Wiser use of water, more recycling and less idling are all activities Virden’s mayor hopes local residents will adopt in coming months.
Theirs is one of 14 rural and urban centres chosen to take part in the Community Led Emissions Reduction pilot program, an initiative aimed at helping more Manitobans contribute to a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next four years.
In 2008, the province launched Kyoto and Beyond, Manitoba’s blueprint to reach and exceed its legislated Kyoto target to reduce GHG emissions by six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. This pilot initiative is part of that commitment and intended to help more Manitobans engage in lifestyle changes to meet it.
The problem is many smaller rural communities and municipalities lack both the technical expertise and resources to do this, said Virden Mayor Bruce Dunning.
“It’s going to take a lot of groundwork and a lot of preparation to get a plan laid out,” Dunning said.
First they need to know what their emissions are, and what trouble spots to target, he said.
Towns and R. M. s participating in this program will get help to first do an inventory of their emissions, then set reduction goals accordingly and lay out their local climate-change action plan.
Virden’s goal is for a 20 per cent reduction by town operations, and a six per cent reduction by all individuals, Dunning said. “It’s a pretty significant reduction,” he said.
The programs participating rural municipalities and towns adopt will include waste-reduction measures such as recycling or reusing salvageable goods, composting or recovering landfill gases, water use reduction incentives, improving active transportation such as building more walking and bike paths, and encouraging people not to leave their vehicles idling on local streets.
Energy use reduction measures through home or building retrofits are also encouraged. So are land use measures such as promoting higher-density or mixed use development.
Dunning said the biggest challenges for local government is simply getting people to start thinking along these lines. Unfortunately, those who live in smaller centres tend to think of greenhouse gas emissions as a big-city problem, he said.
“It’s the mindset, and that’s not a criticism, it’s a fact,” said Dunning. “Small communities feel they don’t have the negative impact that large cities have. But if you look at it per capita we’re probably just as bad. We need to change that mindset and have everyone working towards a greener country.”
Research shows up to half of all greenhouse gas emissions in Canada are generated at the municipal or community level and by individuals, making change at this level critical if any significant reduction is to happen.
Half of this country’s greenhouse gas emissions are under the direct or indirect influence of municipal government.
Participants in the provincial program include Brandon, Thompson, Virden, Notre Dame du Lourdes, St. Pierre-Jolys, the municipalities of St. Laurent, de Salaberry, and Taché. The Morden Stanley Thompson and Winkler Planning District is also taking part, plus several neighbourhood-based groups in Winnipeg.
The program will be delivered in a partnership between Association of Manitoba Municipalities, Association of Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities, Conseil de développement économique des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba (CDEM), Manitoba Hydro, local not-for-profit environmental organizations and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).