News / Toronto

Pressure on for Toronto council to approve climate-change plan

Transform TO will head to council in July. Its ambitious plan aims to reduce the city’s emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

The ambitious climate change plan aims to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

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The ambitious climate change plan aims to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

U.S. President Donald Trump might be taking plenty of fire for pulling out of the Paris climate-change agreement, but Toronto isn’t being spared the heat.

City council is facing pressure to approve an ambitious climate-change plan that’s been in the works since 2015.

Transform TO will head to council in July. It aims to reduce the city’s emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 by requiring all transit options (both public transit and personal vehicles) to run on low- or zero-carbon energy, retrofitting all existing buildings to achieve the maximum possible emission reduction and pushing for 75 per cent of the community’s energy use to come from renewable or low-carbon sources, among other things.

Sara Hughes, an assistant professor in the University of Toronto’s political-science department, praised the plan but said it’s struggled to get council’s endorsement.

“I see a real lack of commitment and focus on the issue,” Hughes told Metro.

Coun. Shelley Carroll worries that even if the plan passes, it won’t mean anything.

“I suspect it will get full council support, but little support in the subsequent budgets,” Carroll said.

But Jim Baxter, director of the city’s environment and energy division, said the city hasn’t been prolonging the issue, even though some items were deferred from May until July.

“It had nothing to do with whether the councillors liked it or not,” Baxter said. “Other big reports got in front of us, and we ran out of time.”

He said there’s confidence the plan will pass because the mayor has been really “bullish” about climate change and it’s “clear that cities are where this needs to happen.”

It’s not unusual for much of the progress on climate change to come from urban areas because “cities are where over 50 per cent of the world’s population lives,” said Matti Siemiatycki, an associate professor of geography and planning at U of T.

He said they have been the most ambitious with their climate-change targets, adding that “in the wake of what has happened with Paris, I think we will see that continue.”

This story has been corrected. A previous version indicated the climate-change plan aimed to reduce the city's emissions by 80 per cent in 2050 instead of by 2050.

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