Linda Slavin’s Story Of Climate Action in Peterborough

By G. Hanchet

This is a long story starting in 2005 when I first heard of a group at Trent University led by Professor Stephen Hill who were doing sustainability research.  I sat in on several meetings. It became obvious that a wider community presence was necessary if we were to make changes.

I decided to run in the 2006 Mayoral race in Peterborough City. I did not expect to win, but I felt that sustainability needed more attention.  I certainly was the only candidate of seven to bring this issue up in public debates.  After Paul Ayotte won (I came 2nd), I was part of the small group that had been meeting on ‘sustainability’ that decided to go to the city for some basic funding.

By this time, we were involving more community members and meeting at 7:30 in the morning at a local restaurant for breakfast, the one time everyone could get together. I made up for my lack of experience in the field by organizing the meetings and keeping notes for everyone.  One of the things we did was get in touch with Ken Doherty, the head of the Cultural and Social departments at the city.  He was interested and began developing relationships and interest at City Hall and involved the county as well.  This was very useful when it came to funding from the city and the county who contributed money starting about 2010.

In 2011, we got funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and others which allowed us to hire a consultant to begin what would become the Sustainable Peterborough Plan. The plan saw us contact community in a variety of ways based on our 11 priorities and develop action plans based on different sectors. Further funding was received when we decided to develop an action plan for the climate.  That study included a baseline report of sources of green house gases in the townships, the City and the local First Nations: Curve Lake and Hiawatha.  It also was the starting point for the goal of reducing greenhouse gases by about 30% by 2030, the Federal standard of the day.  Separate plans were developed and accepted by the City, all the county townships and the two First Nations in 2016.  Many of these municipalities have made substantial progress on their Action Plans, while others have not moved much further.

How did we achieve these plans?  First of all, it was a group effort – ever changing and interesting – that made this happen.  Secondly, it was diverse groups from diverse organizations involving private and public institutions, genuine multi-sectoral groups that worked on both plans.  Those groups sat at the organizing table as well. That was key to acceptance by the councils and the wider public. Thirdly, we organized a variety of outreach activities that appealed to different public institutions. I co-chaired that group for several years.

But how do we measure success today? The City has declared a Climate Emergency with a stronger greenhouse-gas reduction target, although that has fallen short of its potential. The latest CO2 reports were far higher than agreed to by the municipalities when they approved the original plan.

When I started talking about sustainability, I had no idea where it was going to go. You have to start where you are at … and never stop.

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