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These indicators track municipal governance and management on climate and sustainability. Who is making decisions and are they representative of the community? What commitments has the municipality made? Are they backing up those commitments with adequate resources?

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Why this Indicator is Important

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment report, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5°C, we need to, globally, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050.1 Net-zero does not necessarily mean zero-emissions—just that all remaining emissions are offset.2 However, globally, we should strive to reduce actual emissions to zero as much as possible. These science-based targets are fundamental to efficiently tackling climate change. Setting emissions reduction targets is the starting point to allow countries, provinces and cities to develop climate plans with a clear understanding of where they are, where they need to be and by when as well as whether they are on the right track. Targets can also provide a greater sense of urgency and be used for accountability. The Government of Canada is aligned with the IPCC’s targets and has committed to achieving 40-45% emissions reductions by 2030, and net-zero emissions by 2050.3 Municipalities will play a key role in bringing Canada closer to its GHGs emissions reduction targets.


Data Availability and Accessibility: 3/3

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Data on emissions reduction targets were relatively easy to find on cities’ official websites and in their climate plans. One challenge is that in some places, municipalities will state their targets without providing the baseline year, which is an important context. Where cities had separate targets for corporate and community emissions, we looked at the community target.

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Note(s): Targetsare based on current commitments. Data are from city websites and climate plans.

Winning Municipality

Unlike our other indicators, emissions targets do not lend themselves to a quantitative ranking. Therefore, our data merely presents the different targets for comparison. However, we would like to highlight the city of Toronto, Ontario for its ambitious goal of reaching net-zero by 2040, ten years ahead of the IPCC recommendation. Analysis has shown that not all “net-zero by 2050” scenarios are equal.4 High emissions up until 2040 or 2045 followed by a sharp decline to net-zero still results in higher total GHG emissions in the atmosphere, with greater consequences for global temperatures, compared to reducing emissions as quickly as possible. Therefore, Toronto’s commitment to “bending the curve” more sharply and aiming to reach net-zero by 2040 is a commendable commitment. Adopted in 2021, Toronto’s 2040 target is one of the most ambitious in North America. The target is supported by a Net-Zero Strategy which focuses on five key areas, including establishing a carbon budget (see complementary indicators), reducing natural gas use in buildings, increasing low-carbon transportation options, and increasing local renewable energy.5 One challenge for any city is that the city government does not have direct jurisdiction over a large percentage of the city’s emissions. Therefore, meeting the 2040 target will require the cooperation of federal and provincial governments, businesses, and residents.