Toronto, ON — The City of Toronto has decided to accelerate its goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 10 years under its TransformTO Net Zero Strategy. As such, on Dec. 15, Toronto City Council formally adopted the Strategy, which outlines a pathway to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.
In 2017, Toronto’s city council initially approved the TransformTO strategy following a global call from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5C. In 2019, the City’s council developed its original strategy to feature a net zero strategy following a vote to declare a climate emergency. The 2019 Climate Emergency Declaration Strategy included an accelerated climate action that put Toronto on the path of reaching net zero by 2040. This strategy included actions to reduce community-wide emissions in key areas such as buildings, energy, transportation, sustainable consumption and waste, natural systems and equitable decision making. As of Dec. 15, both strategies merged to create the TransformTO Net Zero Strategy.
There are those within the skilled trades that are concerned about its adoption. The Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON) is warning that this will put undue pressure on the building industry and significantly hamper efforts to produce much-needed housing.
“Speeding up the plan by 10 years will have a tremendous negative impact on developers and builders who are dealing with COVID-19, supply chain unpredictability, and productivity challenges,” said Richard Lyall, RESCON’s president. “Advancing the timelines beyond what was already approved by the City will only exacerbate an already difficult situation for the construction community.”
The association applauds the city council’s climate change efforts through the implementation of the Toronto Green Standard for new private and city-owned developments. They worry that unintended consequences and confusion will ensue if the city moves ahead and implements policies that differ from other levels of government.
The Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) applauds the newly adopted Strategy and hopes to work with the City in providing high-quality products. However, they are concerned that factors, such as the pandemic and the accelerated timeline, could create serious consequences moving forward.
“The global pandemic has severely impacted all aspects of the supply chain. With this in mind, accelerated timelines may cause unwanted consequences. Consequences such as low-quality products being dumped into the marketplace, products that are not designed to meet the Canadian climate, and of course installer readiness to design and install,” explains Dave Hughes, technical advisor of codes and standards at CIPH.
The Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) commends the City for taking bold action to reduce emissions and tackle climate change. However, they state that it must be done with a clear view of the potential consequences for consumers, including potentially increased costs, and potential confusion for the industries expected to deliver on those expectations, reports Martin Luymes, vice president of government and stakeholder relations at HRAI. “Among those expected to aid in the energy transition, the heating and cooling industry has much of the technology and know-how needed to meet these goals, but industry members will need time and resources to adapt if they are to deliver cost-effective solutions for their customers.”
Initially, the TransformTO plan counted on renewable electrical energy resources being readily available by 2050. The newly adopted plan features a new target of net zero GHG emissions community-wide by 2040, with a set of 2030 interim targets.
To reach the 2040 goal, several 2030 goals have been established under the newly adopted Strategy. This includes requirements for all new homes and buildings to be designed and built to have near-zero GHG emissions. Additionally, GHG emissions from existing buildings must be cut in half when compared to 2008 levels. Half of community-wide energy must come from renewables or low-carbon sources. Lastly, 25 per cent of commercial and industrial floor area will have to be connected to low carbon thermal energy sources.