Carbon emissions rose again in the GTHA
The solutions are known, but they’re not happening fast enough.
Carbon emissions in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area increased 8% in 2022, from 49.9 million tonnes to 54 million tonnes.
The rate of annual decrease needed to hit our 2030 targets grows steeper. On our current trajectory, we now require a 9% decrease per year.
This increase of 4 million tonnes was driven by rising emissions in every sector, underscoring the need for strong climate action across the board.
Increases were seen across every region, ranging from 5% in Hamilton to 12% in Halton. Per capita emissions also increased in every region, with Toronto retaining the lowest emissions per capita, enabled by its density.
Natural gas emissions in buildings used for space and water heating increased by 8%. Efficiency and electrification in buildings will bend this trend, while offering healthier and more affordable places to live and work.
Emissions associated with electricity generation are a growing concern, rising by an alarming 26% in 2022 largely due to the increasing use of natural gas plants, which increased the carbon intensity of the Ontario electricity grid. This trajectory requires Ontario regulators and the system operator to start phasing out natural gas use for electricity in favour of lower carbon options, and certainly cease procurement of new electricity generated by natural gas.
Transportation emissions increased by 9% in 2022, the highest increase in a single year since 2015. This is only partly due to the rebound in emissions since the pandemic decrease. Private vehicles continue to dominate how we get around the GTHA.
To break this trend, we’ll need to see shifts from personal vehicles to transit, walking, and cycling, and land use planning to support that. All personal vehicles that can’t be eliminated should be electric. Electric vehicle sales show promise, with 75% more purchased than in the previous year.
Industrial emissions in the GTHA went up almost 5% from the previous year, still rebounding since the pandemic slowdowns.
The majority of industrial emissions are generated from steel and cement production at plants located in Hamilton, Durham, and Peel. As these materials are used across the whole region and beyond, it will take joint efforts and investments to reduce carbon emissions from these sectors.
Waste and agricultural emissions increased only slightly, representing about 3% and 1% of the region’s emissions respectively.
Many players across this region collaborated successfully to phase out coal in 2014, which continues to be the single largest emission reduction action to date. Similar commitment is needed now.
Governments at all levels should enact policies and programs to require and support building retrofits at a massive scale, and transit and EV strategies to support equitable and affordable ways to get around.
These solutions can be designed to improve community participation and equity, and to make housing more affordable. We can have convenient, beautiful cities, with cleaner air and healthier homes and workplaces.
The solutions are at our fingertips, we just need to deploy them together.