Greenhouse gas emissions rose 7% in Toronto and 5.2% across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) in 2018, with natural gas the major cause, a new report warns this week.
The findings prompted The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) to declare “code red” and call for a “much-needed reality check,” the Toronto Star reports. “The numbers show an upward trend in carbon emissions over the four years since [the conclusion of] Ontario’s coal phaseout,” the Star writes.
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“It is clear we are not on track to achieve the deep carbon reduction necessary to reach the 2030 and 2050 climate targets needed to curb dangerous climate change,” the report warned.
In an email alert, TAF says natural gas emissions grew 11% in 2018, with a 5% increase in electricity causing a “staggering” 57% increase in emissions “due to dirtier supply, mostly from U.S. fracked gas.” Transportation emissions rose slightly, with more vehicles travelling more kilometres.
“Carbon doesn’t lie,” the organization writes, and in this case “the results are raising alarm bells: emissions are slowly increasing from all regions and nearly all sources in the GTHA.”
In the city of Toronto, about 60% of emissions came from gas used in buildings of all kinds, the Star says.
Bryan Purcell, TAF’s vice-president of policy and programs, said the numbers point to the need to “move from making high-level commitments to implementing policies that will create actionable change.” He called for more “rigorous regulatory approaches” to reduce building energy use, adding that climate impacts are already affecting Torontonians’ daily lives—as Mayor John Tory acknowledged following widespread flooding in 2019 and 2020.
“We’re expecting to see more of this in the years ahead, with heat waves expecting to triple by 2050, which could also increase heat-related mortalities and morbidities,” Purcell said.
Tory’s response to the story was less regulatory and more…aspirational. “To date, building owners responsible for more than 300 million square feet have agreed to participate in this initiative,” he told the Star, referring to Toronto’s Green Will Initiative. “Working with the other governments, with industries and with the enthusiastic participation of the people of Toronto, we will meet our climate goals because it’s the right thing to do.”
Last month, Toronto city council cut its climate action budget and delayed its long-term emissions plan, citing financial pressures due to the pandemic.
“If it’s a climate emergency, then it’s got to be prioritized,” ClimateFast co-chair Lyn Adamson said at the time. “We can’t afford to lose a year, lose two years. We have to act now.”