Waterloo Region will help stop climate change
As appeared in the June 27, 2016 print edition of the Record
An estimated $8.3 billion dollar price tag will no doubt leave anyone with sticker shock, but what does Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan mean for those who live, work, study and play in Waterloo Region?
You may recall in late 2013, the City Councils of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, as well as Regional Council, unanimously endorsed our own Climate Action Plan and committed to a community Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reduction target of 6% below 2010 levels by 2020.
Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan goes farther, laying the foundation for short, medium and long term GHG reductions of 15%, 37% and 80% by 2020, 2030 and 2050, respectively.
Although the two plans have different timelines and targets, the key messages are the same: how we move people and goods, and the way we manage energy at work and at home, contribute to the majority of our carbon footprint – but we can change that and thrive in the process.
Our local plan lays out quantifiable benefits for having a local Climate Action Plan: $350 million in value added to the local economy, the generation of almost 5,400 person years of employment and savings to the tune of $21 million for local households and businesses. Not to mention those intangible benefits of fewer smog days and improved public health as we shift to more active forms of transportation.
We are already leading the way with homegrown projects and programs:
- Our community Climate Action Plan sets a target to support the adoption of 1,000 electric vehicles across the region by 2020; the Province’s plan is 14,000 EVs province wide by 2020.
- The Province lists electric-vehicle-ready homes and workplaces as a priority for action for land use planning – the City of Kitchener has proposed by-laws that set out minimum electric vehicle or electric vehicle-ready parking spaces on all commercial facilities and multi-unit apartments.
- TravelWise is a Transportation Management Association in our region that provides tools and services to help employers find commuting solutions and reduce the number of employees driving alone to work. Included in the provincial plan are grants for large employers to reduce the number of single-passenger vehicle trips, which could see an uptake of membership with TravelWise.
- Sustainable Waterloo Region’s flagship program, the Regional Carbon Initiative, supports its members to implement cost-effective emission reduction projects including the installation of anti-idling technologies in fleets – an initiative the Province may support under their new Green Commercial Vehicle Program.
- A Home Energy Rating and Disclosure program was listed as a program in the Province’s plan, which would require an energy audit and associated rating at time of sale for homes. REEP Green Solutions has been providing energy audits to homeowners in our community for 17 years and such a program would be a natural extension of their service offerings.
This provincial plan will provide our community with supports for actions that our community is already putting in place. Moreover, when you situate an $8.3 billion dollar investment over 5 years within the context of a $1 trillion global opportunity known as ‘Cleantech’, this plan is about more than infrastructure investment; it is about securing our stake in this rapidly expanding industry.
With our own community Climate Action Plan acting as a direction for our collective efforts, and the Provincial Action Plan in place to support us, Waterloo Region is poised to further our sustainability efforts and together contribute to meeting our reduction target by 2020, while supporting our growing local Cleantech sector.
Learn more about Waterloo Region’s Community Climate Action Plan here: www.climateactionwr.ca
On May 3, Sustainable Waterloo Region hosted a panel, Environmental Politics: Planning for Action – Globally, Nationally, Provincially, and Locally, featuring four special guests who work towards achieving a sustainable future.
Professor Matthew Hoffmann
The event kicked off with University of Toronto professor, Matthew Hoffmann who presented the Next 50 Years – International Landscape and Canadian Context. Hoffmann jokingly explained to the attendees that after Paris he had to trash all of his existing slides. Why? Because there is now optimism in climate politics, something that has been absent since Kyoto. Hoffman suggested that it will take “a lot of work and imagination” to reach a decarbonized future, but that a bottom up approach is critical and Paris has set the stage for such an approach.
Director Keith Brooks
Keith Brooks, Director of Clean Economy at Environmental Defence followed with his presentation on the province’s future, Ontario: The Next 5 Years. Brooks emphasized residents should not have to choose between the environment and the economy as both are important and necessary to the public. He expressed the need for complimentary policies to address all areas of GHG productions, because a single approach will not be enough.
Senior Policy Advisor Sarah Petrevan
On the topic of provincial politics, Senior Policy Advisor of Clean Energy Canada, Sarah Petrevan, discussed Ontario Implications: Cap and Trade. Her work in carbon and electricity programs plays a critical role in the green future of Ontario. Though there is still several unknowns with Ontario’s Cap and Trade policy, putting a price on carbon is an important step towards a decarbonized policy. A price on carbon will prompt organizations to reduce their footprint, because those reductions will be cheaper than paying the ‘carbon price.’
Sustainability Coordinator Claire Bennett
Claire Bennett, Sustainability Coordinator at Wilfrid Laurier University focused her talk on Climate Action Waterloo Region. Claire explained that the actors at the municipal or local level are the ‘doers.’ While she sees policies from the international, national and provincial levels as processes to aid the local ‘doers’ in achieving their goals.
The presentations were followed with a panel discussion with questions from the audience. Though the speakers focused on a different element in their speeches, the common factor was their hope and optimism for the future.
Thank you to all those who joined us for Environmental Politics: Planning for Action – Globally, Nationally, Provincially, and Locally. We look forward to seeing you again for the launch of Regional Sustainable Initiative next month!
Special thanks to Ian Rowlands who facilitated the panel discussion and question period.
Last Thursday, Sustainable Waterloo Region hosted its annual Evening of Recognition, an event congratulating partnering organizations and individuals who are striving to reduce their carbon emissions while increasing awareness about environmental sustainability. The theme of the evening was the Past, the Present and the Future – aiming to highlight progress thus far and the steps being taken for a greener future!
With over 300 guests registered, it was a full house! The evening was a success, thanks to community members coming together to recognize the green efforts of our partners.
Awards were made from repurposed material keeping with the theme of sustainability and minimizing waste (waste contributes to 1% of our Region’s carbon emissions!)
Awards of the Evening
RCI Rookie of the Year – The David Johnston Research + Technology Park
RCI Leaderboard Winner and Carbon Cleanse Challenge – AET Group
Greatest GHG Reduction (24.4%!) – MMM Group Limited
Most Active Member of TravelWise – City of Cambridge
Leadership and Innovation Award with TravelWise – Wilfrid Laurier University Sustainability
Greatest Increase in Sustainable Commuting – Crawford Canada
Partner of the Year – Cora Group
Environmental Awareness – Wilfrid Laurier University Sustainability
Champion of the Year – Anna Marie Cipriani
Budds’ BMW showcased their BMW i8 which attracted a lot of attention from the event goers. Not only a sporty ride but the i8 leads future cars with its low consumption, high performance and low emissions – the future of EVs is here!
ClimateActionWR discussed the Climate Action Plan amongst attendees to raise awareness alongside Sustain-A-City and their prototype.
ClimateActionWR’s Dan Shaver and David Alton
In the words of Waterloo Regional Chair, Ken Seiling from his speech of the evening,
The future is brave.
There has been immense development in our community as recognized by Sustainable Waterloo Region last week. This would not be possible without the cooperation from partners and the help of volunteers. The collaboration of hundreds of community members has allowed to make a positive impact on the environment – an initiative that is only expected to grow in the future.
Don’t forget to check out A Sustainable Vision, Sustainable Waterloo’s 2015 annual report here!
On March 20, high school students with the collaborative efforts of university students met to design a prototype of a sustainable city with respect to the five actions. Students were put into designated groups which represented the five actions. The groups tackled the environmental challenges in workplaces, energy systems, waste management, transportation, housing, consumer habits and agriculture and food!
The model was carefully articulated with features such as alternative energy sources like wind power, paid parking to incentivize public transportation, community gardens and much more!
One of the challenges faced by agriculture and farming is that food often travels thousands of kilometers before reaching local grocery stores, therefore contributing to our community’s carbon footprint. Students suggested a solution to this would be to support local farming which would reduce carbon emissions associated with the transportation of our food. Students urged for incentives for local farming and purchasing local products. They also focused on the need to raise awareness about the heavy use of chemicals and fertilizers in agriculture which has a heavy impact on the environment.
Berry Vrbanovic (center) holds an action card with the participants of the Sustain-A-City workshop alongside the model city created by the students.
The workshop was thrilled by a surprise visit from Kitchener mayor, Berry Vrbanovic who stopped by to encourage the students in their involvement and initiative in creating an environmentally sustainable city.
ClimateActionWR’s very own David Alton engages participants in Climate Yoga.
Volunteers channel their Solar Panel yoga pose.
For more information regarding Sustain-A-City workshop, contact Katarina at email@example.com
ClimateActionWR has just started a Linked In page to highlight actions, opportunities, tips and best practices in the workplaces (ICI) sector. We are also using it to promote local sustainability jobs and volunteer opportunities. If you have a LinkedIn page please follow us and share with your network.
Learn more here: https://www.linkedin.com/company/climateactionwr
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.
The Residential Sector Committee authored this op-ed on behalf of ClimateActionWR with support from the Workplaces (ICI) and Transportation Sector Committees. The published story can be found on The Record here.
The country’s first ministers are meeting in Vancouver to establish a national climate change strategy which will be effective on a provincial and national level.
With consideration to COP21 and the United Nations Environment Program, the reoccurring theme of reducing emissions remains a top priority internationally.
The opinion story takes a look at Waterloo Region’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6% of 2010 levels by 2020 as encouraged by ClimateAction WR. The community’s quality of life is improved through the support of organisations and the promotion of services such as Community CarShare, allowing to reduce the emissions contributed by transportation.
After several years of planning and test trials, local municipalities are moving forward with their plan to convert all regional streetlights into LEDs. It is projected that once the 42,000 streetlights have been converted it will save 920 tonnes of GHGs per year in reduced energy use. These energy savings are also expected to translate into annual cost savings of at least $1.6 million.
The LED streetlight retrofits are a key action in the Climate Action Plan. We are excited to see our community taking this next big step towards our GHG emissions reduction target.
You can learn more about this initiative here, or by contacting your local municipality.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities(FCM) has awarded the Climate Action Plan with a Sustainable Communities Award. The award recognizes the Plan as a leading example of energy planning in the country. Learn more about the awards here: Sustainable Community Awards
The Climate Action Plan was created through the collaboration of The Region of Waterloo, the City of Kitchener, the City of Cambridge, the City of Waterloo, REEP Green Solutions and Sustainable Waterloo Region. Congratulations and many thanks for all their hard work. You can learn more about our team here.
The Region of Waterloo will accept the award on behalf of ClimateActionWR at FCM’s Sustainable Communities Conference. The Region also won an award for their brownfields redevelopment of the Breithaupt Block.
Together, let’s be ambitious. By acting today, we can leave our children a community that is more resilient, caring, vibrant, and sustainable.
On December 4, one of our lead partners, REEP Green Solutions published an op-ed in The Record. The piece is a personal refection on the global climate conversations currently coalescing around COP21 and a call to greater action on climate change.
Yet for many of us, these talks are like a distant cousin: We know they exist, we might have seen a photo, but we haven’t really ever had any interaction with them. Likewise, climate change can be a difficult issue to relate to personally. The question that many of us struggle with is whether (and how) we, as individuals, can make a difference.
The fact is that climate change hits close to home. Literally.
The piece emphasizes the significant impacts of our actions locally, particularly around the ways we choose to heat and power our homes. Luckily organizations like REEP Green Solutions have spearheaded several initiatives to help homeowners lower their impact. And, our Region is no sitting duck when it comes to climate action, as we have set a GHG reduction target, developed a Climate Action Plan, and have many actions in place to meet it.
The Op-ed was written by Jennifer Lynes, Chair of REEP Green Solutions and associate professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo; and Mary Jane Patterson, executive director of REEP Green Solutions. Read it here: