ClimateActionWR launches celebratory events in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge to transition into a low carbon future!
Waterloo Region, ON. The Region of Waterloo, and cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo councils have unanimously approved an 80% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target by 2050. To celebrate, ClimateActionWR will rally residents across the Region to show their support for this target and build awareness around climate action in Waterloo Region.
The first stop will be at the Township of Wellesley’s Backyard Barbeque, where ClimateActionWR will be engaging attendees at the Community Information Forum:
- Township of Wellesley Event: Township of Wellesley Administration Office, June 22, 5 pm to 7 pm
“We are incredibly excited to announce the Region’s adoption of this 80% target,” ClimateActionWR Plan Manager, Katarina Milicic said, “The Climate Rally: 80 by 50 events will be a celebration of that decision and the catalyst to jumpstart our transition into a low-carbon, sustainable future.”
Two events in Kitchener and Cambridge will be hosted by ClimateActionWR to promote local and emerging initiatives and organizations committed to climate action.
These celebratory, interactive community events will usher in a new direction for climate action in Waterloo Region:
- Kitchener – Waterloo Event: Kitchener City Hall Rotunda, Wednesday, June 27, 5 pm to 6:30 pm
- Cambridge Event: Cambridge City Hall Bowman Room, Thursday, July 5, 5 pm to 6:30 pm
These two celebrations will include free food, local musicians, and ‘speed dating’ rounds where community members will get to know local groups that support citizens in reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors. Interactive activities at each booth will give a hands-on experience to enable participants to initiate their own climate action opportunities.
ClimateActionWR will celebrate the Climate Rally: 80 by 50 events with community members, initiatives, organizations, and youth that will contribute to the long-term target. All are welcome, and ClimateActionWR anticipates that registration will fill up quickly. Everyone can register for the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge events at 80by50.eventbrite.ca.
Contact Katarina Milicic, email@example.com, 226-476-1659 for additional comments.
ClimateActionWR is searching for people to join our Sector Committees: Transportation, Workplaces (ICI) and Homes (Residential). These sectors represent the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in the Region. Members develop ways to aid in mitigating climate change so that efforts towards a reduction in greenhouse gases by 6% will continue through to the 2020 goal.
Joining a Sector Committee means developing meaningful connections with experts, and those who are equally as passionate about creating changes effectively. By attending events and stakeholder meetings, establishing working groups, and introducing others who are like-minded to collaborate, they help make initiatives a success. Committee members are leaders in encouraging sectors to take action to continue to reach their goals, improving community engagement, and establishing new opportunities.
Joan Ang is on the Workplaces Committee, and working for the Region of Waterloo as a Corporate Energy Analyst. Her Sector Committee looks at ways businesses can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. She described assisting businesses depends on the size of the company. Large corporations can access resources and can designate a department for sustainability and reduction of energy, while small companies can be aided with a toolkit to help reduce their energy use. Joan recommends getting involved with a Sector Committee because it is a “great way to learn a lot about climate, climate change, and mitigation” and is a great way to get connected and learn about interesting projects that come out of these committees.
Heather Bigelow is on the Transportation Committee Sector, and currently works for Community CarShare as the Operations Manager. Her sector interacts with a variety of people because, as Heather commented, transportation is a personal choice. This sector committee works with municipalities at different levels, in more of an advocacy role, as they support initiatives that come forward, and explain how different bylaws impact the transportation sector. An example that Heather shared was the minimum parking bylaw, and how the transportation committee suggested removing the minimum parking space number, as this adds more spaces than is needed and puts an emphasis on the use of vehicles. She joined the transportation committee because it is something that she is personally and professionally interested in, since she does not own a vehicle and hopes that she will never need to. Heather recommends joining a sector committee because it is a “great way to get connected with people” that are interested in the same causes as you are, and that it is a great way to make a difference by working with a group interested in “achieving a really big goal”. She feels that greater impacts can be made when you work together. Heather further emphasized that they are “really interested in trying to support and connect new initiatives”, and are looking for any new ideas that they can help with.
Elena Weber-Kraljevska is on the Homes Committee Sector, and currently works for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, as an Energy Conservation Officer. Her sector aims to help homeowners reduce their emissions by raising awareness of incentives, and reaches out to the community through a variety of events and efforts. She explained only a few people are working on their initiatives, and community awareness will be helpful in improving this. She stressed the importance of understanding what you want to achieve and to find the channels to make that happen. Her sector has individuals who are not only experts in the subject matter, but are passionate about climate action. She believes it is important to have people from diverse backgrounds, to connect more people, and bring in new perspectives. Elena urged that if sustainability in our community and a cleaner environment is something that is important to you, that you can do something about it, that anyone can bring their knowledge and expertise to the table, further commenting, “no matter how small the information is, I think it is still very powerful and very important.”
If you feel passionate about working within a group that is driven to make changes, apply by October 15, 2017, at: http://www.climateactionwr.ca/participate/apply/
Over the past 5 years, Waterloo Region has been implementing a plan committed to reducing our community greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 6% below the 2010 levels by 2020. Our recently published progress report marks that half way point. We know the target can be reached, so far we’ve decreased GHG emissions by 5.2% since 2010. This occurred by focusing on five key areas: transportation, workplace, home, agriculture, and waste.
All of us have an important role to play in reaching this goal!
THE IMPACT OF WASTE
As of 2015, transportation was responsible for the largest percentage of GHG emissions in the Waterloo Region. Whereas waste makes up a single percent. Though waste appears to have a smaller GHG emissions percentage the type of emissions produced by waste presents the real difficulty. Methane is a gas produced from decomposing organic materials when placed in an environment without oxygen such as a landfill. Methane has over 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (Co2). When you put things that should go in the green bin or home composter in the garbage they go to the landfill and create methane.
Waste emissions increased by 11% over the past 5 years largely due to population growth. The implementation of green bins has helped divert unnecessary waste from landfills, leading to an increase in waste diversion rates. Still Waterloo Region estimates 50 000 tonnes worth of green bin material are placed in garbage bags going to landfill.
My house was a late adopter of the green bin program. We struggled with committing to properly collect organics and had a difficult time dealing with some of the unwanted pests that come with green bin miss-management. While it was difficult at times, we knew that playing our part in decreasing GHG emissions was important for long term sustainability.
WHAT WE CAN DO
Worried that you might be contributing to unwanted and easily avoided greenhouse gas emissions? Check out some of the simple steps you can take at home.
- Use the blue and green bins. Put organic waste and recyclables on the curb every week.
- Expand your Rs. We all know reduce, reuse, recycle but maybe consider using “refuse” and “rot”? Avoid products that produce un-necessary garbage if you can and consider composting your organic materials!
- Set up a backyard composter! Use your organic to make your garden happy and healthy.Not sure what should go in the composters or green bins? Print out this list to make it easy!
- Zero Waste Challenge! Participate in this challenge from REEP Green Solutions and try to produce zero waste over the month of October! Check out Zero Waste 101 to see if this challenge is for you!
- Build a Neighbourhood Green Bin Culture. Encourage your neighbours to give green bins a try, it’s easier than they might think.
- Live in a mutli-residential building that seems to have a hard time composting? Reep Green Solutions is exploring how to help you. Let them know if you’re interested.
There are many resources that can help everyone in Waterloo Region continue decreasing our collective greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. It is up to us to act and make simple changes in our lives.
Want more information on the ClimateActionWR plan to see how the Region of Waterloo has improved over the past 5 years? Check out our progress report that shares innovative changes made across our region.
Since 2010, Waterloo Region has been on course for doing our part to reduce climate change. Over the past 5 years, the Region had been implementing a plan committed to reducing our community greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 6% below the 2010 levels by 2020.
Our progress report published in June marks that half way point. Thus far we’ve decreased GHG emissions by 5.2% since 2010. This had been done through focusing on five key areas: transportation, workplace, home, agriculture, and waste. Even though sometimes it might not feel like it, all of us have an important role to play in reaching our set goals.
THE IMPACT OF AGRICULTURE
The previous post discusses the role of waste in the climate change processes and steps that everyone in the community can take to do their part. The following post will focus on the second smallest key area – agriculture. From 2010 – 2015 agriculture has been responsible for 5% of all GHG emission in the Region of Waterloo. While there has been a decrease of 3% in GHG emission within the agriculture sector, it is not necessarily good news.
We might not be able to reduce agriculture emissions to 0% but we can use agriculture emissions to our advantage. Methane is the dominate GHG produced in agriculture production, which is 23 times more powerful than CO2. However, we can harness this energy, using aspects of agriculture production as bioenergy allowing for the offset of GHG emissions. Using the power of poop, we can take innovative steps to decreasing the impact of agriculture.
Having a thriving agriculture sector in our community is important for reducing the footprint of the food we eat and encouraging long-term sustainability. According to David Suzuki, most food travels 1200 KM before reaching the plate, food grown closer to home is fresher and has far fewer transportation emissions associated with it. Understanding the transportation costs sometimes associated with agriculture encourages us to visit our local farmers market.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Interested in some steps you can take to decrease the impacts of agricultural GHG emissions? Check out some of the simple steps you can take at home.
- Meatless Mondays: Ditch the meat for one day a week and become a part of a growing phenomenon.
- Eat Local:Waterloo Region is home to a number of farmers markets that are accessible by public transit. Eating local means you get less packaging waste and your foods carbon footprint is much smaller
- Buy Only What You’ll Eat: The average home throw out ¼ food purchases. Planning meals ahead and making sure you only buy what you need allows you to decrease potential food waste
Are you a farmer?
Below are some farm specific ideas for you to take to decrease GHG emissions
- Manure management: Understand the implications of manure and take the necessary steps to reduce GHG emissions when storing and using manure
- Power of Poop: Be open to the abilities of bioenergy for supporting the community now and into the future
HAVE AN AMAZING IDEA?
Each of us are a part of this community and involved in lowering our communities GHG emissions. If you have a great idea for decreasing agricultural GHG emissions – as a farmer or someone who lives in the city – reach out to ClimateActionWR.
Want more information on the ClimateActionWR plan to see how the Region of Waterloo has improved over the past 5 years? Check out the other innovative changes made across our region.
Easy to Think You’re Alone
Even as a student in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, I’m always wondering how much of a difference my environmentally conscious decisions are really making? If I turned off the lights every time I left the house, hung my clothes instead of putting them in the dryer or took the bus instead of driving how much of a difference was I really making? Am I really making an impact and reducing global greenhouse gas emissions or do large industries have to change?
That was my old way of thinking
Climate action plans have sprung up everywhere across the world. With 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions coming from the burning of fossil fuels, it’s clear to see where the focus of these action plans should be. From the Paris Agreement to Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan, people across the world are putting climate change at the forefront of their minds. As greenhouse gas emissions increase with growing populations, we have the responsibility to innovate new, more efficient technologies and reduce our emissions globally.
Now the real question is: How am I involved?
HOW WATERLOO REGION GOT INVOLVED
It all started with a few simple ideas in 2010: installing electric charging stations at Conestoga Mall, the Reep House for Sustainable Living opened its doors for the first time to showcase water and energy saving ideas, and the City of Kitchener installed Canadas largest solar roof. As the ideas started building and passion for environmental sustainability across the region grew, a Climate Action Plan or ClimateActionWR was developed and passed! Since 2013, Waterloo Region has been committed to decreasing GHG emissions by 6% from 2010 to 2020.
The road so far
After thinking for so long that my simple environmentally conscious decisions weren’t making a difference, I can see that they are! The steps my neighbours and I are taking have an impact. Since 2010 The Region of Waterloo has already reduced carbon emissions by 5.2%, meaning it’s not impossible for us to foresee a day where even with a growing population we can continue to do our part in decreasing carbon emissions through simple everyday actions.
The reduction of carbon emissions has come from a variety of ideas, such as:
So far the Region has taken the equivalent of 58 000 cars off the road and that can keep growing. Greenhouse gas emissions from cars account for almost 50% of all emissions in the Region of Waterloo! Making effective and reliable transit a key factor in decreasing our emissions.
In 2021 another official update in regards to the specific CO2 emission reduction will be released to see if we’ve met out 6% target. Can’t wait until 2021 for the next report? Don’t worry! Check out the bi-yearly updates.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
With Waterloo Region expected to grow by 20-30% over the next 15 years, it is a pivotal time for current residents to get onboard with awesome ideas!
ClimateActionWR, a collaboration led by Reep Green Solutions, and Sustainable Waterloo Region, ClimateActionWR, is looking for your ideas on updating our targets and how we can work together to reach them. Be sure to participate in the engagement opportunities over the next several months!
Ever thought of how CO2 emissions are calculated, and how this ties into your daily life?
Here’s what you should know:
What is CO2?
CO2 is one of the primary greenhouse gasses which contribute to climate change. CO2e, meaning “CO2 Equivalent”, is a term to describe what all greenhouse gases would convert to, in CO2 levels. For example, one tonne of Methane (CH4) equates to 25 tonnes of CO2, in the CO2 equivalent. Together, all greenhouse gases contribute to long-term health effects, as well as the increase in the temperature of our planet.
What is the greenhouse effect?
The greenhouse effect is the primary cause for climate change, which occurs when radiation from the sun gets trapped under the earth’s atmosphere due to higher levels of greenhouse gasses. Through the cumulative entrapment of heat from the sun, our planet has been heating up at an exponential rate. As a prevention method, the Paris Climate Agreement attempted to prevent CO2 emissions from raising global temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels
What part of your day causes the most CO2e Emissions?
- You may have already guessed what the answer is – yes, it is transportation. In fact, in 2015, 49% of emissions in Waterloo Region were from transportation, which is mainly a result of the car-centric city. Think about how much we have relied on traveling alone in our cars, the number of hours we spend in our vehicle, in traffic each week. Our recent report shows that despite Waterloo Region’s Climate Action Plan to reduce emissions by 6% from by 2020, transportation emissions have risen by 5% since 2010. This will hopefully change with the new Light Rail Transit system opening next year. So when it is ready, you could greatly reduce your carbon footprint by using this new form of public transit.
- The workplace. This may be one you often don’t think about, but 27% of CO2e emissions are emitted here. Thankfully, emissions have reduced by 17% since 2010.
- Homes. Homes are third on the list, accounting for 18% of the Region’s emissions. What’s more, housing has decreased in emissions by 10% in the last 6 years.
So what’s next?
With CO2e reductions on Waterloo Region’s priority list, we can help by thinking about our days and where we burn the most fossil fuel. We all have our impact on our community, country, world, and CO2 plays a large part in this.
Where can we help?
A great place to start is by reading our Actions page to learn more about our progress in Waterloo Region, or check out how you can participate with local initiatives, here.
The Health Impacts of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
I remember hearing on the news, that 2013 was the first smog-less summer in Ontario. A big part of this change is Ontario’s successful campaign to phase out coal-powered electricity generation plants between 2010-2014. This effort has reduced an incredible amount of CO2 from being emitted into the air. This means when you power on our air conditioning, lights, or electrically heated swimming pool for every one-kilowatt hour you use today, it produces almost 3 times less CO2 than it would have back in 2010.
With the reduction of CO2 emissions from our community, we can breathe in a little deeper and worry a little less about out next health check-up. With smog being known to cause negative health impacts, such as difficulty breathing, asthma, and lung damage, past smoggy days have overfilled local clinics and hospitals with patients. The most susceptible are children and seniors. Now, with our new smog-free city, we do not have to be so vigilant about checking the news for smog warnings and breathe a little easier.
Moving Forward as a Coal-Free Community
While we are moving forward at a great pace and have almost reached the Region’s goal of 6% CO2 reductions, we must now look ahead to see what the next step can be in reducing emissions. Transporation is our next major health and emissions challenge. Transportation now makes up almost 50% of our community’s carbon footprint, and as our population continues to grow we’ve seen more and more vehicles add to our roadways. Efforts to move people out of gasoline or diesel powered vehicles has significant potential to improve the air quality in our community. The ION light rail transit project has the potential to decrease hospital admissions, saving our local health car system an estimated $10.5 million during the first 25 years of operation.
With these ideas in mind, I believe that we will reach the goal of 6% CO2 reductions by 2020, and can go even further to make lasing impacts on our community. With the large step taken by eliminating coal-fired energy production, we should be inspired, but not stop to keep further change coming.
Mary Jane Patterson is the Executive Director of Reep Green Solutions and co-leads ClimateActionWR with Sustainable Waterloo Region. Read her take on our community’s progress toward reducing its carbon footprint.
Drumroll please: We are just past the halfway mark in our Climate Action Plan for Waterloo Region, and the results are in:
- Our emissions have gone down by 5.2% – great news! And getting closer to our target of 6% below 2010 levels by 2020, if we can keep it up.
- Most of the heavy lifting was done by the province, by closing down the coal generating stations. So what was the impact of our local actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Without the province’s changes, our local emissions would have gone up by 4.4%. Wrong direction!
- But taken in context, we have made progress locally. During that same time period, our economy grew by 14% and our population by 5.7 %. Our local actions meant that emissions did not grow at the same rate – we separated emissions growth from population and economic growth. This is an important step forward.
The most concerning information we see in the Progress Report is the growth in emissions from transportation. During the time period of 2010 to 2015, vehicle ownership in Waterloo Region grew at twice the rate of population growth. Transportation emissions now make up 49% of our carbon footprint, and they’re continuing to grow. That is our biggest challenge as a community going forward.
READ MORE on Reep Green Solutions’ website
Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and Canada’s first ministers convened in Vancouver at a conference to establish a framework to battle climate change. The first ministers are composed of the provincial and territorial premiers. Together they drafted a policy plan which is expected to be effective in early 2017.
The outcome was satisfactory as the ministers came to an agreement for a lower-carbon future. Though the plan is still in its primitive stages, it is received warmly and eagerly by many Canadians whom anticipate a reduction in emissions through carbon taxes and other measures. In a decade, this is the first time the national government has assembled to discuss climate change. Canadians are optimistic since the previous government under Stephen Harper was infamous for silencing scientists especially pertaining to matters about the environment. British Columbia’s premier Christy Clark added this rationale saying,
This is not the end. I understand that. But I hope Canadians will look at it and say, they got together, they made progress, it’s a start.
One Canadian in particular, Prince Edward Island’s Premier Wade MacLauchlan gleamed proudly of the province’s efforts to transition to renewable energy though this is just the beginning. He added,
We have to move to a cleaner climate that’s going to be there for future generations.
One of the most pressing issues to tackle climate change can be seen through carbon pricing on a national level as promised by federal environment minister, Catherine McKenna.
In the months to follow, we can expect more research conducted to accurately respond to the concerns and conditions of each province and territory. This working group will advise on clean technology, innovation and jobs, carbon reduction and adaptation.
The matter of climate change will be a topic on discussion when the first ministers assemble later this year.
In Waterloo Region, ClimateActionWR works with dedication and collaboration with services such as Community CarShare, Sustainable Waterloo Region and REEP Green Solutions to reduce carbon emissions. With the support of the new government and its new environmental policies, it allows these programs to flourish which will support a cleaner and greener community.
Here are a couple more notable Canadian accomplishments fighting climate change:
- There are more clean tech companies listed on Canada’s stock exchange than any other stock exchange in the world.
- Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance’s awareness for environmental technologies was greeted and support by oil producers.