Media Releases

Toronto can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent, says U of T prof

February 12, 2013

TORONTO, ON – Toron­to, and oth­er cities around the world, can sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce green­house gas (GHG) emis­sions by imple­ment­ing aggres­sive but prac­ti­cal pol­i­cy changes, says a new study by Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Civ­il Engi­neer­ing Pro­fes­sor Chris Kennedy and World Bank cli­mate change spe­cial­ist Lor­raine Sug­ar, one of Kennedy’s for­mer stu­dents.

Kennedy and Sug­ar make the claim in ‘A low car­bon infra­struc­ture plan for Toron­to, Cana­da,’ pub­lished in the lat­est issue of The Cana­di­an Jour­nal of Civ­il Engi­neer­ing. The paper aims to show how cities can make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence using real­is­tic, achiev­able steps. Their research shows that it is tech­ni­cal­ly pos­si­ble for cities, even in Cana­da, to reduce their green­house gas emis­sions by 70 per cent or more in the long-term.

“This is the sort of reduc­tion the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty is call­ing for, so we can avoid the poten­tial­ly seri­ous con­se­quences of cli­mate change,” said Pro­fes­sor Kennedy.

They note that more than half of the world’s pop­u­la­tion lives in urban areas and over 70 per cent of glob­al green­house gas emis­sions can be attrib­uted to cities. “Cities are where peo­ple live, where eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty flour­ish­es,” said Sug­ar. “Cities are where local actions can have glob­al impact.”

The study focus­es on build­ings, ener­gy sup­ply and trans­porta­tion. Best prac­tices as well as options and oppor­tu­ni­ties – for exam­ple, encour­ag­ing elec­tric cars and increas­ing bicy­cling infra­struc­ture – are detailed.

“It is pos­si­ble for a Cana­di­an city, in this case Toron­to, to reduce its GHG emis­sions by the sort of mag­ni­tudes that the inter­na­tion­al sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty have indi­cat­ed are nec­es­sary glob­al­ly to keep glob­al tem­per­a­ture rise below 2 C,” Kennedy and Sug­ar write.

“With cur­rent poli­cies, espe­cial­ly clean­ing of the elec­tric­i­ty grid, Toron­to’s per-capi­ta GHG emis­sions could be reduced by 30 per cent over the next 20 years. To go fur­ther, how­ev­er, reduc­ing emis­sions in the order of 70 per cent, would require sig­nif­i­cant retro­fitting of the build­ing stock, uti­liza­tion of renew­able heat­ing and cool­ing sys­tems, and the com­plete pro­lif­er­a­tion of elec­tric, or oth­er low car­bon, auto­mo­biles.”

The biggest obsta­cle is the city’s build­ing stock, accord­ing to Kennedy. Build­ings have a lifes­pan mea­sured in decades, so it takes time to replace old­er build­ings with more ener­gy-effi­cient ones.

The study arose out of a hand­book Kennedy and his stu­dents pro­duced for the Toron­to and Region Con­ser­va­tion Author­i­ty in 2010, Get­ting to Car­bon Neu­tral: A Guide for Cana­di­an Munic­i­pal­i­ties. In the cur­rent paper, he and Sug­ar want­ed to demon­strate how cities could achieve mea­sur­able results by adopt­ing the poli­cies out­lined in the guide.

Kennedy, author of The Evo­lu­tion of Great World Cities: Urban Wealth and Eco­nom­ic Growth (2011), teach­es a course on the design of infra­struc­ture for sus­tain­able cities. He has con­sult­ed for the World Bank, the Unit­ed Nations and the OECD on urban envi­ron­ment issues.


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Ter­ry Laven­der
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Media Rela­tions Strate­gist
Fac­ul­ty of Applied Sci­ence & Engi­neer­ing, Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
Tel: 416–978-4498