Toronto’s future in C40

Cities matter. Spacing readers know that, but it should be argued more often in more places. The argument should be screamed from the rooftops at Parliament Hill and in Queens Park.  A cities environmental organization, C40, is doing exactly that, though Toronto’s prominence in the organization is now in question; David Miller has stepped down as Chair of C40 and passed the baton on to New York Mayor Bloomburg. With Mayor Miller moving on to other things, Mayor Rob Ford will receive an invitation to carry on the work Miller did with C40 now that he’s taken office. It is his prerogative to accept or refuse.

C40’s overarching goal is to reduce cities’ greenhouse emissions to climate change. They take the knowledge of city mayors from around the world and bring them together to share that knowledge on how to make their cities more sustainable, healthy, and livable. The role of the mayor is to implement sustainable policies within his or her city as far as is constitutionally possible. Those ideas and policies are developed in Climate Summits with other mayors, international workshops, and initiatives that other cities can learn from. Support and advice from partnered organizations such as the Clinton Foundation and ARUP have created platforms where mayors can start thinking about how to improve their cities.

Take New York and Toronto, for instance. Both of these are dense cities with similar climates and similar urban problems. In PlaNYC, New York’s environmental manifesto, transportation is one of the key elements put forth to address climate change and improve the quality of life in the city. Similarly, in Toronto’s Change is in the Air document, improvements in transportation and infrastructure are among the potential solutions to the challenges of climate change. C40 provides a space where New York and Toront an exchange ideas and inspire each other. Cities all over the world are doing great things, but are silos of innovation. Those silos, though, can be bridged with a conversation.

There are no obligations, financial or otherwise, to joining C40 – only the opportunity to share experiences and have conversations that will contribute to better cities. The C40 meetings are unique from other international meetings in one significant way: their primary goal is delivery of strategies to reduce greenhouse emissions, not to debate whether climate change exists. Climate change is very real for cities, which contribute significantly to greenhouse emissions and which will feel the effects of runaway climate change.  To have a group of political leaders come together and agree that something must be done is significant, to say the least.

The disappointments at COP15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, in regards to the “polluter pays” principle, are being addressed in C40. The Carbon Finance Capacity Building (CFCB) programme is designed to help emerging mega-cities access carbon financing and provide continuous onsite support. This is an important piece in terms of equity. The success of developed nations has often been on the backs of developing nations, and it is now our obligation to find ways to support their initiatives. Moreover, as cities in India and China grow larger and more modern, the earth’s capacity to mitigate additional pollutants and people may reach its capacity point.

Though its mayor is no longer the Chair, Toronto can continue to play a vital role in C40— if not for its own learning, than to share its learning as an alpha city with other cities that are still developing their environmental policies. Now we’ll just have to see if our new city council believes it as well.

Photo by Pavel Shiryaev

10 comments

  1. This was one example that RF & his team held up as part of the gravy train when he referred to it as “funding an environmental office in London, England”.

    Consider it another great idea dead in the water.

  2. The answer to the question of what role Toronto will now play in the C40 is a simple one. There will not be a role for Toronto in the C40. The name of our city may stay on the letterhead for a while but as with other international organizations, Toronto’s place in and amongst them will simply fade away.

    It is a shame really that after seven years of digging out from the international embarrassment of the early post-amalgamation years, as Toronto took its rightful place amongst world cities – that hard earned respect will now fade away through, at the least benign neglect and at worst a conscious policy of isolationism and disdain for the what we can bring to and learn from the rest of the world.

    It will now be up to the our civic organizations, the business, cultural, academic communities and individual citizens to tell Toronto’s story to the world. On the other hand Montreal and Vancouver should be pleased…

  3. Yes, cities can do and must do a lot about greenhouse gas emissions, and many of them are.
    However in Caronto, we’ve had some delusions about exactly how green we are and have been. On p. 13-19 of the Toronto Waterfront Scan and Environmental Improvement Strategy Study of c. 2005, the same year we were to meet that 20% reduction target of the Toronto Target, there was the inconvenient truth (or claim, at any rate) that our emissions were about 20% above! mere stabilization, and forget about including the Toronto Airport…
    Our progressives fought hard for the Front St. Extension, a huge roadworks that hadn’t bothered looking at transit options, and more recently, rebuilt a key 1km of Bloor St. without providing bike lanes, breaking both the Places to Grow Act and the Environmental Assessment Act, and our Bike Plan is quite a patchwork, and we’re unable to even put coloured paint down in bike lanes.
    The initial stages of Transit City are good, but with Mr. FFFord and his caronies on the TTC likely to try to $crew over the entire transit system with another phase of the costly Sheppard stubway, we need to attempt to get the majority of Councilllors against that Fordian agenda, including the removal of the car registration tax, which may be needed for such pinko things as contract cancellation fees, more police officers, a property tax freeze, debt reduction and road repairs.
    So we didn’t really deserve our green reputation within the C40 to begin with, and having us removed from it – one way or the other – would be a more honest place for Caronto the Carrupt.

  4. It’s too bad this wasn’t addressed at some point during the campaign (although maybe I just missed it), but the candidates should have addressed the issue of whether or not they actually believe in anthropogenic climate change. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that Rob Ford either doesn’t believe the climate is warming (snow in early December!) or thinks it’s because of sun spots or some other convenient excuse to do nothing. After all, you can’t expect a politician to enact policies if he doesn’t believe in the underlying rationale.

    So does anyone know – has Rob Ford indicated on the record that he is a climate change denier?

  5. Mckingford, he doesn’t need to be a climate change denier to be one in action. Observe the killing of Transit City. The long term environmental and health implications will be with Toronto for decades to come. Not to mention bike infrastructure, sidewalks, etc. etc.

  6. “There are no obligations, financial or otherwise, to joining C40 – only the opportunity to share experiences and have conversations that will contribute to better cities.”

    No financial obligations != no costs. Staff time, travel costs to C40 events etc. may not be contractually agreed but if C40 means anything there will be dollars spent. It would be helpful if some private sector cash could be found to persuade the city to retain the ties in a lower-tier fashion.

    I’m far more concerned about retaining Waterfront Toronto than C40. If we can’t create sustainable districts in our city which integrate transit from design stage what are we going to preach to other cities?

  7. This is a good article. Thanks for pointing out the issue.

    The NYC mayor is Bloomberg, not Bloomburg.

  8. Rob Ford won’t be joining C40, of that I am sure. Ford has zero interest in liasing with other mayors on climate change, thta’s way beyond his level of sophistication. Face it – he is a complete troglodyte, the man has never even heard of climate change. He is intrisically opposed everything even remotely progresssive. These four years are going to seem like four hundred years.

  9. Can someone else represent us? Councillors, for instance?

  10. Nice article. It makes sense that cities across the globe should put their heads together when it comes ot urban sustainability. We could learn alot from each other. Hopefully Ford doesn’t fail us on this one.

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