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FORUM: Tackling the climate crisis at a city level (Dec. 2021)

December 17th, 2021 · No Comments

All levels of government must be engaged in a solution

By Mike Layton

Years ago, I moved a motion asking the city to begin its work to tackle climate change and the request for this report became TransformTO. The first report was received in 2016 with regular report-backs scheduled in the years ahead, but never have the recommendations been finalized into a plan to tackle the climate crisis until now. Finally, after two years of delays due to the pandemic and other issues with finalizing the recommendations, a plan has been put forward to promote the end of surplus carbon emissions in Toronto, ten years sooner than originally proposed. 

This is a critical moment in Toronto’s history. This month the city released TransformTO – Critical Steps for Net Zero by 2040. City Council will debate and vote on new climate targets and actions for the first time in years. 

We are facing this vote at a time when what the climate crisis means for real people’s lives could not be clearer. The whole country is watching as residents in British Columbia grapple with the impact of devastating floods. This past summer we saw record breaking heat and wildfires. It is clear we are facing an emergency and we need to act like it.

The targets set out in the report are the right ones and I am proud that our city is making a firm commitment to net zero emissions by 2040 – this is something that I helped fight for, alongside many of my residents and those involved in climate policy, when we passed our climate emergency motion in 2019. There have been other successes along the way as well, including the introduction of a climate lens on all capital budget decisions moving forward, and a stronger dedication to building and investing in alternative forms of transit to support our growing city in a sustainable way.

However, what is clear when looking at TransformTO and the report before council this month, is that we are lacking many of the specific actions needed to reach these targets. It is like heading on a road trip, but having big pieces of the map missing. This worries me greatly.

It is not too late. Toronto can still get it right and show bold leadership on climate change. We can learn from cities like Vancouver who have passed detailed and ambitious plans this year and from the many dedicated, smart and ambitious climate scientists and environmental organizations who are calling for faster action. We can make the realistic, and incredibly necessary changes we need so that when this comes to city council in December, I can vote knowing that I am doing everything in my power to build a better world for my daughters and everyone else who will outlive the politicians and leaders who will be deciding the world’s fate for them.

I will be moving motions to fill in the pieces of the map with strong positions and policies that reflect the urgency to change and support efforts to accelerate our progress as quickly as possible. Further, the budget debate will occur in the new year and this is where we need to show that our commitment to TransformTO goes beyond press releases and pretty images. We need to make decisions in our budget to reflect our policies and begin immediate work to fight the climate crisis.

Mike Layton is the city councillor for Ward 11, University—Rosedale.


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