The City of Toronto is considering banning gas infrastructure, including stoves and barbecues, in new buildings.

During an Infrastructure and Environment Committee meeting on April 26, councillors carried a motion "to review options to discourage the installation of new combustion uses of methane" as part of updates to the Toronto Green Standard.

Brought forth by Councillor Dianne Saxe, the motion, if passed, would see new natural gas infrastructure, such as gas stoves, furnaces, and barbecues, banned in new developments.

"Combustion of gas in buildings, mostly for heating and water heating, is the largest single source of Toronto's climate pollution and is also a contributor to air pollution. It's also a very significant contributor to indoor air quality problems," Saxe told the committee.

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"We are in the middle of the building rush. Continuing to build more and more buildings where we hook up more and more gas appliances is digging a deeper and deeper hole, and that hole is already going to be very difficult to get out of."

Saxe told STOREYS the motion has garnered interest from builders and developers, particularly those in the condo and purpose-built rental segments. She noted that the opportunity for change lies at the zoning and site planning stage, and that the motion would not affect buildings that are currently under construction or seek to take away Torontonian's existing gas stoves and barbecues.

She pointed to a proposed mixed-use condo building at 208 Bloor Street West, which, as part of the site plan agreement with the City, will have a low-carbon energy strategy that utilizes an electric heat pump as a primary source of heating and cooling. Gas will still be permitted as a backup source of heat on "extremely cold nights," she noted.

"We know we have to cut [our use of natural gas]. If you're in a hole and you need to get out, the first thing you need to do is stop digging. Putting in more new gas appliances, gas broilers, gas barbecues, anything that doesn't exist already, is just digging us further into a hole we desperately have to get out of," Saxe told STOREYS.

"Induction stoves are much more efficient. Putting electric-only appliances in a home makes the air cleaner, it's better for people'e health, it's better for predictability of costs, and it is essential for our climate action. Cities around the world have been moving in this direction."

A ban on gas hookups in buildings shorter than seven storeys will go into effect in New York City in December, and will apply to taller buildings in 2027.

While Saxe expects the motion to pass at the next City Council meeting on May 10, the ban wouldn't immediately come into effect thereafter. She noted that the first step would be to figure out what the City can do under the provincial government.

Councillor Mike Cole, who opposed the motion, cautioned that the decreased use of natural gas may lead to an increased use of nuclear power.

"There's a consequence to everything we do," Cole said. "We have to basically bring the public along with us...This idea of basically turning off our gas stoves and natural gas heating, what it does, when we go down this road without having a good dialogue with the public about this, we turn a lot of people off."

Urban Living