Image sourced from: http://www.climateactionwr.ca/progress/
Waterloo Region is currently working under a plan to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions by 6% below 2010 levels by the end of 2020. The focus areas include transportation, workplaces, homes, agriculture plus food, and waste.
The target reduction was chosen because it was deemed to be both ambitious and achievable in a region that has seen significant population growth. It is a relatively conservative target, however: Toronto’s 2020 target, for example, is 30% below 1990 levels and by 2017 had surpassed that target, achieving a 44% reduction in emissions.
In 2015, the Region of Waterloo inventory its community emissions and reported a 5.2% drop in emissions. Seems impressive, right? After only 5 years, we had almost reached our target. But you may recall that during this period, provincial legislation forced the closure of coal-fired power plants leading to a 60% drop in emissions from electricity. If we set aside the emissions reduction attributable to cleaning the electricity supply, the Region of Waterloo emissions have increased by 4.4% over that period. It was provincial leadership, not regional or municipal programs that deserves most of the credit.
So what has the Region of Waterloo done to mitigate climate change in the community? Not nearly enough. The tri-cities have taken steps to reduce their corporate emissions, we have seen an expansion in public transportation options, active transportation is being facilitated, we now have green bin pickup. But most other programs are voluntary, educational, or aspirational. Change is hard.
Looking to the long term, the Region has committed to a target of 80% below 2010 levels by 2050. While less ambitious than the net zero emissions recommended to keep global temperature rise below 1.5'C, this nevertheless represents a target that will require significant leadership from our municipal representatives. It will require municipal regulation, municipal investment, municipal programs, education, incentives and coordinated action with other levels of government. ClimateActionWR is responsible for developing the long term Climate Action Strategy which is to be released in late 2020. In the meantime, it is our role to keep talking about our climate concerns with friends, neighbours, co-workers, municipal leaders: it is the only way to keep the urgent need for climate change mitigation at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Downtown Waterloo from over Kitchener, taken by Floydian, sourced from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Downtown_Waterloo.png
It turns out that there has been a lot of planning within the Waterloo Region when it comes to climate change. I have provided links to all of the publicly available plans below, along with a link to the Regional Sustainability Initiative if you want to learn about what other local corporations are doing.
Of course, plans are great but it is actions that count. In future blog posts, I will describe what Waterloo Region has achieved so far and provide some reflections on what it will take to achieve its stated ambitions.
But first a word about terminology. There are two types of climate plans: climate mitigation plans deal with strategies for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and climate adaptation plans are designed to build local resilience toward the changes in climate that are projected for the region. There are also two levels of municipal climate action plans: corporate plans deal with the municipality’s own emissions, processes and infrastructure, while community plans deal with the emissions, processes and infrastructure contained within the boundaries of the municipality.
Region of Waterloo
City of Kitchener
City of Waterloo
City of Cambridge
Township of North Dumfries
Township of Wellesley
Township of Wilmot
Township of Woolwich
Other Corporate Climate Action Plans