John Tory says it's time for Toronto to declare a climate emergency

Toronto is set to join more than 800 local governments around the world in declaring a climate emergency. Environmental groups say it's a good start, but clear commitments are still needed.

Toronto has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050

Toronto Mayor John Tory is pushing for the move, though it will have to be approved by city council. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Toronto is set to join more than 800 local governments around the world in declaring a climate emergency.

Mayor John Tory announced the plan Friday morning, which will have to be adopted by city council at its next meeting on Oct. 2.

"Climate change and global warming poses a major risk to our city's residents and businesses," Tory said in a news release.

"This emergency declaration serves to join cities across the world in tackling climate change, frame the impact of climate change on our residents and businesses, and enhance Toronto's commitment to a net zero carbon future."

While the emergency declaration is largely symbolic and includes no new pledges for additional programs or initiatives, Tory pointed to the city's recent efforts to combat climate change.

Toronto has been hit hard by flooding for two straight years. In 2017, pictured, large swaths of the Toronto Islands were inundated with floodwater from Lake Ontario. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

He added that the declaration will serve the purpose of "naming, framing and deepening" Toronto's commitment to protecting the city from the effects of climate change.

Tell us what you think!

Help shape the future of CBC article pages by taking a quick survey.

New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Barcelona, Sydney, Montreal and Vancouver are among the more than 800 cities to have already declared a climate emergency.

Words have to be backed up with action, Greenpeace says

A group of 47 local environmental and civic organizations have called on city council to adopt the plan, but said in an open letter that the declaration will have to be followed by clear commitments to tackle climate change.

Environmental activists hold signs as they take part in the protest calling for action on climate change in Nairobi, Kenya on Sept. 20. (Baz Ratner/Reuters)

"We are looking for hard evidence that our Mayor and City Councillors are committed to making real progress during this council term," wrote Toronto Environmental Alliance Executive Director Emmay Mah in a release. 

"People of all ages, including children and youth, are demanding urgent and meaningful climate action here in Toronto."

Greenpeace Canada, another of the 47 organizations, echoed that call.

"Words are lovely but only truly matter when backed by deeds," said energy strategist Keith Stewart.

The announcement also drew criticism from former mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat, who called out the city for its failure to act on several climate-related issues.

Tory's announcement comes on the same day that tens of thousands of students around the world protested inaction against climate change.

Toronto's primary climate change strategy, called TransformTO, calls for an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, based on 1990 levels.