Municipal, First Nation members encouraged to participate in regional energy and emissions project

MINDEMOYA—The Smart Green Communities program affiliated with reThink Green has launched a new collaborative project to build energy and climate change leadership in communities on Manitoulin and the North Shore of Lake Huron. The project, as outlined by Barbara Erskine, Manitoulin Energy Plan Coordinator, aims to consider actions for adaptive asset management; build regional networks for collaboration; enhance local staff and council knowledge of climate change-and how to address impacts using a sustainability planning approach; develop strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from community buildings and activities; prepare communities to meet changing energy demands and scenarios and explore economic development opportunities related to clean energy and other innovative technologies.
“The ultimate goal is to have a regional plan with a Manitoulin group of First Nations and municipalities and the second being a North Shore group,” Ms. Erskine told the meeting. She pointed out support and guidance will be provided by reThink Green. Participation in the Regional Energy and Emissions Planning Project is free.

Ms. Erskine noted the program coordinator position is new and funding by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program, the IESO Education and Capacity Building (ECB) program, and reThink Green in partnership with the Ontario Centre for Climate Impacts and Adaptation Resources (OCCIAR).

This program is open to all municipalities and First Nations, said Ms. Erskine. “Where is Ontario at in terms of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG emissions sources in CO2 Equivalent, adapted from an ECO report 2018)?” She pointed out for GHG sources from 1990 to 2016, the amount of GHG emissions in municipalities in transportation, buildings and waste has increased.  

“But I do have some good news,” asked Ms. Erskine. She explained Ontario emitted 161 megatonnes of GHGs in 2017, the lowest level since GHGs were first tracked in 1990. And in 2014 Ontario met its goal of a six percent reduction in GHG’s below 1990 levels. 

“Where are we going in Ontario?” asked Ms. Erskine. She explained projections for the Lake Huron area to the year 2080 show winter air temperatures will increase from between 3.6° and 8.7°C and summer air temps will increase between 2.7° and 7.4°C. Precipitation in the winter will increase by 37-85 millimetres and summer numbers precipitation could increase by 10 mm (low carbon scenario) and decrease by 20 mm (high carbon scenario).

“Ontario has the most cases of Lyme disease in Canada and the range of the black-legged tick is expanding at a rate of 46 kilometres northward per year,” cautioned Ms. Erskine. “Smoke from wildfires affects air quality readings and poses serious risks for anyone with respiratory illnesses.” She noted that, “fluctuating water levels for Great Lakes and inland lakes increase risk levels for toxic algae bloom at low water levels.”

And the carbon costs in terms of tourism natural environment show, “five fish species in the Great Lakes are moving northward at a rate of 12 to 17 kilometres per decade. With warmer waters in all lakes, the oxygen level drops and northern species are replaced by warmer water species. Asian carp thrive on warmer temperatures, but we don’t want them in our lakes,” she said, noting that they can wipe out fish populations and that one of the tourism draws for the Island is, “people live here and visit to take part in things like fishing, hunting and hiking.”

Ms. Erskine continued noting the carbon costs on agriculture/food security. “Between 2010 and 2012 hundreds of dairy cattle died in Ontario due to extreme heat-increased number of hot days plus stagnant humid air will cause stress to cattle.”

“What can a municipality do? Cry? Give up? Instead you can take action on CO2 reduction and adaptation,” she said. “You have to think through your motivation for future generations, is your issue economy, energy conservations. Try to think what your message will be.”
“The Smart Green Communities program can supports your participating municipality-First Nation in developing energy profiles, including carbon accounting and sustainability reporting, auditing facilities to identify actions to reduce energy and emission and analyze local energy needs and community consultation data,” said Ms. Erskine.

She said the plan can include “identifying long-term priorities for climate adaptation such as investing in resilient infrastructure (roads, buildings bridges, etc) and revising emergency plans to address risks associated with climate change effects and monitoring progress and reporting on outcomes.”

“Our supports can assist your municipality to meet reporting requirements under O.Reg. 507/18: Broader Public Sector; Energy Reporting and Conservation and Demand Management plans.”

“The regional energy and emissions planning project is a two year funded project for communities on Manitoulin and the North Shore,” said Ms. Erskine. “We provide support and guidance from reThink Green and OCCIAR team members. And training is open to all Smart Green community members, she said, including four free webinars and three in-person workshops. 

Training is open to all Smart Green Communities Members, including four free webinars and three in-person workshops.

There are also funding opportunities for grants up to 50 percent of project costs to a maximum of $175,000 and/or low interest loans of $5 million depending on the nature and scope of project. 

“I’m inviting municipalities and First Nations into the program and encourage you to go for the training programs for example,” said Ms. Erskine. 

It was pointed out by Al MacNevin, Northeast Town mayor, that his municipality along with Billings and Gore Bay are already involved in the reThink program.

“My role is to understand what you want and how to accomplish this through the program,” added Ms. Erskine.