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originally published by

Peterborough Examiner

On Monday, seven senior members of the climate change group For Our Grandchildren (4RG), including myself, stood on the steps of Peterborough City Hall in frigid -20 C temperatures to becry the city’s inaction on climate change.

A report card of their lack of progress was read out to the media by 4RG member Mark Bullock. Mayor Jeff Leal and city councillors did not attend.

Here are the highlights of the report card:

  1. Little has been done by the city to educate the public on the climate emergency it declared and what we can do collectively to address it.
  2. The city continues to develop low-density suburbs that facilitate the use of (gas-fuelled) vehicles; not geared toward active transportation (bicycles, walking paths) or public transit.
  3. Little has been done to electrify the city’s vehicle and/or transportation fleet.
  4. Little has been done to decrease heating emissions from municipal buildings (with heat pumps or updated low-emissions technology).
  5. Peterborough is not keeping up with other cities this size with its climate change initiatives. (ie. Council recently missed a major opportunity to require builders to provide adequate ampage and electrical rough-ins for home-based electrical vehicle charging in all residential construction. There’s still time to reverse this decision, so contact your councillor!)
  6. The city isn’t applying “a climate lens” to its decision-making processes. It “talks” about it, but when it comes to applying it (ie. Taking advantage of funding for an electric wastewater collection truck), council votes against it.

Bottom line?

The report card basically gave the city a “D” for “Disappointing” on climate change initiatives in 2023. At this rate of inaction, targets set by council (45 per cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030) will never be met.

‘‘ Little has been done by the city to educate the public on the climate emergency it declared and what we can do collectively to address it.

Recommendations

The city needs to:

  1. Create an “effective” climate change lens, linked to a carbon budget, to report the climate implications of all council decisions.
  2. Create an effective public education/awareness campaign to encourage citizens and businesses to reduce their GHG emissions, which add up to 95 per cent of emissions in Peterborough. The city needs to set an example for citizens (i.e. Here’s what we have done, here’s what you can do).
  3. Complete and develop the Home Energy Efficiency Program and effectively promote it.
  4. Update the official plan to speed up the city’s development of a greener community.
  5. Ensure that all road construction includes active transportation lanes.
  6. Adopt sustainable green development standards, requiring builders to provide roughed-in infrastructure for home-based electric vehicle (EV) charging.
  7. Increase public EV charging infrastructure throughout the city.
  8. Begin electrifying the municipal fleet in 2024. Stop kicking the gas can down the road!
  9. Set zero-emission or low-emission energy standards for construction of all new municipal buildings (ie. Heat pumps, solar panels, etc).
  10. Retrofit existing buildings to reduce emissions (ie. Heat pumps, solar panels, etc).

In June, council received the Community Sector GHG Emissions Inventory, stating the city is very unlikely to reach its target of a 45-per-cent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, and is likely to achieve, at best, a 14-per-cent reduction.

The report was accompanied by recommendations by the Peterborough Environmental Advisory Committee (PEAC) that:

  1. The city pursue a more robust communication strategy to increase public engagement and encourage action, and that it “demonstrate leadership” through its own initiatives.
  2. Council receive a detailed briefing on the contents of the GHG emissions report and reaffirm its commitment to the climate change emergency declaration.
  3. The city build coalitions with other municipalities, organizations and other levels of government to support meeting climate targets.

Council received the report without adopting any of PEAC’s recommendations.

There are a few progressive city councillors who have demonstrated leadership by voting through a climate lens at every council meeting to try to reduce emissions in Peterborough. They include Joy Lachica, Alex Bierk, Matt Crowley, Kevin Duguay, and Gary Baldwin.

There are also a few city councillors who still revert to high-emission technologies without considering the impact on the health of our community, environment and economy. Unfortunately, Mayor Leal has not kept his campaign promise to invest in electric city buses, public works vehicles and “a renewal process to include electric vehicles.”

4RG are monitoring city council agendas to flag upcoming climate change initiatives before they come to a vote.

To become a member of 4RG, click here.

Tricia Clarkson is a local climate change columnist and co-chair of Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action.

This article first appeared in the Peterborough Examiner. It is reproduced here with permission of the author.