By Lyn Adamson
TORONTO MONTHLY MEETING’S Peace and Social Action Committee has supported the work of ClimateFast, a Canadian climate action group, since its inception in 2012. For the first three years, ClimateFast focused on federal climate action with periods of fasting, a vigil on Parliament Hill, and a pledge campaign aimed at getting our Members of Parliament to commit to a three-point climate action plan: 1) end fossil fuel subsidies, 2) put a price on carbon, and 3) support the development of renewable energy. It was an uphill climb due to an unsupportive conservative government at the time. So, we successfully engaged the opposition parties: the Liberals, NDP, and the one Green member. The majority of members of all these parties signed the pledge, and the actions became part of their platforms in the 2015 election. Now the current Liberal government is moving ahead with the initiatives.
In 2015, we learned that Toronto’s municipal government was developing a climate action plan, TransformTO, thanks to the dedicated leadership of several progressive councilors. Since cities emit approximately 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, we strategized that action in Canada’s largest city could make a difference. We held a series of film screenings across the city, including Leonardo di Caprio’s Before the Flood and two films by local filmmakers to develop a base of citizens ready to press their councilors for support for TransformTO. Two thousand people signed a petition to the Mayor and Councilors. Although we no longer fast, we kept our name to represent that we need action on climate—fast!
TransformTO is moving forward. We are now in our second year of funding, with $2.5 million dollars in the 2018 budget, and we plan to make this plan a centerpiece for public support in the upcoming municipal elections. Toronto’s plan is aimed at reducing emissions by 80 percent by 2050. It’s going to take big changes to get there! The city’s plan focuses on retrofitting building and new green building standards; electrifying the transportation grid and promoting active transportation; and composting organic waste (as these materials produce methane in landfills). ClimateFast is also focusing on food, tree planting, and other ways of drawing down carbon, which we see as essential to achieving a livable climate in our lifetimes.
Support from our Quaker Meeting has been invaluable: use of space for our meetings and for the film series, and support with the petition and letter-writing campaigns. Two of us from the Peace and Social Action Committee continue to be active with the group and others join when they can. As a Meeting acting alone, we would not have gotten this far. By opening up our group to others, we’ve formed a committed climate-action community within our city that really is making a difference.