Toronto

GTA mayors say cities must lead fight against climate change in age of Trump

After U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the mayors of Toronto and Mississauga say cities can and must pick up the slack.

John Tory, Bonnie Crombie say public transit, local emission reduction plans are key tools

Toronto mayor John Tory and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie say rapid transit is critical in the fight against climate change. (David Donnelly/CBC)

After U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the mayors of Toronto and Mississauga say cities can and must pick up the slack.

In a joint interview on Metro Morning, John Tory and Bonnie Crombie pointed to public transit and local emission reduction plans as powerful tools in the fight against climate change.

The mayors said on Monday that cities must act given their outsized emission output.

Between 70 and 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from cities, according to former Toronto mayor David Miller, who is now the president and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada.

"It's the right thing to do to clean up our own city, leaving aside whatever Mr. Trump and other people choose to do," Tory said.

Public transit critical

Tory highlighted the city's 15 year transit plan as the most powerful measure to reverse the damage caused by climate change. The plan includes five proposed projects, though some have not yet secured funding.

"If you look at the major projects that we're going to undertake that are going to result in greenhouse gas emission reductions, it's building public transportation," he said, adding that cars contribute to about half of a city's emissions.

Crombie agreed, saying a more robust public transit network could dramatically reduce emissions.

"One of the key initiatives that cities can undertake is to build out their public transit networks," Crombie said. "John [Tory] is focused on that and I am as well."

Building rapid transit is a powerful tool available to cities, say Tory and Crombie. (Metrolinx)

In Mississauga, a 20 kilometre light rail transit project running on Hurontario Street is due to begin construction in 2018 and open in 2022, linking Mississauga and Brampton.

Crombie says every train that runs on the line will take 200 cars off the road. She is also calling on Metrolinx to offer all day two-way GO Train service on the Milton line.

Local climate plans

With the efficacy of the Paris accord now in jeopardy without the U.S., Tory and Crombie said smaller, local emissions plans are needed.

Mississauga has already unveiled a five-year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one per cent annually.

The stated goal of the Paris accord is to keep the global average temperature "well below" two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Mississauga has also introduced a stormwater levee in an effort to build up the infrastructure needed to handle increasingly unpredictable weather and rainfall.

"There's a lot of infrastructure that people don't see that needs to be addressed," Crombie said.

The levee and larger plan are all part of the city's "mitigation and adaptation" approach, she said.

In Toronto, city staff have created a sweeping climate change plan dubbed TransformTO, which is seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

TransformTO calls for the construction of pedestrian-friendly streets, electric transit and solar energy, among many other mitigation strategies.

But a funding model for the plan has not yet been approved. City council is scheduled to vote on the latest TransformTO report in July.

About the Author

Nick Boisvert

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Nick Boisvert is a reporter and one-man band video journalist based in Toronto, covering general news, local politics and social justice. Outside work, Nick enjoys cooking, following the NBA and listing things in threes.