Area municipalities are taking climate change seriously. With support from the Georgian Bay Biosphere, councils were asked to support a resolution to join the national “Partners for Climate Protection” program and commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is a program that over 350 municipalities in Canada have already joined.
Those that have signed a resolution to date within the Biosphere region are: Township of Georgian Bay, Township of the Archipelago, Township of Carling, Town of Parry Sound, and Seguin Township. McKellar Township has provided support-in-principle. All area councils have been invited to join the regional initiative, along with area First Nations.
In January, at a meeting held at Wahta Mohawk First Nation for all area councils, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve proposed a Regional Energy Plan and Community Climate Action initiative. Another meeting will be held in September to review the Terms of Reference for the project. Similar to the technical GIS and mapping the West Parry Sound Geography Network undertakes, representatives would oversee the work plans, with the biosphere delivering progress reports.
“We are delighted with the progress made in just six months,” said Becky Pollock, executive director of GBBR. “We’re seeing support for climate action growing, both globally and locally. All 701 world biosphere reserves have been called on by the United Nations to support climate education and climate action,” said Pollock. “Having the support of elected officials is key and coordinating climate action at the regional level is more efficient and cost-effective for everyone.”
The first Milestone in the program is to do a detailed inventory of greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) from internal municipal operations, including buildings, vehicle fleets, and solid waste. A baseline of emissions is needed before moving onto the second Milestone of setting targets for reduction. Over the past few years, municipalities have improved their efficiencies and witnessed cost-savings.
“Parry Sound is a proud supporter of Partners for Climate Protection,” said Mayor Jamie McGarvey. “As part of our commitment, the Town of Parry Sound and the federal government recently announced a speedier project that will make our community ‘net-zero,’ generating all of our electricity requirements locally and in a sustainable manner.”
Other regions using Federation of Canadian Municipalities “Partners for Climate Protection” toolkit for their local climate action planning include southern Georgian Bay (Severn Sound Sustainabilty), the Greater Peterborough area, and Sudbury-Manitoulin.
In addition to the inventory of corporate emissions, the GBBR will be working with partners to assess emissions data from all communities in the region.
Benjamin John is a summer student at the GBBR and is completing a Master’s of Resource and Environmental Management at Dalhousie University. He says: “Community energy in the areas of transportation, solid waste, residential and other buildings make up the most significant proportion of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Some of that data is hard to obtain or doesn’t yet exist. So we’ll need to work with partner organizations and industry to become more informed about our climate footprint in the biosphere.”
Once a clear picture of tonnes of greenhouse gasses is calculated for each municipality and aggregated for the region, then an informed discussion can take place to set targets and strategies for reduction starting in 2020.
“We anticipate that future and existing programs that help reduce energy use will be critical for us to see change, including the types of vehicles and building materials we buy” says Pollock. “I imagine that area councils will also be discussing adaptation strategies as well, to deal with new impacts and the uncertainties of climate change.”