Climate change is an urgent priority for our children and grandchildren. “We all have a responsibility to reduce the harm of greenhouse gas emissions and find creative and adaptive solutions to protect the biosphere,” says Becky Pollock, executive director. “We also see opportunities to lead on energy efficiencies and energy production that provides and supports solid economic benefits for this region.”
GBBR has proposed to coordinate a major effort among interested municipal governments and First Nations within the biosphere region, and other partners. They propose a Regional Energy Plan and Community Climate Action initiative, starting in 2019. A committee would be established with representatives to oversee the work plans, and GBBR would deliver a service similar to the model of the West Parry Sound Geography Network, that provides technical GIS and mapping support to area councils.
“We held a meeting on January 21st open to all area councils, and we heard very clearly that this work should be coordinated across local governments including interested First Nations to maximize efficiencies for energy conservation and demand management,” says Pollock. “We also heard that we need education campaigns for communities to take specific actions related to high-efficiency buildings, retrofits and green energy, public transit solutions and active transportation along with efficient water delivery and wastewater treatment to reduce our carbon footprint. We have looked at examples in Muskoka, Simcoe, Manitoulin, Peterborough and other parts of rural Ontario that have targets in place and we think the Georgian Bay Biosphere region should strive for at least the same. We would also work with cottage communities to implement climate action.”
Each individual Council may be taking its own ‘corporate’ steps to mitigate its climate impacts, saving energy and costs. Each Council may also be implementing various adaptation strategies that protect community health and infrastructure in times of extreme weather events, such as drought, floods, and storms. GBBR says it recognizes this is important work that it could be well supported by a coordinated regional approach to setting targets and taking action.
“A number of communities have already invested in alternative energy projects and battery storage capacity, building retrofits using geothermal and solar, infrastructure and vehicle fleet upgrades and so forth,” says Pollock. “We should be telling these stories and celebrating the steps already taken that have resulted in environmental and economic benefits. We could be supporting more green jobs here too.”
“Fortunately, we would not be establishing this work from the ground up,” says David Bywater, Conservation Program Manager for GBBR. “The Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program, managed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) provides a framework to track and reduce greenhouse gas emission reductions. This framework, currently used by more than 350 municipalities, provides access to technical support and funding to assist municipalities. There are also several major programs to support First Nations, including those of the Independent Electricity Systems Operator (IESO).”
GBBR is providing deputations to all area councils in the coming months with the request to confirm their interest and launch a Regional Energy Plan committee and support community groups on climate education and action.