In 2007, Toronto City Council adopted a long-term greenhouse gas reduction target of 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. Council reaffirmed their commitment to this target a year later, by approving the TransformTO: Climate Action Strategy. This strategy focuses on a set of transformational goals that identify how Toronto will collectively work to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by buildings (52% of the City’s total emissions in 2016), transportation (38%) and residential waste (10%).
Recently, the City of Toronto held a public consultation to identify climate actions the City of Toronto will undertake ending in 2023. The following is Sustainable Media Production Canada’s response to the City of Toronto to be considered as part of this consultation feedback.
Thank you for the opportunity to receive feedback from Sustainable Media Production Canada (SMPC) as it pertains to the City of Toronto’s TransformTO Implementation Plan 2021-2023. SMPC is the only registered not-for-profit organization in Canada focused solely on improving the environmental performance of the film, television and digital media production industry. Our mission is to help the City of Toronto become a global leader in low-carbon, sustainable production.
More than 1,400 productions shoot in Toronto every year. Considered a significant economic driver for the City of Toronto, the film, television and digital media industry employs 30,000 people and brings production investment of $2 billion. These statistics are expected to grow over the next few years . The industry is highly visible on city streets and parks, in private and public buildings, and in purpose-built and converted studios. It relies on conventional cars and trucks and diesel generators for location power supply. Set and food waste are other areas of consideration when it comes to greenhouse gas emission reduction opportunities.
The success of our local film industry drives home the importance of prioritizing greenhouse gas emissions reductions. In regions around the world, film and television industries are becoming much more transparent with their carbon footprint and are becoming accountable for their environmental impact. As a result, the City of Toronto’s ambitious greenhouse gas emission (GHG) targets and proposed focus on local energy solutions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in buildings, transportation and waste are welcome.
TransformTO represents an opportunity for our local film, television and digital media industry to become more visibly involved in climate action. This is important to ensure a healthy, resilient local community. It is also needed to ensure Toronto remains a competitive, film-friendly production hub supporting low-carbon production through its infrastructure, vendors and workforce.
We’ve heard clearly from hundreds of film industry professionals and organizations that there is support for accelerated climate action. First, there is support for actions that will help the City of Toronto, Ontario and Canadian governments meet their GHG emission reduction targets. There is concern with recent news that we are not yet on track to meet our targets. Second, many in our industry want to work in alignment with international film and television industry efforts utilizing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for sustainable production. This prioritizes Climate Action.
The TransformTO Implementation Plan and its proposed actions on local solutions, buildings, transportation and waste offer an opportunity for the industry to work visibly towards GHG emission reductions. Leading by example is an action that The TransformTO Reference Panel on Climate Action identified as needed. Sustainable Media Production Canada’s work has supported this by identifying an array of industry stakeholders who offer low-carbon production solutions, have expertise on low-carbon production practices, and who are actively reducing the environmental footprint of their productions.
There are Toronto-based production companies who are taking action right away. Sinking Ship Entertainment, producers of Endlings and the Emmy® winning series’ Odd Squad and Dino Dana have already undertaken climate action and earned international recognition. Award-winning local production company Shaftesbury, the powerhouse behind Murdoch Mysteries and Frankie Drake, have signaled their intention to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions within the next two years.
The recent climate emergency declared by Mayor Tory provides momentum on reducing GHG emissions. Shortly after his announcement, our organization conducted a survey that asked industry professionals about their level of interest in engaging on the topic of climate action. Overwhelmingly, participants were interested and wanted to learn ways on how to take action.
That sentiment is growing. New workers to the industry want information on how they can make a difference when it comes to fighting climate change. As new workers enter the industry to keep up with its projected growth, education on low-carbon production is essential. Our organization recently held sustainable media workshops at Ryerson University, Centennial College and Black Youth Pathway 2 Industry. The students and recent graduates expressed interest in deepening their understanding and skill sets in this area, as have many veteran production professionals.
The good news is that there are ample opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions right away. Our organization recently conducted a global audit of best practices for sustainable production. This revealed many ways to educate the workforce and reduce carbon emissions in the areas of buildings and energy, transportation and waste. These include ways to:
• quantify, track and report on emissions and impacts
• use fuel and energy more efficiently
• green supply chains
• contribute to the community through reuse opportunities
• reduce consumption and practice energy conservation
• advocate for and communicate environmental leadership
• influence more sustainable procurement
• communicate climate actions to the public
• develop policies in alignment with sustainability mandates
It’s clear that, with education and support, there are many free and low-cost measures that can be undertaken by industry professionals in almost every department. These actions have the power to yield fairly significant GHG reductions as well as energy savings and reduced costs to productions.
Create More Local Energy Solutions
We have an immediate opportunity to reduce GHG emissions is by transitioning off of diesel generators for filming and food trucks. A single generator can burn more than 300 liters of diesel a day. Since diesel has been seen to be a known health hazard, this transition will contribute towards TransformTO’s guiding principle of improving public health.
The City of Vancouver recently passed a motion directing City staff to develop a plan with the film industry that quickly reduces and aims to eliminate diesel generators for filming and food trucks.
Portable electric power units have recently become available in Toronto in limited quantities. Training and support are needed to raise awareness of the technology which reduces GHG emissions. The decision to use this technology is between individual production companies and their locations and available product, so a consideration to incentives, education and training is helpful to kick-start and scale these solutions.
Clean infrastructure is needed. This includes facilitating access to clean grid power in highdemand locations. Electrical tie-ins with existing buildings, EV charging stations and/or “shore power” units will make it fast and easy for productions to access clean grid power right away.
Buildings and Energy
The City of Toronto’s studio space will significantly increase over the coming years. The Toronto Green Standard moves the building industry towards performance standards and ensures we maintain our competitive edge against other jurisdictions seeking to attract production. Other major jurisdictions have carbon neutral studios and renewable energy is prioritized. The City of Toronto’s plans to encourage new buildings to produce near-zero emissions and improve resilience, develop emissions and energy performance targets and create financial and other incentives for retrofits is welcome. This is especially important considering Ontario’s existing Energy and Water Benchmarking and Reporting legislation which plans to make energy performance data public. This is a global trend and we are well-served to prepare for it now.
There is interest in electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid transportation options. The industry transports goods, equipment and talent across the region and is looking for additional capacity for electrified transportation options through the installation of electric charging stations and the availability of hybrid and EV rental options. Financial incentives and rebates and education are welcome, considering this will significantly lower costs to production, by as much as 30%.
Promoting a circular approach in production will reduce GHG emissions. Set construction generates a significant amount of material waste and contributes towards a ‘disposable’ approach to resources. Sizable amounts of wood, metals, plastics, paints and other materials are used to rapidly create standing sets and props. When material is disposed of by landfill this further impacts the environment through emissions from transportation and decomposition.
Craft services and catering still has a high reliance on disposable packaging materials and the waste of potentially edible food. Millions of meals are served to the industry each year. Disposable packaging materials, such as Styrofoam and plastic water bottles, are derived from non-renewable hydrocarbons. The disposal of excess food creates methane. By reducing the amount of food created, redirecting additional food to communities in need, and disposing of food waste through organic collection or via onsite technology such as bio-digesters, the industry will contribute towards reducing its GHG emissions.
Financial incentives, rebates, and funding of pilot programs will allow for new business models to emerge that will support the circular economy. This is essential as some of the industry’s early reuse initiatives were not financially sustainable. The City of Toronto could also consider communication support.
The Vancouver film industry is seen to be making great strides toward environmental improvement; policymakers are encouraged to look carefully at Vancouver’s regulations and policies and opportunities to innovate.
Learning about federal, provincial and municipal climate action is important to drive the business case for GHG emission reductions. The industry is cost-sensitive; education is needed to communicate cost-saving opportunities another non-financial benefits. Education and pilot programs are needed that will show the impact, cost analysis and best practices.
Recently, our organization has been asked to train new Eco Production Assistants (Environmental Stewards) to help productions achieve their sustainability goals, including reductions in GHG emissions. This is a new role which is considered a best practice in other jurisdictions but is under-represented here in the Toronto area and much of Canada. It will make us a leader. Incentives and rebates are welcome as new roles such as Eco Production Assistants become standard practice and will accelerate GHG reductions quickly.
TransformTO is an effective framework for helping the industry meet GHG reduction targets using the focus areas that have been established. We commend you for your work and look forward to working with you to help advance the Implementation Plan.
Thank you for your consideration.
Sarah Margolius, President, Sustainable Media Production Canada