 other green roofs on buildings around the city. His successor Rob Ford was not entirely able to destroy the Transit City light rail plan that Miller and former Premier Dalton McGuinty devised.

But under our current Mayor John Tory, the elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway will continue to carry carbon-producing cars to the Don Valley Parkway. Bike lanes in Scarborough and on Jarvis Street killed by the Ford administration have stayed dead.  Waste diversion is slackening, too. In all, Toronto seems to have been taking an extended breather in the battle against climate change these past few years.

Related Content

Until last week, that is.

That was when the city’s Parks and Environment Committee took a look at what might be the most specific and ambitious anti-climate change plan that the city has ever seen. Dubbed TransformTO: Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable and Prosperous Toronto, the plan sets out an extremely ambitious timetable for reducing Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions, by 80 per cent (from 1990 levels) by the year 2050.

It’s a Miller-era plan on steroids. By 2050, all buildings would be retrofitted to minimize the greenhouse gas they produce, and by 2030, all new buildings would have a near-zero greenhouse gas emission. Transportation, likewise, would all be low- or zero-greenhouse-gas-emitting. Three quarters of the energy consumed in the city would be from low-carbon and renewable sources. Nearly all of Toronto’s solid waste — 95 per cent of it — would be diverted from landfill, which is to say recycled or composted.

The committee happily endorsed the plan, after hearing from members of the public gathered into what amounted to a cheering section, and it will go on to council. How will it fare there?

Well, there are factors for it and against it.

It is definitely a blast from the David Miller past.  The public consultations that preceded it were led by Parkdale-High Park councillor Gord Perks, an old environmental ally of Miller’s back in the day and a thorn in Mayor Tory’s side these days. It is bound to be very costly, too — at least in the short term.  

But there are strong indicators in the plan’s favour.

The largest factor is the growing reality of climate change. As councillors at the committee debated Thursday, the skies outside city hall were darkening as prelude to days of rainfall and potential flooding — exactly the kind of weather event that is predicted to become more common as human-caused climate change progresses.

At the same time, to the south, the ugly dishonesty of climate-change denial is made manifest in the Donald Trump White House and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and Congress. It sets as clear an example as one might hope for, of exactly what not to do.

The plan also speaks to more than environmental science. It argues persuasively that such initiatives as building retrofits and public transit enhancements also improve social equity and provide considerable economic stimulus, and lay the groundwork for a more stable and sustainable local economy too.

And there is one other factor that weighs in its favour, at least so far as the May Toronto Council meeting goes.

Council will not have to decide whether to fund the plan until the 2018 budget process gets underway.

The start of that process is not so far off, of course. But for now — right now, as the water rises from a spring deluge and Torontonians reel from a political deluge, all coming from the south of us — there are few downsides to a vote for Toronto to do our part to save the planet.

It is worthy work, and it’s high time we got back to it.

David Nickle is a reporter and columnist covering Toronto City Hall for Metroland Media Toronto. He can be reached at dnickle@insidetoronto.com. Follow him on Twitter at @davidnickle, and InsideToronto on Facebook email: dnickle@insidetoronto.com.

THE CITY: It's been a long time since Toronto was willing to go this green

TransformTO plan may be the most ambitious anti-climate change plan this city's ever seen

Opinion May 07, 2017 by David Nickle York Guardian

It has been some time since Toronto politicians have made a call to confront climate change in any significant way … really, since the long-ago era of David Miller, amalgamated Toronto’s second mayor.

Miller, we may recall, attacked the prospect of climate change with gusto. He championed light rail transit, energy-efficiency and green, low-carbon-footprint development and retrofits, and ambitious waste diversion targets. Toward the end of his second term, he chaired the Clinton Foundation-funded C40 Cities initiative that gathered the leadership in some of the world’s largest cities together to fight climate change.

Miller’s initiatives were ambitious, and traces of them do remain seven years after he left office. The Tower Renewal Program, which retrofits concrete apartment towers built in the postwar years to be more energy-efficient, persists on the city’s website. The green roof on top of Toronto City Hall is in the company of more than 500 other green roofs on buildings around the city. His successor Rob Ford was not entirely able to destroy the Transit City light rail plan that Miller and former Premier Dalton McGuinty devised.

But under our current Mayor John Tory, the elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway will continue to carry carbon-producing cars to the Don Valley Parkway. Bike lanes in Scarborough and on Jarvis Street killed by the Ford administration have stayed dead.  Waste diversion is slackening, too. In all, Toronto seems to have been taking an extended breather in the battle against climate change these past few years.

Related Content

Until last week, that is.

That was when the city’s Parks and Environment Committee took a look at what might be the most specific and ambitious anti-climate change plan that the city has ever seen. Dubbed TransformTO: Climate Action for a Healthy, Equitable and Prosperous Toronto, the plan sets out an extremely ambitious timetable for reducing Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions, by 80 per cent (from 1990 levels) by the year 2050.

It’s a Miller-era plan on steroids. By 2050, all buildings would be retrofitted to minimize the greenhouse gas they produce, and by 2030, all new buildings would have a near-zero greenhouse gas emission. Transportation, likewise, would all be low- or zero-greenhouse-gas-emitting. Three quarters of the energy consumed in the city would be from low-carbon and renewable sources. Nearly all of Toronto’s solid waste — 95 per cent of it — would be diverted from landfill, which is to say recycled or composted.

The committee happily endorsed the plan, after hearing from members of the public gathered into what amounted to a cheering section, and it will go on to council. How will it fare there?

Well, there are factors for it and against it.

It is definitely a blast from the David Miller past.  The public consultations that preceded it were led by Parkdale-High Park councillor Gord Perks, an old environmental ally of Miller’s back in the day and a thorn in Mayor Tory’s side these days. It is bound to be very costly, too — at least in the short term.  

But there are strong indicators in the plan’s favour.

The largest factor is the growing reality of climate change. As councillors at the committee debated Thursday, the skies outside city hall were darkening as prelude to days of rainfall and potential flooding — exactly the kind of weather event that is predicted to become more common as human-caused climate change progresses.

At the same time, to the south, the ugly dishonesty of climate-change denial is made manifest in the Donald Trump White House and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and Congress. It sets as clear an example as one might hope for, of exactly what not to do.

The plan also speaks to more than environmental science. It argues persuasively that such initiatives as building retrofits and public transit enhancements also improve social equity and provide considerable economic stimulus, and lay the groundwork for a more stable and sustainable local economy too.

And there is one other factor that weighs in its favour, at least so far as the May Toronto Council meeting goes.

Council will not have to decide whether to fund the plan until the 2018 budget process gets underway.

The start of that process is not so far off, of course. But for now — right now, as the water rises from a spring deluge and Torontonians reel from a political deluge, all coming from the south of us — there are few downsides to a vote for Toronto to do our part to save the planet.

It is worthy work, and it’s high time we got back to it.

David Nickle is a reporter and columnist covering Toronto City Hall for Metroland Media Toronto. He can be reached at dnickle@insidetoronto.com. Follow him on Twitter at @davidnickle, and InsideToronto on Facebook email: dnickle@insidetoronto.com.