Peterborough County Addresses Climate Emergency with Concrete Actions

On September 23, county staff presented their report with recommendations for actions to address the climate crisis. The report was in response to a June 24th presentation by For Our Grandchildren and Peterborough Youth Empowerment which requested council to acknowledge the climate emergency and to take concrete action in the area to address it. The presenters appreciate both the content of the report and that council adopted it unanimously. It is very good news.

The staff report intentionally does not recommend declaring a Climate Emergency, highlighting that it is too often an empty symbolic gesture. Instead it proposes concrete, specific actions, drawn from the Peterborough Climate Change Action Plan which was passed nearly four years ago in December 2016 by Peterborough City, Peterborough County, all Townships in Peterborough County, and the two First Nations.

Very importantly, the report recommends working in collaboration with Peterborough GreenUp to implement and measure progress on behalf of all the townships. GreenUp has extensive local experience, local contacts, and expertise in these types of activities, and this collaboration will result in coordinated actions in all townships without individual townships having to do it on their own.

Brianna Salmon, Executive Director of Greenup, said this about their part in the project: “GreenUP is thrilled by Peterborough County Council’s unanimous support of the pilot Partnership Agreement to advance climate action in the county. GreenUP already works in close partnership with the City of Peterborough to engage residents in meaningful and measurable climate action initiatives – this new agreement with the County adds even greater momentum. The climate crisis is urgent and it feels heartening to see local governments taking a leadership role to support creative and collaborative solutions in this region.”

The first area of action is to help homeowners understand how they can improve the efficiency of their homes through energy retrofits. Even more important will be to help explain the various available incentive programs which are difficult to understand and which change often. We can only hope that the federal incentive program promised by the Liberals during the last election campaign will become part of this picture.

The second action addresses businesses through the Green Economy Peterborough (GEP) regional hub that will help businesses to set and achieve robust climate action goals. Such actions will include improving the energy efficiency of buildings and finding ways to transition vehicles to use cleaner fuel sources. What excites us about this is the collaborative nature that will enable and encourage businesses to work together.

Third is an initiative aimed at improving education about climate change in schools, showing both the problem and solutions. We can expect this to increase community awareness and civic engagement around climate change because we all learn so much from our children.

The budget to back this plan is an indicator of the county’s real concrete intent to implement it. The budget shows that money has been set aside directly from the county and also from various grants.

The concept of collaboration comes up often in this plan and in the discussion at the council meeting.The most evident collaboration is between the townships and First Nations through GreenUp. But there are other levels of collaboration that we should strive for. Most obviously there could be greater collaboration between the County and the City. For example the city has a Climate Change coordinator as does Selwyn township. They communicate informally and are aware of each others’ projects, but imagine how much more powerful it could be if they were more formally collaborating as part of a team.

Peterborough City and County could also benefit by greater collaboration with other municipalities across Canada. We should send representatives to The Climate Caucus, a Canadian non-partisan network of about 250 elected local elected leaders who work collectively to support each other and implement effective policies to fight the climate crisis. For example Durham region, a member of the Climate Caucus, appears to be doing better than we are in implementing actions.

It is encouraging to see that some provisions of our Climate Change Action Plan are now being turned into action in the county. The approval of this plan indicates that the county is taking actions that are aligned with the seriousness of the climate emergency.

But it’s not enough, it’s only a start. Our Climate Change Action Plan contains many more ideas that all need to be implemented if we are to meet the GHG reduction targets that we committed to in 2016. And we know that the city has to get on board as well.

We all need to keep reminding our municipal leaders that time is not on our side in this emergency.

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