GTHA carbon emissions are on track to return to pre-pandemic levels, the report warns

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is on track to reach pre-pandemic levels of carbon emissions, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The report by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF), which describes itself on its website as “a regional climate agency investing in low-carbon solutions,” says the decline in emissions at the height of the pandemic lockdowns is now being of inversion.

Julia Langer, CEO of TAF, told CBC Toronto that the increase is a disappointing trend.

“The dramatic reductions in emissions we’ve seen from working from home and off-road cars are starting to make a comeback,” he said.

“We are going in the wrong direction.”

According to the report, GTHA carbon emissions decreased by 13.4% in 2020. The researchers looked at data from Toronto, Hamilton, Halton, Peel, York and Durham and found that emissions in the region increased by 4. 5% (2.2 million tons). in 2021.

“The tools are there”

Compared to data from previous years, the report found that little progress has been made in the GTHA since 2015. The TAF said a 6% annualized reduction is needed to meet most cities’ emissions goals by 2030.

The report also provides a roadmap for addressing the emissions problem, Langer said.

“It’s challenging, but it’s possible,” he said. “The tools are there”.

According to the report, buildings (44%), transport (31%) and industry (20%) are responsible for the majority of emissions in 2021. Waste and agriculture are responsible for the remaining 4%.

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Julia Langer is CEO of The Atmospheric Fund.

The research also found that electricity emissions increased by 28%, attributed to the growing use of natural gas-fired generating plants.

Sarah Buchanan, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, told CBC Toronto that much of Toronto’s natural gas use comes from buildings.

Constructing new green buildings and upgrading existing buildings is a huge growth opportunity for the city, he said.

“It will take a lot of work to renovate every building in Toronto and to make sure that new buildings are built to a much higher standard,” Buchanan said.

“But that job creates huge, huge amounts of job opportunities.”

A new report from The Atmospheric Fund says carbon emissions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area are returning to pre-pandemic levels. The report names buildings and transportation as the two main contributing factors. (Nhan Ng/The atmospheric background)

Future Majority, a non-profit organization working to address climate change and other issues impacting youth, also wants to see more emphasis on green building developments.

“What green development standards essentially do is present a clear and effective way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our communities,” Meshali Awan, a spokesperson for Future Majority, told CBC Toronto.

Many cities within the GTHA have developed a version of a green development standard.

But the province’s new housing legislation, Bill 23, threatens progress made in developing these standards, Awan said.

“What young people are really advocating for is an amendment to the bill so that we can get back on track to meet our climate goals over the next few years,” he said.

As newly elected city councils begin new terms on Tuesday, Awan wants to encourage citizens to express concern about rising emissions, Bill 23 and the climate crisis in general.

Higher emissions are health concerns

In response to the report, environmental experts also noted that high carbon emissions can be harmful to people’s health.

“We are already feeling the negative impact of carbon emissions in Toronto,” Buchanan said. “Many people have noticed that the heatwaves are getting more intense in Toronto and the flooding is getting more intense as well.”

A map of Greater Toronto and the Hamilton area shows emissions by jurisdiction with Hamilton at 10.2 megatonnes, Halton at 4.3 megatonnes, Peel at 10.5 megatonnes, York at 6.9 megatonnes, Toronto at 13.5 megatonnes and Durham at 5.7 megatonnes.
This map from The Atmospheric Fund report breaks down carbon emissions in GTHA by municipality. ‘Mt’ indicates how many megatonnes (1 million tonnes) of emissions were produced in 2021. (The atmospheric background)

These conditions, especially heat waves, can have devastating effects on the health of residents, he said.

Dr Samantha Green, a family physician and board member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, agrees.

“Carbon emissions are also proxies for air pollution,” he told CBC Toronto.

“We often think of asthma and respiratory conditions, but air pollution also causes heart attacks, strokes and other vascular problems, worsens diabetes, can have adverse effects on pregnancy, has been linked to the development of Alzheimer’s dementia, and is also linked to various forms of cancer.

Langer noted that the report also includes some of the most effective policies and programs that are helping to reduce emissions.

Overall, he said, the report should serve as a briefing note for local governments and industry decision makers, telling them how to act and how fast they need to do it.

“The longer we wait, the harder it gets and the more expensive it gets.”

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