“If we can prove this works in fact rather than theory, it will benefit all municipalities.”
– TOWN OF VIRDEN MAYOR BRUCE DUNNING
World leaders returning from Copenhagen last month will submit plans by January’s end on how their countries will commit to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
But national and provincial governments won’t achieve their emissions targets alone.
Manitoba, which has already set a goal of 20 per cent reduction over the next four years, is looking to local municipal leaders for help.
Last spring, it rolled out the Community Led Emissions Reduction pilot program, with 14 towns and rural municipalities agreeing to participate. The program provides resources to local government to do an inventory of GHG emissions and prepare action plans.
Communities are now doing those inventories and looking at strategies that range from recovering landfill gases to water-use reduction strategies and building more walking and biking paths through communities.
Virden, which is included in the project has its own goal of a 20 per cent lowering of GHGs in its community, said Mayor Bruce Dunning. They are preparing an action plan to roll out in March.
What they know right now is that there’s many trouble spots – from their energy-gobbling older street lights to poorly heated older buildings in town. They also know they need to build more non-motorized corridors through their community. Their new development plan will incorporate more green space, Dunning said.
“Some of the areas that we’re looking at targeting are converting to alternative fuels and geothermal at our facilities,” he said. “We also want to enhance our non-motorized walking corridors.”
Their town is also looking at water-use reduction incentives and strategies including providing incentives for residents to switch to dual-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads and working on public education strategies to reduce habits like vehicle idling.
Finding the resources to do all these things is the biggest challenge ahead, Dunning said. If they can, and then demonstrate the lowered costs on municipal operating budgets through GHG reduction strategies, other municipalities will follow suit, he said.
“If we can prove this works in fact rather than theory, it will benefit all municipalities,” Dunning said.
On the eve of the Copenhagen summit last month, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) released a report showing GHG emissions reductions will be most effectively achieved through federal help extended to municipalities for cost-effective, community-based projects.
Entitled Act Locally – The Municipal Role in Fighting Climate Change, the report says municipalities will play a fundamental role in reaching GHG targets, given their indirect or direction control over transportation, land use and waste management activities which presently account for 44 per cent of all GHG emissions in Canada.
The report says municipal-level actions could collectively result in emissions reductions of anywhere from 15 to 40 per cent of Canada’s emissions targets and says local government is best positioned to engage households and businesses in achieving that goal.
Without any municipal action taken, the report says emissions under municipal jurisdiction are projected to actually rise by an additional 23 per cent to 2020.
The FCM report says resources extended to municipalities for help implementing GHG reduction targets would achieve two-thirds of GHG reductions for less than $25 per tonne, or less than the average cost of regulating industry or developing renewable energy.