Toronto's green goals
Submitted by OCAA on Mon, 03/26/2007 - 23:30.
The Toronto Star
Toronto City Council's executive committee got its first look yesterday at Mayor David Miller's framework for addressing climate change and air pollution within the city.
What they saw were ambitious targets that Miller is proposing to help Toronto do its part in meeting Canada's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. From its 1990 baseline, Miller wants the city's greenhouse gas emissions cut 6 per cent by 2012. Over the next eight years, his target is for an additional 24 per cent cut and for an overall reduction in emissions of 80 per cent by 2050.
The 2012 target certainly seems attainable, if only because Toronto's emissions are up only slightly over 1990 levels, compared with the rest of the country where they have grown by at least 30 per cent.
But targets for 2020 and 2050 represent a daunting task, especially in light of the expectation for continued population growth.
The challenges facing Toronto's urban landscape are somewhat different from those that have received most of the attention so far in Ottawa, where the dominant issue has been how to get emissions down for large industrial emitters, such as the oil sands in Alberta.
Because Toronto's industrial base is so small, the problem of large emitters affects the city only indirectly as an end user of the dirty electricity the province produces.
One of the big areas where Toronto can have an impact is by cutting its use of electricity. Currently, much of our power comes from the Nanticoke coal-fired generating plant. In fact, electricity accounts for 26 per cent of Toronto's overall emissions. The sooner Queen's Park replaces coal-fired plants with cleaner generation, the sooner Toronto's emissions from electricity will decline.
But Toronto still must cut its electricity use. Miller lists several things the city could do, such as converting street lighting to low-wattage LED technology, expanding deep-lake water cooling to replace air conditioning in the downtown core, and eliminating incandescent light bulbs from city-owned buildings.
However, it won't be easy for Toronto to reduce the remaining emissions, which come predominantly from the use of natural gas to heat residential and commercial buildings and from the gasoline that fuels the transportation sector.
Among other things, this means retrofitting homes, office buildings, shopping centres and stores to make them more fuel efficient.
It also means getting Torontonians out of cars and onto public transit.
In that vein, the framework talks about the possibility of the city imposing annual parking or motor vehicle registration fees and using the revenues to fund some of the building retrofits and investments in renewable energy.
At this stage, Miller is simply brainstorming, putting some novel ideas out for public debate.
But no one should dismiss any of his proposed solutions because greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto are not going to fall on their own.