March 29, 2007

Green plan eyes rebates, building standards

Rebates for high-efficiency furnaces and “green” standards for new buildings are among the ideas being proposed in Mayor David Miller’s new “framework” to address climate change.

The report released this afternoon also calls for Toronto to commit to a six per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, 30 per cent by 2020, and 80 per cent by 2050.

“As Canada’s biggest city, we have an opportunity and an obligation to lead by tremendous example. Cleaning up the air is the issue of our time; maybe of all time,” Miller said in a statement.

“The City cannot win the war on climate change on (its) own, but we’re prepared to lead the way.”

Titled “Change is in the Air,” the report calls on Toronto residents to get involved in developing and implementing a Climate Change and Clean Air Action Plan.

“I know that Torontonians will partner with us and rise to the challenge. They are ready to act,” Miller says in his statement.

The document is meant to provide ideas on the kinds of strategies, policies, programs and projects required to fight climate change and reduce smog, Miller says in its introduction.

Among its suggested strategies:

  • Develop a financing mechanism for energy-efficient retrofits to high-rise apartments and condos;
  • Annual parking or motor vehicle registration fees to fund retrofits and renewable energy;
  • Convert all diesel-powered vehicles in city-operated fleet to bio-diesel by 2015;
  • Identify ways to substitute imported goods and food with locally produced ones;
  • Use renewable sources to meet 25 per cent of Toronto’s energy demands by 2012;
  • Double the existing tree canopy to 34 per cent.

Last fall, the Toronto Environmental Alliance gave city council and Miller a C- grade for their efforts at battling smog.

But the framework passed with flying colors, as far as the group is concerned.

“We’re very happy to see movement on promoting green power, we’re very happy to see movement on a community right to know bylaw, and we’re very happy to see movement on promoting local food,” said Franz Hartmann, co-executive director of the alliance.

“If this framework turns into a really comprehensive plan, Toronto’s air will be a lot cleaner,” he added.

“I think it’s sending a very clear signal out to the public that the City of Toronto, the mayor, is taking global warming and dirty air seriously:

Hartmann noted there is no mention of how the framework is going to be paid for “but we have to keep in mind what Sir Nicholas Stern, the World Bank economist, told Tony Blair last October, and that was, ‘The cost of inaction is dramatically greater than the cost of action.’ ”

He said the important thing is to make sure “we promote some sort of green taxes that essentially reward good behaviour and penalize bad environmental behaviour.

“Can you actually get people to change behaviour? Well, if you tell them they’ll save money, yeah. If you tell them this is actually going to improve the air, yeah, I think they will change their behaviour.”

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