Road tolls, hybrid taxis, retrofits of buildings!

From today’s Toronto Star [ read full article ]:

Tolls on Toronto-area highways, a ban on gas-powered lawnmowers and leaf blowers, a requirement for hybrid taxis and a massive retrofit of city buildings are all needed to slash greenhouse gas emissions in Canada’s biggest city, according to a Toronto city report.

The report, issued late yesterday, calls for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 6 per cent within five years; 30 per cent by 2020; and 80 per cent by 2050. It also asks council to find ways to reduce smog-causing pollutants by one-fifth over the next five years.

“This will change everything about the way Torontonians live,” Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park), vice-chair of the parks and environment committee and a longtime environmentalist, said of the report.

But some of the provisions in the report, part of an environmental agenda launched after Mayor David Miller campaigned in the fall election to green the city, are likely to become contentious.

Miller told reporters he’s not committed to tolls and that any such fees would have to be GTA-wide.

“The recommendation is simply to begin work along with the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority to consider it,” he told members of the media at city hall yesterday.

“But I’ve said for the last year or so that if we’re going to entertain the idea of road pricing, it would have to be to fund public transit, so car drivers know that what they’re getting in exchange for paying a bit more is better public transit, so there will be fewer cars on the road.”

Reports are just that: reports. But they put in place plans for action which the public can hold city hall accountable for. So when I read the the above article in the Star today I felt both joy and cynicism.

The sudden greening of the public’s conscience is a wonderful thing for enviro movement and those concerned with the Earth’s well-being. But whenever a massive shift in awareness happens we have to be aware that a lot of people and businesses will only pay lip service; the term most environment advocates use is “green washing.” We can see how the corporate sector is shifting its marketing approach — it feels like every product and service is now offering a green alternative — but we know, if not factually but instinctively, that not all of them are true green believers.

The elements under consideration in the City’s climate change plan is exactly what I want to see: road tolls, hybrid taxis, retrofits of old buildings — a comprehensive approach to a very serious problem. These things can be implemented without it hurting our economy while at the same time raising the quality of life in the city. But as often happens with government reports, it can get lost, or forgotten, and then our excitement and expectations are dashed. But if this report is not addressed with the dedication it desperately deserves, we will not only be disappointed but also have an entire city and region in poor health.

The last thing we need is another let-down from our governments on what I believe is the defining struggle of western society. I’m not trying to be melodramatic, but we cannot be discouraged by the enormity of the impact climate change will have on our city, country and planet. The longer we wait, the worse our city will end up.

13 comments

  1. Has anyone ever thought of hybrid garbage trucks, they are the real environmental offenders.

  2. Has anyone ever thought of hybrid garbage trucks, they are the real environmental offenders.

  3. Has anyone ever thought of using hybrid garbage trucks?, garbage trucks are the real environmental offenders. Sorry for my other posts.

  4. I’ve been bugged about climate change for a solid decade.
    There are three salient issues that are quite within the City’s purview to act upon but they persist in neglecting them (politricks, I guess):
    – exploring transit options to the Front St. Extension
    – squeezing cars a bit alongside the Bloor/Danforth subway to create a bikeway eg. takethetooker
    – stopping urban oil spills by retaining more solid old buildings. There’s a lot of energy stored in our buildings and materials of a city – and we waste it all too readily.
    I also doubt that there will be an accurate picture of TO’s emission profile, which I’ve seen at 20% above mere stabilization, the exact opposite of the Toronto Target at the Target date, and nowhere near where we have to be.
    The transport sector needs the most attention, but the proposed fixes aren’t as promising/effective as they must be.

  5. One issue that I have started to notice and that the City really has no policy on is wood burning stoves. I have noticed that many lofts, like the Wallace Station Lofts advertise having wood burning stoves. To me this is nuts. Aybody have any thoughts on this ?

  6. Legislating against wood burning stoves would probably also require fireplaces to be part of it, which would certainly ignite (ahem) a backlash.

    No idea about the actual facts here, but what impact does burning some wood have compared to cars and the usual polluting suspects?

    And people could also make the argument that in times of crisis (like the Montreal ice storm) a wood burning stove could be a survival issue. Maybe.

  7. The City did studies to determine what the minimal standard would be in terms of what wood stoves/gas stoves could put out. These studies also stated the obvious, that gas inserts were cleaner than wood stoves. It had a lot to do with the amount of particles that could enter the air.I believe there are already limitations on some outdoor stoves, although that is a safety issue. Given the number of smog days and global warming in general, probably everything will will eventually be put on the table. Burning wood may give way to gas inserts as the acceptable (and easier) choice. Evenings can be just as romantic using gas as wood.

  8. Dude, flicking the switch hardly compares to the romantic foreplay of building the fire — showing off your boy/girl scout skills for the significant other.

  9. Well there is also a lot of romance and mythology about cars as well and we know where that got us. I would flick a switch to help clean the air anytime. Scout have other skills as well.

  10. scott, I went to see a wallace station unit the other day. The fireplace looks like an old wood burning stove, but it is gas.

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