Report Card Calls for More Action

By Mark Bullock

Peterborough City Council has been overly cautious in its response to the climate change threat, and passive in the face of clear evidence that the measures currently in place to reduce Peterborough’s GHG emissions are inadequate. This is the main conclusion of a Climate Action Report Card released on January 12 by 4RG’s Political Action Committee.

The Report Card found that previous Peterborough City Councils and the present Council have taken significant actions in response to the threat of climate change, but that these actions have been much less than adequate in two respects: they have not been enough to put the city on a path to meeting its clearly stated emission reduction targets, and they have fallen far short of all that might be done to address the climate emergency.

The Report Card credits Councils past and present with acknowledging the reality of global warming and climate change, and with recognizing climate change as a threat to future generations. It also credits them with establishing stable annual funding for climate change action, with expanding the city’s capacity for generating clean energy, and with creating an official plan which calls for the creation of “walkable, cyclable, transit friendly “complete communities.”

The Report Card goes on to point out, however, that Peterborough is not on track to meet the targets which Council set for emissions reduction at the time of the Climate Change Emergency Declaration. In the case of Corporate GHG emissions (those from City of Peterborough operations) City staff project that Peterborough will achieve at best a 33% reduction from the 2011 baseline by 2030, rather than the 45% reduction which was set as a goal. The city is projected to do even more poorly in its efforts to reduce Community emissions (the 95% of CO2 emissions that come from private homes and businesses, and private vehicles). Staff project that the Peterborough will achieve, at best, a 14% reduction, far short of the 45% target.

Council has failed to act in a number of areas where it might have done so, according to the Report Card, but most importantly, it has failed to create an effective climate lens to guide its decision-making process. A climate lens is a planning tool which would assess the climate impact of every decision which comes before council, whether large or small. A climate lens was proposed more than 4 years ago, when the climate emergency was declared, but it has yet to be created.

Among many decisions which the current Council made without the benefit of a climate lens was to turn its back on an opportunity to require builders to provide adequate power and electrical rough-ins for home-based electric vehicle charging in residential construction. Staff had originally included such a requirement in the Residential Parking Standards review, but it was taken out at the request of property developers. Councillor Joy Lachica expressed disappointment at this, and asked that the Peterborough Environmental Advisory Committee be consulted on the issue, but no motion was put forward to have the EV charging infrastructure requirements put back into the report. Council voted to accept the report and proceed with its recommendations as written. There is still time to reverse that decision, but it was a decision which should not have been made by a council not fully informed about what the climate implications would be – without the sort of information that a climate lens would have provided.

The Report Card makes ten recommendations for future action by Peterborough City Council. Among the most important were that council:

  • Create an effective climate lens to report the climate implications of all Council decisions, and that ideally this be linked to a carbon budget.
  • Since only 5% of GHG emissions come from municipal government activities, implement an effective public education/awareness campaign to encourage citizens and businesses to reduce the remaining 95%.
  • Adopt Green Development Standards to require builders to adopt minimum sustainability measures. One example of a Green Development Standard is that all new and renovated buildings (from single family homes to apartment buildings) be required to incorporate the necessary power, and at least the roughed-in infrastructure, to support home-based electric vehicle charging.

View the complete report card here.


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