Environmental Impact of Toronto's G8 and G20 Protests

Toronto hosts G20 and violent protests create serious environmental costs, in addition to the hefty monetary bill that can be attributed to the hosting of delegates from 20 countries.

It might not be receiving the same level of international coverage, but in Canada, we have all been sitting glued to TV screens as protests devastate the city. Those particular events have been receiving enough coverage, so instead, let’s consider how this could feasibly effect the environmental impact that this international gathering of delegates will have.

There are a number things that the Canadian government promised to ensure there would be limited environmental impact as a result of the G8 in Huntsville, Ontario and the G20 in Toronto, Ontario. While a lot of their preparation went into security, they assured Canadians and the world that they were also focused on keeping the carbon footprint small. “Green” transportation was made available to visiting, accredited media, by providing them with transit passes and providing shuttles to encourage shared transport rather than having the mainstream media take their own vehicles, the government attempted to reduce emissions output.

Other efforts that went into the G8 and G20 with the environment in mind were a “no waste” attitude towards disposal of garbage, carbon offset initiatives, the use of green-powered venues, the planting of 1200 trees within the city, as well as the erection of a living wall meant to represent a pledge for commitment from all 20 country delegates present at the G20 towards environmental initiatives.

Their pledge for an environmentally-friendly G8 and G20 was a positive move on the part of the Canadian government. Unfortunately, at least where the G20 is concerned, the events that took place during the first day alone could reverse any benefits the initiatives might have had.

As soon as the G20 protests in Toronto began getting out of hand, so did the promise of little environmental impact. For starters, with public safety in mind, public transit was shut down entirely in Toronto’s city center. As of about 1pm this afternoon, members of the media were forced to either hop in their individual vehicles, or walk. With the streets unsafe and blocked by police presence to keep the riots under control, private shuttles would have served no purpose either, and those that were operating were used instead to transport police around different areas of the city depending upon where greater police presence was required.

Of course, the actions of the G20 protesters gone wild themselves contributed greatly to the environmental impact. They were lighting police vehicles on fire, emitting chemical-filled smoke into the atmosphere, smashing through the buildings of businesses and littering the streets with loot and waste products, pulling recyclables out of neighbourhood disposals to use as projectiles, and then there’s also the tear gas that the police were forced to use in order to get the unruly crowds back under control.

In honor of the G20 and G8, the 1200 trees that were set to be planted in the city of Toronto following the meetings will actually only replace those that were removed prior to this weekend for the sake of security. Those are set to be replanted, but whether or not they will follow through, or that the displaced trees will actually survive is something that might never be known. This aspect, of course, was not a result of today’s protests but as part of a so-called security initiative, the presence of violent protesters at previous G20 events made it necessary.

Canada may have promised an environmentally sound meeting, but it’s looking as though the billions of dollars spent to host these events won’t be the only cost; they’re taking their toll on the environment as well, and all this within the first day.

Image Via: nouspique on Flickr with a CC License

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