Read the full story

originally published by

Peterborough Examiner

At a time when Greta Thunberg is still bellowing “Our House is On Fire”, the city of Peterborough is now be able to extinguish it with it’s new zero-emissions fire station.

At the heart of the climate change issue is that in the developed world, we are still burning fossil fuels to power our homes, vehicles and businesses. Coal, oil and natural gas are being consumed in huge amounts and the resulting gases are heating the planet and causing weather patterns to shift and become more dangerous.

In the summer of 2023, Peterborough experienced its first taste of smoke inhalation from forest fires as far away as Quebec, and we are now on track to have the greyest winter on record. According to Environment Canada’s David Phillips, Toronto has only had 30 hours of sun since the beginning of winter. “Typically, Toronto would have seen roughly between 190-200 hours of clear skies throughout the winter so far.” he says.

In an article in The Conversation, Professor Simon Dalby, Climate Change Researcher at Wilfred Laurier University, said “so-called conservatives across much of the English-speaking world are telling us that we have to burn more stuff—oil, gas and coal—and ship it around the world so others can join in on burning things as well. They are ignoring the warnings from climate science about the predictable consequences if we continue to do so. Even a few more decades of unrestrained combustion will make the climate much, much worse, setting in motion disruptions that no human fire department will be able to contain.”

“The governments that should be preventing fires are, by subsidizing the development and use of fossil fuels, encouraging us to to burn more. This is disrupting societies due to disasters, storms wildfires and floods. Our house is indeed being burned. The more we burn, the worse this is going to get,” he says..

It’s now up to individuals and municipal governments to help douse the flames. The City of Peterborough recognizes this and is now entering into 2024 with an ambitious climate change initiative.  The city’s new zero-emissions fire hall, to be completed by the end of 2024, will help lower its carbon footprint. It is estimated that GHG emissions will be reduced by 3,720 tonnes CO2e over the anticipated 60-year building lifespan.

Ciy councillor Kevin Duguay said “I wholeheartedly endorse this project and it’s forthcoming service to be provided to our community.”

Fortunately, the Liberal government understands the inevitable cost of climate change. Thanks to a very liberal 9.3 million dollar boost from the federal government for the zero-emissions fire station, the city will enjoy savings on energy bills, lower maintenance and cleaner air. Hopefully, this is the kick-start of other zero-emissions city projects. It’s a win-win for Peterborough.

Energy-efficient features of the fire station will include ground source heat pumps, solar panels, heat-recovery, water-saving features and renewable energy. The building will follow the Canada Green Building Council’s zero-carbon building standard which will save the city an estimated $24,270 per year in operational costs—another win for the city of Peterborough and its taxpayers.

The investment in the new fire station shows that the city of Peterborough wants to reduce its emissions but also wants enough funding to be able to balance its annual budget. If enough government funding is available, the city may also want to consider purchasing a zero-emissions fire truck to further reduce the fire station’s carbon footprint.

In an article in the National Observer on January 25th, “Firefighting in Ontario just got Greener”. The city of Brampton just purchased its first electric fire truck and are now the first city in Ontario to add a fully electric front-line fire truck to its fleet. The zero-emissions fire truck will reduce firefighters exposure to carcinogens, reduce GHG emissions and enhance adaptability during flood responses.

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown is proud of the city’s role as a leader in the electrification of municipal vehicles. Peterborough also had the opportunity to be a leader, with the purchase of an electric wastewater collection truck, but unfortunately council voted against it.

I hope the city of Peterborough will continue to take advantage of funding for zero-emissions buildings and vehicles and follow the footsteps of other progressive Canadian cities. The irony is that zero-emissions fire stations and fire trucks will also be used to put out forest fires caused by climate change, caused by GHG emissions.

Thank you P.M. Justin Trudeau and Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and National Resources, for having the foresight to invest in a healthier future for Peterborough residents.

The new fire station will be the city’s first certified zero-carbon building. Hopefully, there will be many more coming down the pipes.

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.