Mayor John Tory is pulling together major commercial landowners in the city to form a new initiative aimed at reducing energy consumption and emissions as part of a larger effort to address climate change, less than a week after thousands of people took to the streets to demand immediate political action on the file.
Tory said Wednesday the new initiative, dubbed Green Will, brings together universities, hospitals and the city, among other commercial landowners, all representing some 300 million square feet of space. The plan is to set five-year targets to reduce energy consumption, and thereby greenhouse gas emissions, from those buildings, which he said “is the single biggest source in Toronto.”
The announcement also comes hours before Tory will ask city council to join more than 800 local governments around the world and declare a climate emergency.
Tory will unveil further details about the Green Will initiative later Wednesday morning, but made the case for action on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
“I think a lot of people understand that this wasn’t a problem that arose overnight and so it’s not a problem that’s going to go away overnight,” Tory told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.
Smaller landowners should also consider signing on, he said. He also discussed the need for individuals to look at how they can change their behaviour to help reduce emissions.
Council to review emissions targets
Tory is also asking city staff to explore mechanisms through which the city can finance climate action in the 2021 budget and to offer advice for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by the year 2050.
“We should be redoubling our own efforts to make sure we make whatever contribution we can to actually dealing with it here,” Tory said.
The mayor added that he is counting on other levels of government, particularly the federal government, to help the city fund climate initiatives. When asked if he would raise taxes or set up a dedicated funding stream for climate causes, Tory said if staff recommend such a move, he “wouldn’t reject that out of hand.”
But he appeared to rule out revitalizing the vehicle registration tax, which was scrapped by previous mayor, Rob Ford.
“I think unfortunately that was demonized by a previous administration and I’m just not sure that is something I will be in any rush at all to bring back forward because it’s so polarizing among the people,” Tory said.