As an agency dedicated to combating climate change, we’re a bit obsessed with quantifying the greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from projects that we are involved in or that are on our radar. This kind of number crunching may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but it is very important in helping us understand our own successes and failures. It also allows us to compare ideas on a true “apples-to-apples” basis. And because TAF often invests in early stage ideas, it’s particularly important for us to be able to understand the potential emissions reductions of an idea if it were scaled up to its full potential.
The numbers also help us focus. We use emission factors for various fuel sources based on information provided by Natural Resources Canada when assessing emissions reductions. Those factors are telling us that the GHG impact of electricity use in Ontario is falling steadily – and we expect that as the province moves forward with the final shutdown of its coal-fired generating stations it will fall even further. So that means that the heavy lifting – and opportunities — lie elsewhere. In fact, the numbers tell us that transportation fuels and natural gas used for space and water heating now account for over 80% of Toronto’s GHG emissions. That’s why TAF’s new strategic plan prioritizes investments in these areas.
So how do we reduce emissions from these sources? Well, on the transportation side, public transit, active transportation (biking and walking – good for the planet and your heart!), and electric vehicles are important and challenging priorities. On the natural gas side, we need to retrofit the majority of existing buildings with more efficient heating systems and better insulation, and make use of alternative heat sources such as solar thermal and geothermal systems. All of this tends to be a lot more difficult and complicated than electricity conservation, but if we want to stabilize the Earth’s climate we have to follow where the numbers lead us!