Worldwide, damage due to climate change, storm damage and flooding has totalled more than 6 trillion since 1980, with weather-related insurance claims increasing on average by 11% per year. Meanwhile, thanks to a changing climate, it is predicted that Toronto will have hotter, drier summers - with many more days of extreme heat - along with wetter, stormier winters.
The City of Toronto established Toronto Atmospheric Fund in 1991 to focus on reducing local greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions. Working with a $23 million endowment from the sale of the long-closed Langstaff Jail Farm, TAF operates as an arms-length agency at no cost to the City. TAF helps the City achieve the targets set out in the Council-approved climate plan and supports energy cost savings through energy efficiency. TAF-supported projects such as a streetlighting retrofit, traffic light LED conversion, and building retrofits have generated $55 million in savings for the city to date.
TAF deploys three programs - Incubating Climate Solutions, Mobilizing Financial Capital, and Mobilizing Social Capital - to address Toronto's major emissions sources: buildings and transportation. Based on a careful study of Toronto's emissions profile, TAF has a strong interest in energy efficiency retrofits in buildings, electric vehicles for fleets, efficient transportation of goods, natural gas alternatives like geothermal, and social innovation to support emission reduction strategies.
TAF was nominated for the 2013 Scotiabank EcoLiving Innovator's Award. The nomination recognized the Energy Savings Performance Agreement as a game-changer in the energy efficiency retrofit market.
TAF invests in low-carbon food production
TAF recently made a significant “impact investment” – that is, an investment that yields both financial and environmental/social rewards – in the Investeco Sustainable Food Fund. TAF has consistently demonstrated leadership in the management of our investment portfolio, putting our money in enterprises that yield profits and environmental – and therefore societal – benefits.
We support The Investeco Sustainable Food Fund because it invests in primarily Canadian-based, small- to mid-size companies that promote sustainable solutions in food production and agriculture practices. These businesses hold great carbon reduction potential as their core operations entail the use of bio-fertilizers and other non-petroleum based products in addition to using environmentally-friendly energy sources. Past Sustainable Food Fund investments include Ontario-based Organic Meadow and also Rowe Farms, both of which are committed to eco-friendly, organic farming methods that preserve the environment and the family farm.
Other foundations that have invested in Investeco include The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the Harbinger Foundation, the Metcalf Foundation and Tides Canada Foundation.
“Tele-town hall” on public transit draws 13,000 participants
Stuck in traffic? Jammed in the subway? Public transit (and congestion) is a hot topic these days and more than 13,000 people voiced their opinion on the matter in a recent “tele-town hall” on transit issues affecting the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
Move the GTHA—started by a collaborative that includes TAF—is based on the shared concern that there is an urgent need to invest in transportation infrastructure. The group held the first of several tele-town halls on the subject on January 30.
The response was impressive: more than 13,000 citizens participated, calling in questions and providing feedback by using the buttons on their phone to vote on key issues.
More tele-town halls are planned over the next month, providing an opportunity for GTHA residents to address the impact of traffic congestion and public transit on business productivity, quality of life, and greenhouse gas emissions. Move the GTHA member groups will be rolling out other engagement opportunities throughout the winter and spring, from street canvassing, to online surveys, to pledge signing, with the goal of building support for a transit financing plan that will help ease the pain of the daily commute.
TAF is a member of Move the GTHA and is currently supporting the initiative with a grant of $90,000.
Deep energy retrofit gets underway at 501 Alliance
Situated near Weston Road and Black Creek, 501 Alliance Avenue is a former sporting goods factory built in the 1960s. It is now undertaking a deep green retrofit, targeting LEED Gold Certification. Upgrades include a 250 KW rooftop solar installation, a geothermal heating and cooling system, heat recovery ventilation, and high efficiency LED lighting and adaptive controls. TAF is partnering with the building owner, 501 Alliance Investments Inc., to monitor the energy savings and prepare a detailed case study documenting project outcomes and lessons learned as part of the TowerWise Program. Company president Elliot Strashin is passionate about restoring older buildings. “The greenest building is the one that already exists,” says Strashin, referring to the emissions avoided by repurposing a building instead of demolishing it and building from scratch. A case study will be published in 2015 following a year of performance monitoring.