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"File:City Hall - Peterborough Ontario.png" by Michael Morritt is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Climate and Environment in the 2021 City Budget

Written by
Robert Gibson
and
December 18, 2020
Climate and Environment in the 2021 City Budget
"File:City Hall - Peterborough Ontario.png" by Michael Morritt is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

As previously reported in Arthur, Peterborough declared a Climate Emergency in September 2019. Many citizens are keeping a close eye on the 2021 budget to see whether this urgency is reflected in the budget. 

Page 22 of the 2021 Budget Highlights says, “The City of Peterborough committed to developing and upholding policies and practices which Demonstrate Environmental Stewardship, meaning the responsible use and protection of the natural environment through conservation and sustainable practices.”

Climate Crisis

In response to the climate crisis, the City has made a goal to reduce greenhouse gases 45% by 2030 and has created a Climate Change Reserve with “annual contribution from the tax levy of $.426 million.” This reserve will fund a Climate Change Co-ordinator position who will coordinate actions related to the Climate Change Action Plan “across City Departments and with partner organizations in the community…”

Ayesha Barmania from Peterborough Currents interviewed Michael Papadacos, Manager of Infrastructure Management, for their podcast. Papadacos is involved with the Peterborough Environmental Advisory Committee as a staff member. In the podcast he mentions that monitoring and implementation of climate reduction goals will be released in an upcoming report. The (2016) Climate Change Action Plan currently includes an emission inventory, local action plan and reduction target. 

On Twitter, Graeme Marrs asked “What happened to the money … donated to the climate change emergency fund?”There did not appear to be a response on twitter. The climate change emergency fund is supported by taxes and donations to raise money for climate action. 

In 2019 it was based on voluntary donations. In a Finance Committee meeting Councillor Dean Pappas talked about funding for the climate change emergency fund that was  frozen in 2020. This was a result of the pandemic occurring according to Papadacos in the podcast. There are investments planned for 2021 including: Implementing the Climate Action Plan, Electric vehicle chargers, A Climate Change Coordinator position. 

Initiatives not from the climate change emergency fund include: LED lighting, Household Compost collection, Emerald ash borer plan, Watershed planning, An energy audit incentive program (13% of Canada’s GHGs come from buildings), Smart Signal Implementation. The Climate Emergency directed staff to: “work with the Peterborough Environmental Advisory Committee to report on opportunities to:

• Greatly accelerate timelines for our existing actions to reduce the effects of climate change;

• Add new actions and proposals to greatly reduce our GHG emissions;

• Identify the budgetary implications of proposed actions, including opportunities to engage all other levels of government and private sources, to combat climate change;

• Incorporate a climate change lens into all city actions and policies recognizing the need to achieve a target of 45% GHG emission reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050;

• Engage and educate the general public regarding this crisis to support the city’s efforts to meet these goals”

Wetlands

Wetlands, which are an important aspect of Environmental Stewardship and require protection from development, are only mentioned once in reference to Major Bennett Industrial Park. In the report Back to Basics  by Dianne Saxe, former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario,  it was said that “Wetlands provide vital wildlife habitat for many species and important ecological services for people, including resilience to floods and other effects of climate change.” Later in the same report, “Despite years of promises, the government [Ontario] continues to allow the loss of the few wetlands we have left.” 

The City of Peterborough has said that it intends to evaluate all wetlands for provincial significance in the Draft Official Plan but it does not appear that money has been allocated to address the backlog of evaluations also identified in the report Back to Basics.  “Flood” was mentioned over 100 times which is odd given the importance of wetlands in flood mitigation. At a November 17th Finance Committee meeting, Ian Attridge, a Trent University Professor representing Reimagine Peterborough, mentioned a storm that occurred that week as an example of the downsides of climate change.

Attridge appeared happy to see that there was funding for a Sustainability Plan, the Climate Action Plan and there was funding for a [Climate] Coordinator funding as well as new reserve funds. “Sustainability and related funds need to continue to grow to address the immediate and daunting challenges of climate change and also biodiversity loss.” Attridge went on to say, “too often we have seen climate change storms and insufficient maintenance resulting in erosion and silt flowing into our natural creeks” and requested that a storm capacity longer than 1 in 100-year storms be applied for storms along with “more green infrastructure” along with “daylighting part of Jackson Creek” (referring to the Simcoe Street Culvert at Parking Garage construction). 

In the report Reconciling our priorities Gord Miller said “By 2090, Environment Canada estimates that the 100-year storm will be experienced every 50 years…In 2002, Peterborough experienced a 100-year storm, and just two years later, a 290-year storm in 2004.” Despite growing evidence of increased storm intensity 1 in 100-year storm infrastructure is still being built in Peterborough. 

Transportation

Transportation accounted for between 25 and 30% of Canada’s greenhouse gasses in 2018 according to the Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: executive summary 2020. The draft budget is proposing a $0.25 increase in hourly parking rates and a 10% increase monthly passes as a result of lost revenue from COVID-19 however, according to an article in Kawartha This Week, free parking will be offered in the downtown for shopping while public transit remains unsubsidized. This does not address climate change as vehicle use will continue to be encouraged combined with continued urban sprawl. From the provincial gas tax part of $1.9 million will be spent on initiatives that improve transit ridership. There is an Alternative Fuel Study for transit which may demonstrate greenhouse gas reductions for future spending when it comes to replacing busses assuming reductions in transit funding do not reduce ridership. 

Compost in landfills contributes to greenhouse gas emissions due to methane gas generation which is why spending for a compost collection system is promising. The budget says that there will be a new organic program for kitchen compost in 2023. $1.7 million will be spent in 2021 and 2022 for the organic program with funding from the Federal Government including $6 million from the low Carbon Economy Fund. 

When reading the budget there were a limited number of times where total greenhouse gas reductions or increases were included. In 2021 Peterborough residents will learn how the City is doing in combating climate change,  a report on its progress is expected to be released. On December 14th Council approved the 2021 budget.


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