reducing emmissons

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Transforming the Ways We Move

By: Mara Mackay

March 19th, 2021

TransformWR is Waterloo Region’s long term community climate action strategy, and our community-wide response to the global climate crisis. This work outlines our strategy to achieve an 80% local greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction target (based on 2010 levels) by 2050, with a short-term interim target to reduce GHGs 30% by 2030. The outcome of this collective action will help us achieve our vision for 2050, and ultimately transform Waterloo Region into an equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon community.   

Our call to action is to transform our community, in the ways we move, the ways we build and operate our spaces, the ways we produce, consume and waste, and the ways we relate to one another.

This excerpt from the TransformWR strategy focuses on: transforming the ways we move.

In 2015, nearly half (49%) of our community’s GHG emissions came from how we move people and goods. Furthermore, short distance trips of less than five kilometers make up nearly 50% of all travel by residents within the Region that could generally be achieved using active forms of transportation.

Active transportation means any method of traveling to a destination that uses primarily human power, which we describe as “walking, cycling, or rolling.” This includes trips made using, or propelled by your body, a mobility device, a bicycle or tricycle (with or without assistance from an electric battery), a skateboard, or a scooter.

Results of Waterloo Region’s 2010 and 2015 GHG inventories show a local GHG reduction of 5.2%. To achieve our long-term 80% reduction target, significant collaborative efforts will need to be made over the next 30 years.

To meet our 80by50 target, by 2050 existing short trips need to be made by walking, cycling, or rolling. Longer trips, where possible, need to be replaced by shorter trips. For example, instead of driving to a grocery store across town, more people will walk, cycle, or roll to a store nearby.

Public transit service is crucial for making most trips using active transportation. It gives people a low- energy, convenient option for trips that they can’t walk, cycle, or roll to. It supports being able to live fulfilling lives without owning a vehicle, and is accessible to people of different incomes and abilities. In this way, a robust transit service needs to be used to supplement our active transportation goals.

While most trips will be made using active transportation by 2050, many trips will still require powered vehicles. This includes public transit vehicles, and personal and commercial vehicles. This is especially the case for rural parts of Waterloo Region where active transportation is not realistic over long distances, and there is limited access to public transit. All remaining vehicles in 2050 must be zero-emission vehicles.

Electric vehicles (EV’s) are zero-emissions, and are already available to consumers. Most major auto manufacturers are already producing electric models, and many automobile manufacturers such as Toyota and General Motors have announced dates by which they will phase out gasoline powered vehicles. While some types of industrial and commercial vehicles may need to use other zero-emissions technologies like green hydrogen, with strong investments in charging infrastructure, the future of most vehicles is electric.

Every Waterloo Region municipality, organization, business, and community member has an important role to play in Waterloo Region’s transition to a low carbon community. This strategy is meant to influence all future planning. Official plans, corporate plans, organizational planning etc. should look to this document, and the work outlined in the strategy should be integrated into all planning processes for the next 30 years, to align our community with success. This is a launching point for the next 30 years of local climate action, and the years ahead of us are where the real work comes into play. If you are interested in contributing to this work, consider applying for our Transportation sector committee, more information on that opportunity is available at

Now is the time to act! Visit to review the full draft TransformWR document, look for the ways you see yourself in it, and join the entire community in helping to create a better future for us today and for generations to come. Together we can build a more equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon future!

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