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Less Talk, More Action on Climate, Ex-Toronto Mayor Urges

As Toronto city councillors prepare to debate a revised climate plan later this month, former mayor David Miller is urging them to follow the lead of a number of cities around the world and commit to turning pledges into action.

As too many national governments, including Canada’s, continue to talk big but walk small on climate action, cities are stepping up, writes Miller, now director of international diplomacy for C40 Cities, in a recent op ed for the Toronto Star. And that matters, he adds, since cities create about 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

For Toronto, that means adopting a plan to ensure that stepping up leads somewhere, and quickly.

So far, too much of the TransformTO Net Zero report directs staff to “report back,” Miller writes, in what he calls a “recipe for delay and inaction.” That means it’ll be up to councillors to show leadership and translate the pledges in the report “into immediate action.”

The op ed points to cities around the world whose recent experience can help Toronto accelerate its net-zero transformation.

Like Oslo, Toronto must adopt a climate budget, Miller writes. “In the same way that every city action requires a financial analysis, require a carbon analysis and budget. There is still time to do this for 2022—2023 at the latest.”

Like Vancouver, Toronto must act now to “require that all new multi-storey buildings be built to net zero standards.”

To address the whopping 40% of emissions that come from existing buildings—the “biggest single source of carbon pollution” in Toronto, notes Miller—the city could follow in the footsteps of New York City and “mandate dramatic energy reductions” from the sector.

And like Shenzhen, China, Toronto could push harder to electrify transportation, from transit and delivery vehicles to taxis and ride-shares. While Toronto proudly touted its recent purchase of a couple of dozen electric buses, Miller notes, “Shenzhen has over 16,000.”

Transit is also an area where Toronto needs to stop talking and get down to building, Miller stresses. “We’ve known the outlines of the network we need for years, and council adopted a comprehensive plan 14 years ago, which has stood the test of time,” he says. “Time to make it happen.”

Given the essential connection between walkability and the well-being of local small businesses, Miller also urges the city to prioritize mid-rise developments along rapid transit lines.