With the recent news of Kingston and possibly Guelph declaring a climate emergency, I began wondering what actions a city such as them or even Peterborough could do to begin the process of eliminating our climate emissions. Recently I came across the Drawdown proposal. It includes a list of 80 solutions that would reduce global emissions drastically while at the same time creating a better and more equitable future for humanity. All while creating a net global financial savings of nearly 50 trillion USD.
So what are these solutions and how might they be adapted for Peterborough city council? Here I’ve taken the list and come up with proposals for how to adapt the list to municipal management
#1 Refrigerant Management
Refrigerant Management: The number one proposal for reducing GHGs in our atmosphere is to introduce better alternatives to the refrigerant we use. HFCs which replaced CFCs following the Montreal protocol have up to 9000x the capacity to warm the planet than carbon dioxide. In the municipal context, an audit of all municipal assets used for refrigeration, including our ice skating arenas should be undertaken to ensure that no HFCs are currently in use and if they are, funds should be allocated for their replacement.
#2 Reduced food Waste
Every year Canadian households and businesses produce an enormous amount of food waste. This waste eventually ends up in landfills and is turned into methane gas which is a GHG. With renewed conversations around a municipal composting program we should take the opportunity to find ways to reduce the amount of waste that would be deposited into the system (The system may be a good opportunity to measure Peterborough’s food waste footprint) In Peterborough it may be possible to require grocers to find a use for their leftover food rather than mulching it. It would also be possible to offer educational programs to the public and students on what to do with leftover food scraps.
#3 Rooftop Solar
With the cancellation of Ontario’s microfit program, this has led to a reduction in the number of Solar installations on rooftops. That’s not to say that there are no benefits to be had by homeowners or the City. In Peterborough, all municipal buildings could be fitted with rooftop solar. In addition, it may be possible for the city to create a financing program to encourage homeowners who cannot afford the full upfront costs of solar installation. Another possibility may be for the municipality to lease space on homeowners roofs to install solar panels. Individual homeowners would benefit by receiving payments from the city, and the city would benefit from having a long term investment in our energy security.
#4 Temperate Forests
The city of Peterborough needs to stop allowing developers cut down huge swaths of trees to construct housing developments. There are huge swaths of land around our city that aren’t forests, lets use those for housing instead. In the past decade Peterborough housing developments have removed forests across our city, this needs to stop. Besides… the people of Peterborough love our parks and forests!
#5 Electric Vehicles
Cities around the globe are working to update their infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicle charging. There are plenty of opportunities in our city to create electric vehicle charging stations, lets use them! In addition, finding ways to equip the city’s fleet of vehicles with electric charging just makes sense, they are all stored in a central location and it would be possible to easily charge them overnight while electricity rates are inexpensive.
#6 District Heating
District heating in downtown areas and other dense parts of the city could reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by 50% It would be possible to create a system that would capture waste heat from any new arena that the city constructs to heat nearby buildings that are part of the system, or even to melt snow on sidewalks to reduce the amount of plowing required by the city. Drawdown identifies this as one of the most important actions that municipal governments can undertake to combat climate change.
There are a multitude of actions that the city could undertake to combat climate change, and these are just a few examples. Check out the complete list and suggest your own creative ways to reduce our local GHG emissions while creating a better city for everyone!