Since Canada's nowhere near its goals for the Kyoto Protocol, it seems natural to assume that smoggy Toronto is a microcosm of the problematic bigger picture. So how does our municipality stack up?
Some say terrific, though others warn we're stuck in a 1998 info warp.
"If you're looking for a level of government that's been in the lead, it's municipalities," says Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada.
May emphasizes that it's the feds who aren't pulling their weight. "Natural Resources tried to undermine Kyoto commitments while Environment Canada was trying to deliver on them," she says. Meanwhile, according to May, T.O.'s "already met its Kyoto target [20 per cent greenhouse gas reduction]. It's been a leader because of the creation of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF)."
Cities tend to do better because it's in their best interests financially. More efficient street lighting and methane capture (taking methane from garbage and reprocessing it as energy) in the 90s have saved millions for municipalities, according to a report from the UK-based Climate Group.
What's troublesome is that all the hard figures are from 1998 and earlier. After that it's all speculation, so claims that Toronto has already achieved a 20 per cent greenhouse gas reduction can't actually be confirmed.
Philip Jessup, exec director of TAF, is less generous than May. "We're nowhere near 20 per cent. I'd say at best we're about a third of the way there." Jessup agrees that T.O. isn't slacking, but it's also not doing as well as cities like Berlin and Copenhagen, where there are better federal incentives.
Toronto does have one wind turbine, plans for major solar projects and hopes for a hydrogen village, but, as Jessup puts it, "We're so far behind in areas like that." Germany's solar installations last year generated 250 megawatts of power, while Canada's racked up a grand total of 2 or 3. If the Exhibition Place solar project goes through, it will produce 1.5 megawatts - big on the North American scale but far behind European efforts.
Still, the city has invested $20 million in the last year to increase energy efficiency in its buildings and has just completed the Deep Lake Water Cooling Project, which could power 100 office towers next summer.
Depending on how jaded you are, you can say Toronto is doing well or not doing enough. As for facts, we're stuck in 1998 for now. Jessup hopes to publish a report soon. Until then, we can all keep guessing. firstname.lastname@example.org