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FOCUS: Saxe: Net-zero is possible (April 2023)

August 8th, 2023 · No Comments

Town hall stresses carbon-emission accountability

By Fox Oliver

On April 20, Dianne Saxe (Ward 11, University-Rosedale) spoke to her constituents about carbon budgets, the expansion of sustainable vehicle fleets, and support for cyclists—her vision for the future of Toronto and what is possible for the city.

“For a long time [I’ve been pushing] to treat climate emissions seriously, like we treat money,” said Saxe. 

She explained that the kind of thinking required to balance a cheque book is the same that is required to manage carbon emissions; we must limit our emissions with the same seriousness that we limit our spending. The goal, she said, is to reach net-zero emissions by balancing the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere with the amount being removed from the atmosphere.

The City of Toronto plans to “demonstrate carbon accountability locally and globally by establishing a carbon budget for its own operations and the community as a whole.” Toronto’s first climate budget will likely take effect in 2024, contingent on the city’s and future mayor’s support. If the city creates and remains within a specific carbon budget, it will reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2040.

Saxe says she will remain vigilant to make sure the city does not “greenwash” when striving for net-zero emissions.

“The Sustainable Fleets Plan is an area of success, and the staff [working in the field]  are some of the most enthusiastic [in the city],” said Saxe. The plan builds on the city’s earlier Green Fleet Plan which was implemented in 2008. The goal is to transition vehicles in the city’s fleet (including TTC and emergency vehicles) into low-carbon vehicles for the purpose of reducing overall emissions.

Saxe says that large diesel engines from 2008 and earlier disproportionately affect the climate and people’s health as they were purchased before the city’s Sustainable Fleets Plan. 

There are at least 160 major diesel engine vehicles from before 2008 in the city’s fleet, which Saxe wants replaced.

Thirty pumper fire trucks with diesel engines, purchased in 2008, need to be replaced as these vehicles are uninsurable after 15 years of use. Though the city has designed a fully electric version of these fire trucks, they are still undergoing testing, as the electric motors must be capable of both moving the truck and pumping the water. 

“[It is] too late to be buying diesel anything,” said Saxe, “[but] to my enormous frustration, we are going to have to approve the buying of 30 new diesel trucks.” These vehicles will be replaced by electric ones after their 15-year insurable window is over, which will still be before the 2040 net-zero emission deadline.

Bikes are also being set up for city staff as an environmentally conscious alternative to cars. Bike couriers are becoming more popular, and due to their fast delivery speed compared to vehicles, they are now supported by Uber. Saxe is motioning to increase fines for blocking bike lanes and wants to expand bike, e-bike, and car sharing infrastructure. 

Saxe is pushing for the requirement that bike couriers wear an identifier while working. This motion is meant to disincentivize bike couriers from speeding on sidewalks or committing road crimes. The identification is not meant to act as a licence to only permit certain people to work as couriers, but rather to hold dangerous couriers accountable. Uber is planning to add more warnings to drivers, bikers, and passengers in streets with bike lanes to ensure they know how to act safely on the road.

Community members asked for Saxe’s response to the Therme Group’s application to construct a spa on a 12-acre plot of Toronto’s waterfront where Ontario Place used to be. “I think it’s an outrageous use of public space on the lake shore,” responded Saxe.

Currently, the city is working to open park facilities such as washrooms and water fountains early. Many residents’ associations and other community groups are working hard to organize litter pick-ups in the upcoming weeks as the city warms up.

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