New study outlines path toward 70 percent reductions
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The greenhouse gas cuts needed to curb global warming at 2 degrees Celsius sometimes seem daunting when taken as a whole, but engineers and scientists have shown repeatedly that it can be done — and with existing technology, not some farfetched science fiction scheme.
Most recently, a University of Toronto Civil Engineering professor and a World Bank climate change specialist teamed up for a case study, showing how Toronto and other major cities could reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 70 percent in the long term by implementing aggressive but practical policy changes.
“Cities are where people live, where economic activity flourishes,” said the World Bank’s Lorraine Sugar. “Cities are where local actions can have global impact.”
“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.
The researchers explained 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.
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.
Kennedy and Sugar outlined their case in the most recent issue of The Canadian Journal of Civil Engineering. 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.