Billings and Central Manitoulin climate surveys are to be released on Earth Day

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KAGAWONG – To celebrate Earth Day on Thursday, April 22, Billings Township and Central Manitoulin will release the results of the recently completed climate survey and will draw names for two lucky participants who will each win a composter. 

The survey was initiated to gather community feedback on their preferred climate solutions for responding to and mitigating climate change, which provided residents with input into solutions that will eventually be implemented within their municipalities. 

An online carbon emission survey was undertaken by both municipalities from February 4 to 28. The surveys were developed by Kim Neale, shared climate action co-ordinator, and the climate action committees of each municipality with support from municipal staff and were powered by Ethelo, a Vancouver-based consultant. The consultant also compiled the resulting summary reports. 

Community engagement is an important part of the development of the climate action plans which are called Community Energy and Emissions Plans (CEEP). 

In Billings and Central Manitoulin this process is being overseen by Kim Neale, who notes that climate action is crucial at the municipal level as local governments have control of more than 52 percent of emissions that occur within their municipalities. 

Outreach campaigns implemented included posters, mail-outs, a telephone campaign, as well as print and digital advertising. Billings had 188 respondents to the survey and Central Manitoulin had 245 participants. Based on this community feedback, Ethelo was able to identify key elements of an ambitious climate action plan that will meet a 50 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target and is widely supported by a broad cross section of community members. The survey provided education on key themes and aspects of solution options, including difficulty of the process and how likely it is that implementation of a given action will meet the target.

The majority of Billings respondents indicated concern over climate change, with 29 percent extremely worried, 32 percent very worried and 31 percent somewhat worried; only nine percent reported they were not at all worried about climate change. The top hazards and impacts reported in the Billings survey were wildfires, an increase in invasive species, extreme wind events, extreme heat events, health impacts/emergencies and property damage. 

There was a similar breakdown in Central Manitoulin, with 14 percent extremely worried, 28 percent very worried, 44 percent somewhat worried and 14 percent reported they were not at all worried about climate change. Central Manitoulin’s survey also included a question about whether a climate emergency should be declared. The answer (70 percent) was a resounding no. The top hazards concerning Central Manitoulin residents included power outages, extreme wind events, wildfire, health impacts/emergencies and an increase in invasive species.  

Billings participants supported 50 percent reductions in GHG emissions in municipal buildings, energy efficiency, personal vehicles and composting and a 75 percent reduction in municipal vehicles. Respondents from Central Manitoulin indicated 50 percent support for GHG remissions in municipal buildings, energy efficiency, municipal vehicles and composting. 

Ultimately, climate actions that are most supported by the communities and that highlight each community’s most pressing climate concern are the desired outcome from the survey. Implementation of the actions chosen is the next step, after the CEEPs are completed and approved by their councils. Ms. Neale pointed out that municipal climate action plans or CEEPs are a requirement for several funding programs. The biggest challenges facing municipalities when implementing climate actions include resource availability (staffing, finance, etc.), governance structures and strategies for proceeding. 

Survey results will be available on the municipal websites and/or social media pages for anyone interested in reviewing additional details.