Buildings, transportation, and industry are all contributing to a rise in emissions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area (GTHA) that is moving the region farther from meeting its emission reduction targets, The Atmospheric Fund warns in a new report.
“The dramatic emission reduction that we saw due to working from home and the cars off the road is starting to come back,” said TAF CEO Julia Langer.”We’re going in the wrong direction.”
The report shows that emissions dropped by 13.4% in 2020, at the start of the pandemic, but then rose 4.5% to a total of 51.2 million tonnes across all sectors in the GTHA from 2020 to 2021. The analysis attributes 44% of the emissions to buildings, 31% to transportation, and 20% to industry, with waste and agriculture contributing the remaining 4%. The increase reverses the emissions decline that coincided with the pandemic, CBC says.
The GTHA accounts for 42% of Ontario’s overall emissions. As part of its own net-zero strategy, the City of Toronto has set out to reduce emissions [pdf] 65% from 1990 levels by 2030.
The region needs to cut emissions 8% per year to reach its target. TAF says there has been minimal progress in that direction since 2015, and lays out a roadmap to get back on track. Key action items for all levels of government include clean electricity regulations, accelerated deployment of zero-emission vehicles by households and fleets, and energy-efficient buildings.
Although the roadmap is ambitious, it also presents a huge opportunity for the city’s economic growth.
“It’s going to take a lot of work to retrofit every building in Toronto and to make sure new buildings are built to much higher standards,” said Sarah Buchanan, campaign director at the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “But that work creates huge, huge amounts of job opportunities.”
Cutting emissions in the GTHA is also an important step for public health, with high carbon emissions boosting air pollution while increasing the incidence of heat waves associated with global warming. Experts say the report should prompt local and provincial governments to take action
“The longer we wait, the harder it gets and the more expensive it gets,” Langer said.