The Net Zero 2040 Report goes to Council on December 15. The City is working on action items for reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change, but food and gardens are largely missing from the recommendations.
We need to remind Council that growing food increases green space, reduces waste, promotes low-carbon diets and helps residents to take action!
A summary of key points
Food production and food systems need to be explicitly mentioned in the report to be recognized and supported as valid climate change strategies.
Food gardens are green infrastructure that cool cities, improve air quality and promote biodiversity.
Community composting closes and shortens the food waste loop. Local food doesn’t need as much packaging.
The City needs to engage and mobilize residents, what better way to do that than food! Build on the successes of Live Green Toronto and the Solid Waste Community Reuse program. Support existing community centres, neighbourhood networks and gardens to become hubs for climate change action.
The City must follow through on its promise to apply an equity lens to ensure all Torontonians benefit from climate action
A climate change policy will be meaningless without adequate funding and reporting mechanisms.
Letters that make references to Net Zero 2040 action items will be stronger!
Quotes from TransformTO: Critical Steps for Net Zero by 2040 are in italics
Short term action: 70 per cent residential waste diversion from the City of Toronto’s Integrated Waste Management System #16 Continue implementation of the City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy which sets a goal of diverting 70 per cent of waste managed from City customers away from landfill, by focusing on waste reduction, reuse and recycling activities that promote resource conservation and reduce environmental impact.
Support community-based mid-scale composting as a method of reducing emissions from food waste in landfill sites, creating a shorter cycle of re-use and involving residents in do-able actions. Neighbourhood-based non-profits and city-wide organizations like FoodShare have the expertise to run successful community-based composting programs and have the relationships to engage diverse residents (including those living in multi-residence dwellings, newcomers and people who are marginalized).
Short term action: Develop and implement strategies to improve greenspace infrastructure to build climate resilience #17 Increase canopy cover and biodiversity and enhance greenspaces
Support urban food production and pollinator gardens. Container, balcony and rooftop gardens convert paved spaces into green infrastructure that cools buildings without fossil fuels – places where trees may not thrive. To have a significant impact on urban temperatures, we need to scale up the number of people and spaces growing plants. Food and pollinator plants provide extra incentives for creating gardens.
"Achieving net zero is not simply a technology solution. The combination of attentive urban design, city planning, active transportation, and transit systems, changes in consumptive behaviour and supportive net zero consumer choices, will all need to work in step to cumulatively increase the efficiencies of corresponding urban systems."
#18 Support resident-led climate action and engagement
There’s an added benefit to food gardens – research shows that people who grow their own food tend to shift to lower-carbon diets. So, it’s not only about the amount of fruit and vegetables that’s grown in the city, there is an impact on what foods people purchase in general.
Food grown close to home, through gardens or community farms, requires less packaging, particularly less single-use plastic packaging.
Food growing or buying food from local, urban producers is a small first step that encourages people to take further steps. The more the City supports people to consume local food, the greater the cumulative effect.
#19 Work with Indigenous rights holders and urban Indigenous communities to share knowledge and learnings
This is important but needs to go further. The City must offer more opportunities for Indigenous land and water stewardship. Yes, we have a lot to learn from Indigenous knowledge keepers, but it is critical to get Indigenous people back on the land, not just ask them to share their knowledge.
From the Indigenous Climate Action report:
“We need to grow and store and manage our own food. There should be fields of food, not just small community gardens over-managed centrally by the city, but bigger plots and more community control. For example, eventually our city-run golf courses can and should be returned to what they have been for many centuries in this region: farms full of corn and other foods.” P. 8
#22 Develop equity indicators to be reported out as part of the TransformTO implementation status update
As our friends at TEA have noted, the City committed in 2019 to apply an equity lens to TransformTO, but nothing has been developed to date. The City needs to be clear how it will ensure the plan involves and benefits people with disabilities, racialized people, newcomers, youth and residents with low incomes.
#23 Encourage the growth of green industry to provide the products and services needed to enable a net zero city
Yes, and explicitly include urban agriculture businesses as green industries!
Including food in Net Zero 2040 upholds our international commitments to fighting climate change
Toronto’s Official Plan names food and gardens as important ways to create green and liveable cities
Toronto also adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Article 3 of the UNDRIP calls for Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. Article 11 of the UNDRIP states that Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs including the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures.