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NEWS: ARA climate plan hits home (Dec. 2019)

December 9th, 2019 · No Comments

TransformTO consultation held to discuss city’s climate plan

Teri Chu of the ARA has launched Plate Share, a free dining-ware program for local parties. KHYRSTEN MIERAS/GLEANER NEWS

By Khyrsten Mieras

The City of Toronto and the Annex Residents’ Association’s (ARA) Parks, Trees and Environment Committee held the latest TransformTO community consultation at the Bata Shoe Museum on November 4.

Along with local communities, the city is holding several public conversations this fall to discuss what actions need to be taken to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Toronto. The Annex consultation gave its residents the opportunity to share their ideas for environmental strategies and ways to make the city greener.

The event was presented by Terri Chu, the chair of the Parks Committee, and Sarah Rodrigues, a senior environmental planner from the city’s Environment and Energy division. It was followed by a conversation with community members to discuss TransformTO, what they like and dislike about it, and suggestions to improve it.

 Adopted in 2017, TransformTO is the city’s climate action strategy. The plan sets out long-term, low-carbon goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 while still benefiting the quality of life for residents. Currently, the city is preparing a TransformTO implementation plan for steps it should take by 2023 to further reduce its emissions.

“The City of Toronto has already faced the impacts of climate change through extreme weather,” said Rodrigues. “So, it’s an important conversation to understand how we can reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change but also realize how we can include co-benefits: how we can advance social equity, improve health, [and] support the creation of local jobs while we reduce emissions.”

The ARA’s Parks, Trees and Environment Committee, formerly the Parks, Trees Committee, was recently renamed to highlight its new focus on the environment. 

The volunteer committee is involved in several environmental programs that benefit the Annex community. One of its main projects is a tree replacement effort, which will introduce a subsidized tree replacement program in 2020. It has also launched Plate Share, a free dining-ware lending program for parties that reduces single use plastics in the community.

“We try to reduce the GHG emissions on a local level and we do what we can within the community to try to tackle other challenges like flood resiliency, air pollution, and so on,” said Chu. 

Community members in attendance at the Annex consultation meeting voiced their concerns about the city’s lack of environmental action and seeming lack of urgency to move forward. With the city’s declaration of a climate emergency in October 2019, members agreed that Toronto needs to do more to prevent irreparable damage in the future.

“I think the city has a long way to go. I would really like to know what’s implementable now versus what the dreams are and what people will accept,” said Chu. “It’s ambitious in some ways but not enough in others and the bottom line is we really need to get people on board and be willing to adapt their lifestyles. Pretending that we can do it with substitutions is not going to cut it.”

Community members offered many suggestions to help the city improve its environmental framework for transportation: lower or free transit costs, higher parking costs, improved sidewalks, a specific plan to reduce cars, and prioritizing pedestrians, bikers, and public transit ahead of roads.

For other areas of the environment, members called for stronger grass roots education, especially in schools and through city-wide advertisements. They also recommended carbon tax rationing at individual and community levels, mandatory environmental standards, stronger leadership from Mayor John Tory, and a war cabinet to enforce quick action. These climate conversations will continue at more community consultations taking part across the city in November to shape TransformTO with the help of local residents. The final TransformTO implementation plan for 2021 to 2023 will be presented to council early next year.


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