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Climate Change - How do we move forward in Ontario - Local

I’ve prepared a series of four related blogs on the question of where do we go next on climate change action in Ontario? See the introductory blog, and the blog on federal action and provincial action. If we agree that the job at hand is to actually reduce carbon emissions in the global atmosphere, and fast, as well as protect people from the damage already done, what should we be doing now?

In the vein of taking multiple approaches, local to global, the next blog deals with local opportunities. Here’s what I think needs to happen:

Local Climate Action – Our towns, townships, villages, cities, counties, and districts

We need to support our municipal politicians and staff in pursuing climate change solutions and climate friendly options in municipal infrastructure. Tell your municipal officials that you care about “green infrastructure” such as better buffer planting to handle some of the storm water; protecting wetlands in your community for the incredible job they do for managing flooding; ask them to pilot new ideas like grey water reuse and take a chance on allowing new designs in green building – maybe even set up green competitions for their next municipal capital project. Ask them about active transportation plans (are there good safe paths and connections for bicycles, walkers, are they building multi-use paths along all new roadways or when upgrading other infrastructure along their rights of way?) Ask your municipal politicians to adopt “net-zero” and renewable energy targets.

Oxford county and Guelph are leading the way (for example see the brand new net-zero Oxford County waste management and education centre. And check out our “Cool Communities” toolkit that we prepared a few years ago with other ENGOs. Offer to lead a citizens group working on these plans, start your own, or even run for a municipal position on a future ready platform! (Hint: this is a municipal election year and your deadline is July 27, 2018. Here is the 2018 election candidates guide from Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Very Local – Our Households & Climate Action

All of us need to keep using our consumer buying power in our every day choices. We still need to eat and get clothes for our growing kids; we can buy local from the farmers in our communities, and my daughter and I love to explore “gently used” clothing stores. We need to strongly support public transit. This includes with our own transportation choices. The future of transportation is not going to look anything like what we have now but one thing that’s not going to change is our desire to get around for work, errands, visiting family and friends. All options need to be on the table. For example, the town of Innisfil recently opted for ride sharing as its current solution to a transit-limited community.

CELA will continue focussing on low income communities and ensuring that the they are front and centre for policy makers in dealing both with inequitable impacts of both climate change, as well as making sure they can participate in the jobs and technology adoption of the new approaches to energy use of the future. At the same time, there is no time to “put down our tools” when it comes to the fight against climate change, and we look forward to working with Ontario’s new government to develop a climate fighting plan – fast.

At CELA, we are the environmental law folks. We like law as part of the solution to environmental problems. We really like approaches that are enforceable, and are actually enforced. This means setting up legal systems that set out expectations for behaviour (such as pollution); that include monitoring and measurement; and hold people accountable to the laws we’ve collectively passed.

Other approaches including pressure from consumers and investors are also important, not only from investors’ ethical choices, but also due to concern about future liabilities on the part of corporate shareholders. However, in my view, solutions that address greenhouse gas emissions directly, requiring their reduction here in Ontario, by way of regulatory approaches to reduce air pollution are essential to the climate change fight. Tough, Ontario-made air pollution regulations will also pay-off in better air quality for Ontario residents, and are one way to build on the green technology we have been developing in Ontario, while also fighting climate change.