Province offers programs for creation of climate change plans
By Chad Ingram
Published Jan. 25, 2018
Municipal politicians, staff and members of the public learned about programs the province offers for the creation of municipal climate change plans during a meeting at the Minden Hills Community Centre on Jan. 17.
The well-attended meeting, which drew councillors and municipal staffers from throughout the county, was organized by Minden Hills Councillor Pam Sayne and the township’s climate change action committee.
“The climate change impacts, they strike across all sectors,” said Ian McVey of the Ontario Climate Consortium.
While the effects of climate change may be most obvious in industries such as agriculture or forestry, McVey pointed to the Fort McMurray wildfires, or flooding in Minden, as examples of extreme weather changes that are creating negative financial implications for municipalities. Not only are municipalities bound to be impacted by a changing climate, but municipal governments are in a position to create policies to curb carbon emissions in their communities, thereby helping to slow the gradual rising of the earth’s average temperature.
“This is not a global issue,” McVey said. “This is very much a local one.”
Municipalities can contribute to emissions reductions through avenues such as land use and transportation planning.
“A lot of that really rests on local governments, in some way,” McVey said.
To a smaller degree, he said municipalities could also contribute by ensuring their own buildings and vehicle fleets are as environmentally sustainable as possible.
Not only does climate change have ramifications for food security and forest composition, but there are direct effects on human health as well, James Scott, manager of climate change adaptation with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, told the room.
“Ticks are now much, much more common,” Scott said, noting attendees may have recently noticed posters for lyme disease symptoms in hospital waiting rooms.
Scott said the province is in the process of creating a new organization, one that would exist to educate decision-makers on climate science and act as a liaison, connecting people to the sources of information they are seeking.
“We kind of see municipalities as probably the key group that this organization would help support,” he said, adding the ministry has heard from a number of municipalities seeking these kinds of services.
The organization will not be a government agency, but rather a not-for-profit entity governed by a board. The idea is for the organization to be established and have its business plan rolled out in 2018. Scott said the province is inviting feedback on what that business plan should look like, with a survey open until Jan. 31.
Go to https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-were-adapting-climate-change#section-3 to find out more, or to submit comments.
Patrick Fancott, climate change mitigation manager for the MOECC, said it was nice to be talking to the public about policy.
“We don’t get to get out and hear from people our policy is actually affecting,” Fancott said.
As Fancott explained, proceeds from the province’s carbon market and cap and trade system are legally earmarked for climate change activities. For 2018, those proceeds are expected to total some $2 billion.
Ontario’s emissions targets include being 80 per cent below 1990 carbon emission levels by the year 2050, which Fancott indicated would entail being essentially net-zero when it comes to carbon emissions by the second half of the century.
“We’re really at the beginning of a long journey when it comes to emission reductions,” he said.
Some of the programs the province offers to help meet targets include the Green Ontario Fund, which offers rebates to homeowners for installation of technologies such as high-performance windows, air-source heat pumps and geothermal systems, and the Greenhouse Gas Challenge Fund, which, while the submission deadline has now passed, provided municipalities with up to $10 million each for greenhouse gas reduction projects.
The province is also encouraging municipalities to create their own climate change plans, and is providing funding for such.
“We’re not stuck on what the title would be,” said Josh Shook of the Ministry of Energy, explaining that while the province’s program is called the Municipal Energy Plan Program, some municipalities refer to their plans as climate change plans.
“Each municipality is going to be different and unique,” Shook said, adding the planning process includes an inventory of energy use and cost.
“A lot of municipalities want to portray themselves, or there’s a drive within their community, to be a green community,” Shook continued, adding that embracing new technologies as part of a plan can contribute to economic development, as there is potential for job creation.
Through one of its funding streams, the province offers cash for the creation of new energy plans, providing matching, 50/50 funding, up to a total of $90,000.
Shook said municipal governments often look to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Ontario Trillium Foundation or federal gas tax money as a source of matching funds.
Some municipalities are beginning to create programs where the municipality will fund residential carbon emission reduction projects, with homeowners paying the municipality back through an agreement on their property taxes.