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
[clickandtweet handle=”” hashtag=”” related=”” layout=”” position=””]One city that is taking steps to reduce its ecological footprint and enhance its resilience towards climate change is Toronto[/clickandtweet], 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.