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Penetanguishene looks to join municipalities on climate emergency declaration

Pride from 17% reduction for lowest greenhouse gas emissions in region ‘doesn’t mean we let our guard down’, says town's planning and development services chair
Stock photo.

If you’re looking to move to Georgian Bay in anticipation of global climate change over the next ten years, Penetanguishene may be your safest bet.

Penetanguishene committee of the whole approved a staff recommendation that a declaration of a climate emergency be formally announced for the next regular meeting in March.

The recommendation was part of a memo from the Severn Sound Environmental Association (SSEA) late last year, identifying the town as having reduced 130 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions corporately from a 2015 baseline.

The 17 per cent reduction was the lowest in the Severn Sound watershed region, as the townships of Tay and Georgian Bay stayed relatively unchanged while Severn and Tiny increased 37 and 39 per cent respectively; Midland increased 58 per cent.

“I think climate change is here and we all need to remember as we proceed with infrastructure and other things, that we take all of this into account,” stated Deputy Mayor Anita Dubeau. “At one time we planned for 100-year storms; now we’re looking at 200-year storms, which is extremely unfortunate.”

A 2021 report “Global Warming of 1.5 ºC” by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledged that the world was currently on track for a greater than three-degree Celsius increase in temperature, and urged keeping global heating below a 1.5-degree Celsius goal.

The IPCC estimated that less than 10 years remain to avoid the worst results, which are anticipated to “lead to catastrophic social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts in our community and elsewhere,” with the greatest financial damage to hit municipal core infrastructure.

Within the approval, Penetanguishene will declare a climate emergency immediately and join nearly 30 other Ontario municipalities, including the township of Georgian Bay and the town of Collingwood, who also declared the emergency as far back as 2019.

Council will work to carry out goals in the Local Climate Change Action Plan; collaborate with the county and other municipalities in improving standards and protocols for adaptation and mitigation; look to funding options; commit to putting climate action at the forefront of all decision-making; and work on GHG reduction education for the public.

The town also intends to urge bipartisan support from provincial and federal levels of government to work toward GHG emission reductions.

Coun. Debbie Levy, chair of the planning and development committee, proudly shared how planning director Andrea Betty achieved the 17 per cent reduction. Corporate waste from fleet vehicles went from 307 tonnes in 2015 to 173 tonnes in 2019 for a 56 per cent reduction, and water and sewage corporate waste went from 161 tonnes in 2015 to 87 tonnes in 2019 for a 54 per cent reduction. Other corporate waste from solid waste and streetlights was relatively the same, while buildings saw a 21 per cent increase from 268 tonnes in 2015 to 324 tonnes in 2019.

“It’s buying more vehicles that are easier on gas, and the operating of the sewage treatment plant,” stated Levy. “And that’s something to be really proud of. Doesn’t mean we let our guard down, but it’s something to be very proud of.”

The local climate change action plan update and declaration of climate emergency report by the SSEA can be located on the agenda page of the Town of Penetanguishene website.

Archives of council meetings are located on the Town of Penetanguishene YouTube channel.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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