Letter to Toronto City Councillors

Dear Councillor,

We are grateful for the Toronto City Council’s long track record of championing a sustainable future for Toronto, and for the recent vote by Council to look into divesting the City’s $5 billion reserve funds from fossil fuels, and instead investing in clean energy.

We have recently learned that the Parks and Environment Committee is reopening the conversation about the city’s emissions targets, and we are writing to request your support for their motion to express concern over recent Provincial cuts to programs that reduce greenhouse gases and the withdrawal from national, regional and international agreements to reduce greenhouse gases. In addition we would further propose a new, simple target that would make Toronto a world leader in responding to the climate crisis -- reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2025.

As you know, the Parks and Environment Committee and City Council unanimously adopted Report #2 of TransformTO which included the new emissions reduction target of 65% by 2030 and reaffirmed the emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050. However, the current targets, while a good start, don’t offer Toronto’s residents nearly enough protection from the dangers of climate change -- which threaten our city, our province, and all life on Earth.

Toronto has recently had two major storms worsened by the climate crisis: one in the summer and another in the winter of 2013. More recently, climate change contributed to the flooding of Toronto Island in 2017, and several severe wind, ice and rain storms in 2018. The City’s own Staff Reports estimated damages caused by the 2013 and 2017 storms at approximately $180 million. The Insurance Board of Canada estimates the cost for insured damages for severe wind and rain storms in 2018 reached $696 million. These figures do not include millions of dollars in repair costs that were not covered by insurance, which were borne by individual property owners. Nor do they include the immeasurable impact to Centre Island’s residents and financial losses to businesses and services shut down during their busy summer months. The billion-dollar impact of climate change in Toronto is just the tip of the iceberg, compared to the climate disasters that are well underway in many parts of the world.

The climate catastrophe is here, and is poised to get much worse in the coming years. Recent science reveals that the Paris Accord emissions targets, to which individual countries have committed, actually put the Earth on track for a catastrophic 3 to 4 degrees of warming. This is because of the ​recently discovered “dimming” ​effect of aerosol pollution, which is currently delaying up to a whole degree of additional warming​, according to ​a study published in January in ​Geophysical Research Letters.

On an Earth that has already warmed more than one degree, we are now dangerously approaching the 2 degree mark, with very little of our carbon budget left. To have a fighting chance of staving off even worse disasters, ​climate experts believe a worldwide phase out of fossil fuels between 2025 and 2030 is necessary.​ As ​illustrated below​, to maintain a safe climate, and ​fulfill our part of the Paris Accord​ of keeping temperature increases “well under 2 degrees” (we have already surpassed our chance at 1.5 degrees) we need to bring emissions to net zero (sometime between 2025 to 2030). We are convinced that as the work of TransformTO has already begun, and gains momentum, with the necessary budget allocations, this goal is certainly achievable.

At the time of writing, we are in the midst of a sweltering heat wave of historic proportions with 70 deaths in Quebec attributed to the soaring temperatures, bringing urgent warnings by the medical community​ (pdf). With more catastrophes looming, Toronto has the opportunity to mount a clear response -- transitioning all sectors of the city’s economy to zero emissions by 2025. A similar, rapid shift to zero emissions has already been launched in Berkeley, California, and is being considered by Los Angeles as well. We urge Toronto, as one of the C40 cities, to do the same, and to become a world leader in the struggle to restore a safe climate for our own and future generations.

We look to you for your support for this strengthened ambition. Please let us know we can count on your support.

For further information, contact us at ​contact@climateactionnow.ca

Respectfully,
Climate Action Now!
MobilizeTO
Pax Christi Toronto
The Leap
Toronto350.org