Enviro-Café sounds off on municipal climate change action
By Olivia Robinson
Published May 15, 2018
Municipalities can lead the charge against climate change, according to Victoria Ervick and Tracy Roxborough of Sustainable Severn Sound. The pair came to Haliburton on May 8 to speak about how municipalities can develop a climate change action plan concerning greenhouse gas emissions at an Environment Haliburton Enviro-Café event.
Created in 2011, Sustainable Severn Sound is a municipally-funded and directed sustainability program. Sustainable Severn Sound aims to educate and assist municipalities by introducing blueprints for a local climate change action plan. This allows for municipalities to take stock of GHGs, and prioritize actions to reduce these emissions.
Roxborough said that Sustainable Severn Sound tries to point municipalities towards the pros of reducing GHG emissions such as cleaner air and water, but it’s often another green factor that grabs their attention – money.
“Municipalities have control of approximately 50 per cent of emissions within their community because they own so much infrastructure and buildings,” she said. “If we can help them try and reduce the energy use, it allows them potentially to free up some money and improve infrastructure in their community.”
The group credits their partnerships with Severn Sound Environmental Association, the North Simcoe Community Futures Development Corporation, the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit, and the County of Simcoe for its success and support of the program. Seven municipalities work with the Sustainable Severn Sound, including Midland, Penetanguishene, Georgian Bay, Severn, Oro-Medonte, Tiny and Tay.
Sustainable Severn Sound offered some advice to Haliburton County should it implement a GHG reduction strategy – be aware of independent utility providers, like oil and propane companies.
Ervick said that if they could have changed one thing about their own process, it would have been to communicate and include these providers in the conversation of climate change early on.
“If you were to do this kind of model, definitely engage them early on, engage them as a stakeholder, because they are as much a part of the process as the rest of the community.”
Other parallels were drawn between the two lake regions. Much like Haliburton County, Severn Sound sees an influx of people in the summer.
The Severn Sound region has a population of more than 85,000 people, but that number surpasses nearly 200,000 in the summertime, said Roxborough. They noted it was equally important to try to connect with the part-time residents about climate change action plans.
One of the challenges discussed at the Enviro-Café was how to best engage people within the community. Ervick said disaster preparedness for catastrophic events like floods is a tangible way of showing a community how climate change can affect daily life.
Environment Haliburton is encouraging those interested in the issue of municipal climate change action plans to attend the Haliburton County council meeting on May 23, which will feature Ian McVey of the Ontario Climate Consortium.