Toronto Atmospheric Fund
April 23, 2008
Remarks to the Annual General Meeting of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, 2008
The Fund & the City’s Role
It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this Annual General Meeting of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, a unique agency of the City of Toronto, and a model for new municipal climate organizations around the world.
The City of Toronto has become a leader in progressive environmental initiatives
For example, waste diversion is a central part of Mayor Miller’s environmental agenda. Toronto’s Green Bin program is unique in scale in North America, and the proposed legislation for battery and fluorescent bulb recycling programs is clearly welcome.
In addition, the recently created Toronto Environmental Protection Centre works to coordinate sustainable development in the city; and the City Council’s outspoken support of the Kyoto Protocol for Toronto has been welcomed by a great many Canadians.
Perhaps it is not surprising to find leadership on issues around atmospheric protection coming from major cities. Densely built and populated urban centres like Toronto confront us paradoxically with districts generating the most pollution per square metre … but the least pollution per-person.
The vision of City Council, working with the Province of Ontario, has been to reduce these impacts steadily, benefiting – as we now understand – not just Toronto or Southern Ontario but, in fact, the entire globe
This leadership is all the more remarkable given the budgetary constraints faced by the City. Municipal politicians are often in the unenviable position of having to choose between subdivisions and parkland. Fiscally responsible budget decisions are not always the most environmentally responsible ones.
Thus it is encouraging that our current Mayor and his team have championed creative solutions to the environmental sustainability challenge.
The University of Toronto’s Sustainability Office
The University of Toronto continues to see great benefits from working with our friends at the City to achieve common goals, like reducing our greenhouse gas emissions; and it was a distinct honour for us to be short-listed last year for a Green Toronto award.
In particular, we are most grateful to the Toronto Atmospheric Fund for having helped us to create our Sustainability Office …
Since its inception in November 2004, the Sustainability Office has helped the University of Toronto make measurable and significant progress towards sustainability, and thousands of U of T community members have been actively engaged in a vast array of student-led sustainability programs.
The Sustainability Office was established with a significant three-year start-up grant from the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, making major accomplishments immediately possible:
- Leveraging outside funds to complete a major lighting and chiller retrofit on U of T’s St. George campus—a project that will result in a profound reduction in both campus electricity use and greenhouse gas emissions.
- The development of an online greenhouse gas inventory and a tri-campus energy and resource plan
- The establishment of a Sustainability Board to oversee sustainability initiatives at all three of U of T’s campuses.
The programs of our Sustainability Office rely on a unique fusion of research, education, partnerships and innovation to increase the range and efficacy of sustainability efforts at the University.
Since its launch, the Office has involved 400 students directly and more than 4,000 indirectly through its operations and projects.
Many students who have worked with the Office for more than a year are now contributing to scholarly publications, currently in preparation
Other students have won the Moss Scholarship, several Government of Canada Energy Ambassador Awards and many have received large graduate awards from their postgraduate institutions, both in Canada and abroad.
I could go on about the impact of the U of T Sustainability Office, but in the interests of time, let me say simply that the Office is making a real difference and is helping others to do the same. For example we have achieved an astounding reduction in electrical consumption of 16,370,000 kWh/year on campus, worth an estimated $1.6M annually.
Our initiatives have also resulted in avoiding over 3,500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Savings are expected to more than double by 2013, as the Sustainability Office rolls out a number of new projects.
May I therefore say to the Toronto Atmospheric Fund … Thank you for your support and vision. Thank you to Mayor Miller for your leadership. And thank you all for seeing and building upon the promise and talents of University of Toronto students as partners in the drive for a more sustainable city …
Check against delivery.