Toronto’s greenhouse gas emissions increased in 2021. Toronto must continue to scale up its greenhouse gas emissions reduction programs and initiatives to reach its interim targets and net zero by 2040.
The City’s 2021 Sector-Based Emissions Inventory (SBEI) tracks Toronto’s progress towards its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets and identifies direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions from three key sectors: buildings, transportation and waste. The sources that contribute the largest percentage of emissions in Toronto are natural gas heating in residential buildings (30 per cent of Toronto’s community-wide emissions) and gasoline combustion in passenger vehicles (24 per cent of emissions).
Toronto’s future sector-based reduction targets from 1990 levels are: 45 per cent by 2025, 65 per cent by 2030, and net zero by 2040. Meeting Toronto’s 2025 target is at risk if the upward trend in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continues.
2021 Key Findings
- In 2021, Toronto’s community-wide GHG emissions were 14.5 megatonnes (MT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), a four per cent increase over the 14 MT CO2e emitted in 2020. Emissions were 41 per cent less than 1990 levels.
- COVID-19 lockdowns continued during the first half of 2021 and schools remained closed to in-person learning until fall 2021. This means that the emissions increase in 2021 represents six months of a resumption of pre-pandemic activity. This upward trend in emissions is expected to continue when we have data for 2022 since activity returned to pre-pandemic levels.
- Toronto’s 2021 emissions need to be reduced by 1.0 MT, which equates to removing 293,643 gas powered cars off the road or converting 200,751 single-family homes to energy-efficient homes either through building envelope retrofits (such as adding insulation and replacing windows) or switching from natural gas heating to electric heat pumps. Reaching this level of reduction may be particularly challenging given that emissions increased with the resumption of pre-pandemic activity in the second half of 2021.
Emissions by Sector
Building sector emissions maintained its position as the largest source of GHG emissions, constituting 56 per cent of the total emissions (8.1MT). Specifically, the use of natural gas for heating in residential buildings accounted for 30 per cent of Toronto’s overall emissions.
Transportation sector emissions remained the second largest contributor to GHG emissions, comprising 35 per cent of total emissions (5.1MT). An additional 0.5MT in CO2e was observed from 2020-2021, likely due to reduced pandemic restrictions. Gasoline consumption in passenger cars and trucks accounts for 24 per cent of emissions in 2021. Of note is the 17 per cent increase in emissions from commercial and heavy vehicles, but a negligible increase in vehicle kilometres travelled, due to an increase in commercial and heavy vehicles on local roads. Driving along local roads leads to more stops and starts, which increases emissions.
Waste sector emissions, primarily from landfills, were the third-largest source of GHG emissions in Toronto, at 9 percent (1.3MT).
The City’s corporate emissions, originating from operating City-owned buildings, fleets and waste, amounted to 0.67 megatonnes, accounting for approximately five per cent of Toronto’s community-wide emissions.
Reporting annually on community-wide greenhouse gas emissions is part of the City’s commitment to address climate change and inform the development of its climate strategy and policy.
Toronto’s “A List” Score on GHG Accounting and Action Reporting
As a Global Covenant of Mayors signatory, the City of Toronto has been disclosing its GHG emissions inventory and its climate mitigation and adaptation actions annually to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) in order to share Toronto’s progress and benchmark against other cities facing similar challenges.
For the fifth year in a row, the City of Toronto is recognized on the 2023 Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Cities “A” List for its leadership and transparency on climate action. Toronto was one of 119 cities globally to receive an “A” rating.
The City follows the Greenhouse Gas Protocol for its sector-based GHG emission inventories.
Previous Sector-Based Inventories