Toronto approves bold strategy to reduce emissions from existing buildings to net zero by 2050  

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

Toronto city council has approved multiple strategies aimed at reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to net zero by 2050 or sooner.

The goal includes a Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy to decarbonize all existing residential, commercial and institutional buildings within the next 30 years; a Net Zero Carbon Plan to reduce emissions in city-owned buildings; and an update to the Toronto Green Standard to achieve net zero emissions in new development by 2030.

“We have 30 years to work together to transition our homes and buildings, and ensure a cleaner, greener, and more resilient future,” said Councillor Jennifer KcKelvie. Our bold strategy lays a foundation for a coordinated effort by all levels of government and the private sector that will create 18,100 jobs, reduce building emissions by 149 megatons of carbon and improve the health and resilience of our communities.”

Homes and buildings are the largest source of GHG emissions in Toronto today, accounting for 55 per cent of total emissions. Approximately 60 per cent of building emissions are attributed to residential buildings, including single-family homes, and 40 per cent to commercial and institutional buildings. Emissions stem from the use of fossil fuels and primarily natural gas to heat space and water.

The strategy recommends nine key policy actions:

  • Require annual emissions performance reporting and public disclosure from owners of all existing buildings;
  • Establish emissions performance targets;
  • Require energy and emissions audits and tune-ups;
  • Provide supports to reduce the complexity, costs and time associated with building retrofits;
  • Expand and enhance retrofit financing;
  • Streamline the permitting and approval processes for deep retrofits;
  • Build awareness and capacity of home and building owners to undertake emissions reduction measures;
  • Support workforce development and training; and
  • Advocate and partner with other orders of government to ensure appropriate authorities and funding.
  • Voluntary performance measures will transition to mandatory requirements in 2025 similar to programs in Vancouver, New York City, St. Louis, Washington D.C. and Washington State.

Retrofits can reduce emissions by more than 80 per cent in existing buildings; however, additional measures such as carbon offsets will be needed to reach net zero by 2050 in the sector.

It’s critical that we reduce community-wide emissions to net zero as soon as possible. While the challenges of transforming how we build, renovate and operate our homes and buildings are massive, so too will be the benefits in terms of our climate, our health, economy and resilience,” said Mayor John Tory.

Initiatives available to support building and homes owners include the Mayor’s Green Will Initiative, Energy Retrofit Loans, Navigation and Support Services, the High-Rise Retrofit Improvement Support Program, Home Energy Loan Program, and BetterHomesTO.

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