Climate Change and the Toronto Municipal Elections

In 2009 Toronto’s City Council mandated a study on the risks and impacts of climate change. The consultants assumed that countries would meet their Kyoto/Copenhagen targets for lower carbon emissions. Lower emissions would limit global warming, thereby reducing the risks of damages caused by future extreme weather events.  Unfortunately, few countries haven taken significant steps to reduce emissions, and it is not likely that these targets will be met..

The World Meteorological Office warns that” concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged at a record-breaking speed in 2016 to the highest level in 800 000 years”.   As the Secretary General of the WMO stated:

“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement. . . Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet, “

Climatologists acknowledge the intensity of extreme weather events has increased. The Manchester Guardian commented: 

“The latest flooding is causing scientists and engineers to rethink their predictions that increases in flooding, driven by climate change, won’t really kick in until the 2030s; that now looks over-optimistic. A causal link to climate change cannot be proved for any of the recent events, but they are precisely the type of floods . . .  feared and forecast in 2004 – they’ve just arrived a couple of decades earlier than expected.”

Although the planet is not expected to reach dangerous temperatures until some years in the future, extreme weather events can cause astronomical damages now!  For instance, the damages caused by September’s Hurricane Florence are estimated to be between $38 and $50 billion.  Extreme weather events could cause damages much greater than the costs of mitigation. We should be acting to mitigate the potential losses now!

Defences against these foreseeable risks require cities to have a climate action plan. The Urban Climate Alliance (UCA) has reviewed Toronto’s plan, and in several critical respects concluded that the response is inadequate. The Toronto Environmental Alliance noted concluded Toronto’s plan is underfunded and characterized it as basically ineffectual.

Where do candidates in Toronto’s October election stand on this issue? UCA has a list of criteria that permit you to judge the performance of Toronto’s plan.  Here are the most important questions you can ask your Councillor:

  • Does the plan consider how to create benefits for community through climate action?
  • Has the municipality committed to adequate funding for full implementation of the climate action plan?
  • Can these commitments be tracked clearly in the annual municipal budget process?
  • Is emissions data regularly updated using a robust protocol?
  • Does your municipality’s plan include clear timelines for implementation?
  • Have these timelines been met so far?

UCA  agreed that Toronto’s action plan has clear time lines for implementation.  But these timelines have not been met so far!  Not a complete surprise considering that up to now climate change impacts have been modest compared to the disasters what will happen later in the century.

Ask if your Councillor accepts the UCA assessment.  If your Councillor rejects the UCA assessment, what is the basis for this rejection?  If the problem is a lack of  money, what steps does your Councillor  propose to fund the necessary measures?  Send us the reply to your inquiry  so we can publish it online.

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