The University of Toronto’s research in clean technology and renewable energy will help organizations in the Toronto area and across Canada achieve net-zero emissions, while generating thousands of new jobs, according to Scott mabury, Vice-President, Real Estate Operations and Partnerships at the University of Toronto.
At the same time, the University of Toronto’s own ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions will serve as a model for other universities and institutions, Mabury told members of the Toronto Region Board of Trade at a roundtable discussion at the same time. last week.
The event – which occurred before the University of Toronto announced on October 27 that the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation would divest itself of direct investments in fossil fuels within 12 months and of all investments indirect in fossil fuels no later than 2030 – took place ahead of the international conference. climate change conference in Glasgow.
The hour-long virtual Power Breakfast event featured Mabury, Catherine McKenna, a University of Toronto alumnus who served as Federal Minister of the Environment and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; and Ken Hartwick, President and CEO of Ontario Power Generation.
Despite the immense challenges each country faces in reducing their emissions, McKenna described the transition to green energy as a huge economic opportunity for Canada that will require a national commitment to innovation in low-carbon technologies.
âIt’s a question of whether Canada will be competitive,â she said. âEither we go fullâ¦ or we will lose, and that means our economy will suffer. “
Mabury noted that the University of Toronto’s own research programs in green technologies and renewable energy have attracted nearly half a billion dollars in funding, in areas such as energy storage, transmission energy and decarbonization. Additionally, college-founded clean tech startups have raised nearly $ 300 million over the past decade.
He described the U of T’s own plan to go beyond zero net greenhouse gas emissions. The plan spells out how and when the university will achieve most of its cuts, as well as how it will fund each step of the $ 1.3 billion initiative. “We hope to serve as a role model for other institutions – not just by making a commitment, but by delivering a verifiable plan for how we’re going to get there.”
At the heart of the university’s efforts for the St. George campus is the construction of Canada’s largest geothermal field under King’s College Circle. This project alone will reduce the university’s emissions by 15,000 metric tonnes per year. Several other carbon reduction projects are listed in the Low carbon action plan and his positive climate plan for the St. George campus.
McKenna said the U of T deserved kudos for their efforts. âThese are great initiatives. I think it is important that the government help support them.
Hartwick agreed: âThis is what we need from every business and institution. And, as Scott said, these [plans] must be auditable.
Mabury acknowledged that the university’s goals will not be easy to achieve. The downtown Toronto campus is home to some of the oldest university buildings in the country, which will need renovation – and the emissions reductions are occurring against the backdrop of a growing campus. Building area in St. George is expected to double over the next 30 years. Funding is also a challenge: U of T has a deferred maintenance backlog of $ 800 million and limited government support to address it.
Additional government investments are also needed to support the labs and other infrastructure needed to develop and sustain green innovations in Canada, Mabury said. âCanada is a very inventive country. But we are not yet good at turning these inventions into value for the country. He added that there is so little lab space available in Toronto for entrepreneurial scientists that many are leaving for the United States. âWe need to provide more infrastructure so that inventions can develop and prosper in Canada. “
The university will seek partnerships to help fill the gaps and plans to harness the ingenuity of its faculty and students, Mabury said. He noted that each year some 5,000 students are engaged in sustainability projects on the three campuses – and pointed to a high-profile example. CERT Systems, a company founded by engineering students and professors at the University of Toronto, has developed a system to convert carbon dioxide before it enters the atmosphere into carbon-based fuels. The company was recently a finalist for the $ 10 million Carbon XPrize Award and has now installed its system on the St. George campus of the University of Toronto.
Although Mabury expects more countries to unite behind the need for urgent climate action at the COP26 summit, he places much of his hope for the future in youth and education. . âIt is our students who, I believe, will provide the solutions.