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Toronto gets mediocre grade on climate change action from youth

The Toronto Youth Environment council has given the city its first environment report card — the first in Canada.

Toronto is already feeling the effects of climate change, with the extreme heat this summer says Toronto Youth Environmental Council advisor Lily Barraclough.

Staff / Torstar News Service file

Toronto is already feeling the effects of climate change, with the extreme heat this summer says Toronto Youth Environmental Council advisor Lily Barraclough.

You need to do better, Toronto.

That’s the back-to-school message a group of high school students is sending to the city about climate change.

The Toronto Youth Environmental Council developed a report card to score the 6ix on the issue and — in its initial round of grading — has doled a mediocre C.

Lily Barraclough, the council’s former executive director turned advisor, said the report card is meant to “hold the city accountable for the current action or lack of action.”

“We’re the future of our planet, and we’re the ones who are going to be dealing with the worst effects of climate change,” the 18-year-old said.

Along with the overall grade, the report gives individual marks in a variety of categories.

Toronto scored pretty good in some areas, such as the A- for waste, which took into account increased activity when it comes to things like recycling and composting.

The mark for “renewable energy” — a D-minus — pulled the overall score down the most since the city gets less of its energy from sources like wind and sun than other parts of the country.

The group will present the report card to a city council committee on Friday and is challenging politicians to commit to a goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2040. 

The report card was developed with support from iMatter, a non-profit that has helped youth in U.S. cities such as Des Moines, Iowa, and Ventura, Calif., with similar efforts.

It’s the first one done for a Canadian city.

Larry Kraft, executive director and chief mentor at iMatter, said the goal is to empower young people to speak up on climate change.

Looking at the issue at the local level helps avoid roadblocks that can come from dealing with higher levels of government.

“It’s where young people live, it’s where they can actually take specific action,” said Kraft.

Alice Cheng, the youth environment council’s president, wants to see young people’s voices be a larger part of the conversation about issues that will affect them more down the road.

“If we just leave the decision making to solely adults, I don’t think they’ll necessarily have our future interests in mind at the top of their agendas,” the 15-year-old said.

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