Got a Climate Crisis?
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Climate Network Lanark working with the county to provide submissions for the County’s Climate Action Plan
The Humm November 2021
Since September 2020 CNL has written monthly in this column about the work on-going in the organization to find local solutions to and promote action on Climate Change. Now this work is being focused toward advising Lanark County Council on making an effective Climate Action Plan. We obviously can’t sit and wring our hands while the planet literally burns up. Paul Hawken of The Whole Earth Catalogue fame from the 1960’s, continues to be a powerful voice for our beautiful “Whole Earth”. His recent best seller is The Drawdown is an inspiring compendium of currently operating projects that are drawing down carbon adding to our low carbon future. One of his most enduring comments is that we need Governments leading the way to have real impact on our climate woes. Lanark County must step up.
Climate Network Lanark has come up with recommendations for the County that are do-able, are relevant to our way of life, and will improve things for our kid’s futures. The good news is that it’s well proven that Greening the economy can make/keep our lives prosperous, provide lots of interesting, sustainable, work and keep things beautiful.
Further, it’s clear that people want to take substantive action to cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions — but for them to do that, there must be system change at the local level.
Where to start? How about with the biggest emitter of Green House Gases in our community?
Transportation is responsible for more than half of GHGs from the Community in Lanark County and Smith Falls). Creation of a good public transit system serving Lanark County and Smiths Falls and linking them to Ottawa is sorely needed. Fortunately, the transition to electric vehicles, to micro-transit, and to shared vehicles allows public transit to be redefined in more imaginative terms than has been possible up to now. The County could potentially adopt one or more of the innovative public transit systems now being implemented in other small towns and rural communities — Some examples include the rural bus company Grey County Transit, the Taxibus example in Rimouski, the Uber-style shared car system in Innisfil, auto-share programs, and other micro-transit systems across the country.
Other important contributors to the goal of cutting emissions are: promoting Electric Vehicles — using local media, social media, and outreach engagement with community organizations; contracting the installation of chargers on public streets so that residents of apartment buildings have realistic access to EVs; and considering the possibility of using school buses for public transportation in off-school hours.
Many more people are predicted to move to our county: how can we make sure the inevitable (and current) housing issues are sustainable and low carbon?
In Lanark County and Smiths Falls, buildings are responsible for 31% of the Greenhouse Gas emissions from the community. We also have a severe shortage of affordable housing. The issues related to a combination of many new builds for various incomes, upgrading older houses and ever higher energy costs provide lots of potential for enlightened, proven solutions. With good planning and the various assistance programs we have a great opportunity to cut GHGs locally and create more healthy housing and communities. CNL ’s recommendations are focused around enabling homeowners to get off fossil fuels, reduce their energy use, switch to electric systems and add renewable energy.
CNL envisions networks that link homeowners with information, subsidy programs and suppliers of equipment such as electric heat pumps and renewable energy systems. We need an expansion of the County ’s Lanark Insulate program and other incentives, subsidy and zero interest programs. There is a need, and an economic opportunity, to build a pool of skilled local tradespeople; and reduced development charges and building permit fees to give incentive to builders to build to LEED and Passive House standards and reduced carbon content of materials. Since houses are currently built to last about 50 years, putting in fossil fuel heating/cooling infrastructure is really not the way to go!
Nature-Based Climate Solutions (NBCS)
NBCS take advantage of natural systems to provide economic, environmental, and social benefits. These solutions focus on protected areas, restoration and the improved management of forests and agricultural lands by increasing carbon storage, stopping biodiversity loss and species collapse.
If decision makers don ’t understand the value, they won ’t pursue NBCS. The goal of the Climate Network Lanark’s NBCS Working Group is to ensure municipal councillors understand the role and value of NBCS so that they create the policies, planning and programs to realize these solutions.
For example, what is the value of wetlands? A 2009 study by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources estimated the value of the ecological services provided by wetlands in rural areas at $15,171/ha/year .
So where to start? CNL has recommended the County conduct a Natural Asset Inventory (including valuation) for the County and based on this inventory, develop an integrated Natural Asset Management Plan — a great first step!
Our Waste: what a waste!
The following statistic ought to stop you in your tracks. Imagine: Organic waste accounts for over 50% of residential and commercial waste, and as it sits in landfill, it produces methane – a Greenhouse Gas more than 80 times more destructive than CO2 in the short term.
What could the County do to address this?
CNL recommends that the County could encourage co-operative lower tier waste management. Currently each of the lower tier municipalities are in charge of their own waste management, which leads to disparities across the County in how organics are dealt with. Perth and Smiths Falls for example, each create compost out of their collected yard waste, but the rest of the lower tiers leave the yard waste unturned in a large methane producing pile. If the lower tiers can identify a unifying plan for organics that benefits from a larger reach and bulk collection, we can choose best practices for the whole county.
The best way to get organics out of the landfill? Don ’t waste the food in the first place! Social Organizations, Farms, and Industries can be paired up through organizations such as Second Harvest, which also offers funding.
If organic waste is picked up, processed, and redistributed, resources can include:
- Good quality uncontaminated food waste as livestock food
- Compost from yard waste and/or food waste (as seen in Nova Scotia) for farmers, business or individual
- Clean, unpainted scrap wood/branches to be accessed by those with wood stoves
In conclusion, you can see that there are a host of solid ideas to help Lanark be a greener place to live and work and contribute to all the work being done around the globe to seriously and quickly address Carbon pollution that will come back to bite us if we don’t move on this fast! Tell your councilor that you support an aggressive Climate Action Plan in Lanark!
If you are feeling daunted by the scope of the climate crisis, Climate Network Lanark has an idea you will love — something easy, cheap and effective. read article
Director of CNL Sue Brandum and CNL Board Chair Scott Hortop sit down with Lake 88.1’s Lynda D’Aoust to talk about the power of composting. listen here
Sue Brandum goes in depth about how municipal action can be a powerful response to climate change in light of the upcoming election. The article also provides great questions to ask at your All-Candidate meetings this October. read article
Transportation in this area is a huge source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) as the county, a microcosm of Canada, has lots of space and not many people but all have to travel. It presents a real challenge as transportation in a rural area like ours is necessary for work,...
It can’t be emphasized more urgently how we need to reassess how we think about the food we grow and consume. We must make sure we are doing our part to address these complex issues in the intertwined web of living on planet Earth. .. read more
Just to the east of here, Ottawa takes to heart the fact that leaf blowers produce more emissions than pick up trucks. ... read more
Local food grower, educator and biologist, Alberto Suarez-Esteban, tackles climate change by practicing regenerative farming. ... listen to interview
Lanark County’s best-known waterways are due to face a difficult future, while also contending with droughts at the moment. .. read more
Meet our New Staff Member - Sadie Brule We are pleased to welcome Sadie Brule to our administrative team. You may find her at the end of an email, or roaming through her hometown of Perth, but until you meet, here is a little bit about what moves her to act on...
Image © Charlotte Pragnell