Toronto on track to exceed 2020 Greenhouse Gas emissions target

toronto net zero

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Ontario Construction News staff writer

The City of Toronto says it is on track to exceed its 2020 target of a 30 per cent emissions reduction, based on 1990 levels.

In October 2019, city council unanimously voted to declare a climate emergency, accelerate its efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change and adopt a stronger emissions target for Toronto: net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

The interim GHG reduction targets are 30 per cent by 2020 and 65 per cent by 2030, based on 1990 levels.

“Addressing the impacts of climate change has increasingly become an issue that requires immediate attention,” said Mayor John Tory.

“The city made it clear that not only did we want to lead when it came to reducing our carbon footprint, but that we would implement policies to make it happen as quickly as possible. Along with residents, businesses and partners, we have made great strides in reducing community-wide GHG emissions, but we still have work to do.”

A report shows that buildings – residential, commercial and industrial – were the largest source of emissions in Toronto, accounting for 57 per cent of total community-wide emissions, a decrease of less than one per cent compared to Natural gas used to heat buildings continues to be the largest source of emissions community-wide. It accounts for approximately 8.2 MT CO₂e, which represents the largest source of emissions from the buildings sector.

The highest sources of GHG emissions in Toronto are energy use in buildings (natural gas and electricity); transportation fuels (primarily gasoline); and waste sector emissions, which include emissions from landfills, organics and yard waste, and wastewater treatment processes.

The Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy recommends nine key policy actions that the City can implement to enable and accelerate the uptake of retrofits by building owners, while maximizing potential co-benefits and minimizing potential harms to owners and tenants:

  • Require annual emissions performance reporting and public disclosure from owners of all existing buildingsEstablish 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
  • Advocate and partner with other orders of government to ensure appropriate authorities and funding

The City will implement voluntary performance measures and targets initially and intends to begin the tansition to mandatory requirements in 2025. Other jurisdictions, including Vancouver, New York City, St. Louis, Washington D.C. and Washington State have successfully transitioned performance targets from voluntary to mandatory compliance, to drive the required retrofits.

Transportation was the second largest source, accounting for 36 per cent of total community-wide emissions, a decrease of almost three per cent compared to Passenger cars, trucks, vans, and buses accounted for approximately 73 per cent of all transportation emissions. Gasoline used by vehicles accounts for about 4.5 MT CO₂e, which represents the largest source of emissions from the transportation sector.

Waste was the third largest source, accounting for about seven per cent of total community-wide emissions.

Toronto’s plan to reduce emissions includes:

  • A Net Zero Existing Buildings Strategy to decarbonize all existing residential, commercial and institutional buildings in Toronto 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 Toronto development by 2030. More information is available online.
  • The Green Will Initiative, through which major institutional and commercial building portfolio owners work with the City to reduce energy consumption and emissions from their portfolios. Their portfolios include more than 4,500 buildings spanning more than 320 million square feet of real estate in TorontoMore information is available here.
  • BetterHomesTO, a multi-partner program that aims to help Toronto homeowners make their homes more energy efficient. Through its Home Energy Loan program. More information is available here .

On Nov. 18, Toronto was recognized as a global leader on environmental action and transparency, achieving a place on the “CDP Cities A List” for the fourth consecutive year. CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), an environmental impact non-profit organization, runs the global environmental disclosure system that helps companies, cities and regions measure and manage their risks, and opportunities, on climate change, water security and deforestation.

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