Five ways Toronto can get out from under the carbon cloud

1. Push local power The renewables revolution has.

1. Push local power

The renewables revolution has arrived. In Ontario, you can put solar panels on your roof and sell that power right to the grid.

But if Toronto is already off to a good start generating renewable electricity with rooftop photovoltaics, we are missing out on renewable heat. The potential is massive in Ontario for large institutions like hospitals to build combined heat and power projects – mini power plants to make heat and electricity and provide reliable power that can withstand outages and natural disasters.

Toronto could lead the way to cutting carbon.


2. Plug into transportation’s future

Let’s embrace electric vehicles. We can expect cars to be here for some time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t quit burning oil.

Electric vehicles have at last fully arrived. Going electric car could cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 90 per cent. It’s better for your wallet, too. Charging an electric car costs one-sixth as much as filling it with gas.

This shift is important for more than car owners. There are now excellent electric and hybrid options for taxis, delivery vans and even garbage trucks.

Toronto needs to plug into charging infrastructure and make the switch. In a few decades our kids will wonder why it took so long.


3. Build better

Wasteful buildings are responsible for more than half of all Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. For starters, we could learn from New York City, which just a few years ago launched a program requiring building owners to track and report on their energy use to help them make improvements.


4. Follow Montreal’s lead

While cycling culture has taken off, commuting by bicycle remains unacceptably risky and nerve-racking. We could easily triple the number of bikes if riding were made safe enough for your grandma on major streets, as in modern cities like Copenhagen.

Toronto should follow Montreal’s lead and build a functional integrated network of protected bike lanes. Montreal’s 70 kilometres of bike lanes make it safe, relaxing and fast for cyclists to get around while substantially cutting gridlock.


5. Invest in priority public transit

Seems obvious to say Toronto needs cheaper, faster transit options. Only when transit works well are people happy to hang up their car keys.

Unfortunately, many neighbourhoods still lack acceptable transit options, and those that have them are increasingly faced with delays and overcrowding. While everyone agrees new transit was needed yesterday, the debate on how to pay for it is still stuck in idle. Our roads are almost entirely publicly subsidized, yet people balk at funding far more efficient transit options with taxes. It’s time to end that double standard and invest.

Adam Scott is climate change and energy campaigner with Environmental Defence.

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