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.