Urban areas account for 54% of the world’s population in 2014, yet cities account for 70-75% of natural resource consumption and contribute towards environmental degradation in areas far beyond their boundaries. At the same time, cities are increasingly vulnerable to a variety of climatic risks due to their concentration of people, infrastructure and economic activity.
Transforming Toronto’s future
One city that is taking steps to reduce its ecological footprint and enhance its resilience towards climate change is Toronto Click & Tweet! , which has released its 2050 Pathway to a Low-Carbon Toronto Strategy highlights report as part of its TransformTO initiative.
The goal of TransformTO is to reduce Toronto’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels: achievable using existing technology while creating many community benefits.
To help businesses reduce their GHG emissions, and enhance their resilience to climate change, the City has developed a range of ‘Greening Your Business’ initiatives’ including the Energy Retrofit Loans Program and the Green Your Roof Program.
Toronto’s Energy Retrofit Program enables businesses, as well as not-for-profits, to receive low-interest loans to support up to 100% of their energy retrofit project costs including renewable energy projects, energy storage, and other measures/technologies on a case-by-case basis. Projects that meet technical and financial requirements and are approved by the City’s Sustainable Energy Plan Financing will receive a fixed rate loan at the City’s cost of borrowing for projects with paybacks up to 20 years.
Green and cool roofs
Toronto’s Green Your Roof Program offers eco-roof incentive grants to existing industrial and commercial, as well as residential and institutional, buildings with gross floor areas of less than 2,000 m² to install a green roof (a surface that supports growth of vegetation) or a cool roof (a roof that has high ‘solar reflectivity’ that reflects the sun’s rays and ‘thermal emissivity’ that reduces heat build-up from the sun’s thermal energy). The benefits of installing either roof include lower energy costs, lower urban heat island effects, stormwater capture and habitat creation. Businesses who install a green roof or cool roof will receive a grant of:
- $100/m² for green roof projects
- $2/m² for a cool roof coating over an existing roof
- $5/m² for a cool roof with a new membrane
Many actions to reduce GHG emissions and enhance resilience to climate change already exist, it just takes political will to strategically guide them to achieve a common goal (the whole is greater than the sum of its parts).
*Robert C. Brears is the author of Urban Water Security (Wiley), and of the forthcoming titles Blue and Green Cities (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Mitidaption, which consults on climate change risks to business, governance and society.