Activists Discuss Climate Issues of Upcoming Municipal Elections – The Varsity

On September 27, climate activists and trade unions came together on Zoom to discuss the challenges of the climate fight in light of the upcoming municipal elections. The The Demanding Climate Action Leadership event was organized by Good jobs for all, Toronto Community Benefits Network, Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA), and Toronto and York Region Labor Council.

In 2021, Toronto City Council issued a statement outlining steps to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.

Emmay Mah, Executive Director of TEA, moderated the event. Keynote speaker Mike Layton, outgoing City Councilor for University—Rosedale, spoke about his vision for climate action in the future and what he thinks city government can do to address the climate crisis over the course of his next term. layton confirmed that he is not running for office and plans to devote more time to climate action.

Layton focused his remarks on key actions the city government can take to reduce emissions and tackle the climate crisis.

First, he said, there needs to be a focus on accountability and the carbon budget. Although it is very difficult to track carbon emissions, money can be tracked. Thus, to reduce carbon emissions, the city must be aware of where it invests. Second, Layton noted that the city needs to focus on reducing the use of natural gas in buildings, which is the biggest source of emissions in the city.

Third, he stressed that the City must work to make people more comfortable on the streets, whether walking or cycling, in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads and thus reduce overall emissions of carbon. Finally, he stressed the need to build an electricity grid based on carbon-free energy sources.

Layton stressed that “what we need is leadership from both [municipal and provincial] governments, but also cooperation with the private sector. He also highlighted the role of the wider community, saying, “We need to involve everyone in this exercise to decarbonize our lifestyles.” He explained that these next two terms of the board are critical to meeting the 2030 and 2050 carbon emissions targets.

Andria Babbington, President of the Toronto & York Region Labor Council, and Chloe Tse, Co-Chair of the Toronto Climate Action Network, joined Mah and Layton to wrap up the event. They discussed the relationship between health and climate change. Mah, moderator of the panel, said that, each year, “Toronto Public Health estimates that more than 1,400 people in Toronto die prematurely due to air pollution.”

She explained that people who live near highways and other heavily trafficked roads are at increased risk of health problems due to air pollution. In response, Layton stressed the need to reduce the number of cars in the city and focus on increasing alternative modes of transportation.

“We have to make sure that we start to position ourselves not only as the generation [that] to register[s] the world, but also as a generation that has ensured that this is a more equitable space and economy,” Layton said.

Toronto 2022 municipal election is October 24. Advance voting days are October 7-14.

Teresa H. Sadler