Looking Forward: Taking Action on GHG Reductions & Willowdale Climate Change Townhall

by Markus O'Brien Fehr, Chief of Staff

May 2021 recorded more carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere than at any point in human history. After a temporary global reduction in the burning of fossil fuels during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Earth is back to record levels of measured greenhouse gases (GHGs). The short term reductions in carbon energy use have not curbed the trend of global climate change necessary to avoid the frightening consequences.

G7 leaders will be discussing these issues as they gather in Cornwall, England this weekend. It's also a conversation needed closer to home. We have organized a more local discussion at our virtual town hall meeting next week (details below).

In 2017, the City's TransformTO program established a set of long-term, low-carbon goals and strategies to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions. City Council followed up in 2019 unanimously declaring a climate emergency and calling for a stronger emissions reduction target of net zero by 2050 or sooner.

In 2018, Toronto recorded 37% less GHG emissions than in 1990, putting it on track to meet its interim 2020 target. But the City's goal increases to getting GHGs 65% below 1990 levels by 2030. Achieving these levels, and the eventual net-zero, will require transformational changes in how we live, work, shop and commute. You can learn more and get involved in that discussion here.

But are these steps sufficient? Recently, respected Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki wrote a piece likening the current global push to address climate change to the treaty of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the 1970s, or the action to meet the challenge of COVID-19. 101 Nobel Laureates have helped launch a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation movement calling on governments around the world to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground. Vancouver was the first city in the world to endorse this campaign, and a similar discussion is now taking place in Toronto.

In Canada, where a large section of our economy relies on the oil and gas industry, this will not be an easy conversation. Canada currently lags behind all other G7 commitments, even with more ambitious national targets announced by the Federal government this spring. The feds have committed billions of dollars towards improvements in green infrastructure and energy, but a strong push is still needed to place us among the world leaders.

Individuals also need to take actions in their own lives to reduce our collective environmental footprint. Small changes like using refillable coffee cups or water bottles, or choosing to run errands on a bicycle or on foot, can all make a difference. Larger investments into home energy efficiency, or a condo initiatives to reduce garbage or divert it from landfill, also have to be part of the conversation.

Earlier this year, students at Cummer Valley Middle School hosted a series of community discussions focusing on how we each can have our own impact. Some of these students will join us for the town hall meeting next week, along with John, and City staff discussing the City's program. I hope you will join the conversation.

Thursday, June 17 – 7:00 PM via WebEx

Markus will moderate a discussion with John, staff from the City of Toronto Environment and Energy Division and students from Cummer Valley Middle School.

Learn more about the City's TransformTO program, and other community initiatives and how they will reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions.

Ask questions, and bring your own ideas to share. Together, we can make a difference. You can join me for the town hall by registering here.