March 29, 2007

`Warm, fuzzy' climate goals backed

A plan to radically slash greenhouse gas emissions in the city of Toronto has been endorsed unanimously by city council's executive committee. But one committee member warned the tough choices are only beginning, while another said he still doesn't see a consensus about the problem or what needs to be done.

"We're at the warm and fuzzy stage," noted Councillor Howard Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence). "Everyone likes to plant trees and save money by energy retro-fitting.

"But when you get to the tough decisions ... that basically say to people, `You can't bring your car downtown any more or you're going to have to pay' ... that's when the going gets tough. And that's when politicians start bailing out."

Moscoe insisted he's willing to make the tough calls.

"We might have to tell industry they have to abide by tough standards and it may cost them more money. And the city might have to bring in (new) purchasing policies and be prepared to pay more – and raise taxes if necessary – to make sure we have a healthy environment."

A city report released last Friday calls for measures that would reduce the city's greenhouse gas output by 6 per cent by 2012, by 30 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. It suggests several means to that end, including higher motor vehicle registration fees, and doubling the city's tree canopy. It also calls for a public hearing at Exhibition Place on Sunday, April 29.

Although he endorsed the city report on the matter, Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) said there's no consensus on climate change and what actions should be taken. He quoted some scientists as suggesting it could cost $180 billion to make only modest changes to counteract the rise of global temperatures.

"I suspect there will be general support for cleaner air and cleaner water, although the evidence suggests our air has been progressively getting cleaner and our water has been getting progressively cleaner, and that rather than being deforested, the planet actually has more trees today than it had a decade or two ago."

Kelly said some residents haven't yet thought about the costs or lifestyle changes that will be required, and said there should be "spirited and honest debate" at council when the proposals come up for discussion later this year.

"In essence, I think this will come down to: Are we looking at the topic of our age, as Councillor (Brian) Ashton suggested, or are we looking at the topic du jour, as some critics have pointed out in their remarks."

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby, who also voted for the report, said she was driving to work yesterday and listening to callers to a radio station who were complaining about how wrong forecasters were about the weekend temperatures.

"The weatherman can't predict the weather for the weekend, yet we're going to predict it for the next century," she said. "It's kind of interesting, when you think about it."

Mayor David Miller wasn't the least bit hesitant about endorsing the study.

"This is about ensuring our city is livable for the next many generations," he said. "There's a lot of work to do ... but it's a great first start."

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