Orillia’s Climate Future: April 2022—A Big Month for Big Moves!

From April 22, 2022:

After several years of working with community stakeholders and external experts – capturing input, sharing knowledge and building support for an overall community climate change action plan – Orillia’s Climate Future plan has received approval in principle by City Council, leading to final endorsement, expected later this month. Councillors have vested many hours in reviewing the plan and, with final endorsement, Orillia will join over 400 other Canadian communities with established emission reduction targets, plus plans in place to achieve them by 2050.

Readers will recall that the overall plan has two components: a corporate roadmap that encompasses the City of Orillia’s operations (including buildings) and a community roadmap that captures the rest of the community.

Both roadmaps are anchored on three ‘Big Moves’ that are the major emission-reduction pathways identified by Orillia’s Climate Future. They are:

1) Generating Renewable Energy – Solar for the Sunshine City
2) Transportation – How we will get around.
3) Buildings – Where and how we Live.

Upon implementation, these three ‘Big Moves’ will account for close to 95% of Orillia’s overall emissions’ reduction. The current plan document is over 100 pages long and it provides detail on the process, costs and projections. The full plan will be posted on the City’s website shortly after Council’s final meeting on April 28th. In the meantime, we at Sustainable Orillia have developed the following summary of where the project stands at the moment, its recommendations and what it will mean for Orillians.

The Corporate Roadmap:

Following the recent adoption in principle, Council is requested to approve the corporate section of the plan on April 27th. Using 2018 emission data as their baseline, the stated goal of the Corporate Roadmap is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2030 and by 100% by 2040. Several initiatives are already underway and budgeted for – such as the conversion of all city lighting to LED and the installation of additional Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations. The corporate plan/roadmap scopes out the investments required to meet the stated targets, such as retrofitting many of the city-owned buildings, the electrification of the transit fleet, and ongoing waste diversion initiatives. Upon realization of the projected savings from the action plans over the next eighteen years, the up-front investment of $53 million, by 2040, will net out at $31.9 million.

As part of the final approval, Council will request annual progress reports from City Staff, ensuring measured progress vis-à-vis the established targets. These reports will ensure, as well, that carbon budgeting and climate change actions are embedded within future, ongoing, City planning processes. Funding associated with the plan’s priority actions and projects will be included in the 2023 budgeting processes (in subsequent years, as well), and will be included in the 10-year Capital Plan.

Following approval, a copy of the resolution and Orillia’s Community Climate Change Action Plan will be shared with higher levels of government, confirming Orillia’s intent to reduce carbon emissions and setting the stage for additional funding and support available through their programs.

The Community Roadmap:

The Community Roadmap/Plan speaks to the community at large and currently accounts for close to 99% of all Orillia’s emissions. Using 2018 emission data as their baseline, the stated goal of the Community Plan is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 33.3% by 2030 and by 100% by 2050. Understandably, as achieving these goals reflects the actions (and non-actions) of over 32,000 people, rather than ‘approve’ the community plan, Council will be requested to ‘endorse’ it, and in doing so, to provide the leadership and support to ensure that Orillians come together and achieve these targets. The stated targets for the community plan have been set lower and stretch over a longer period in recognition of the fact that there is much to do and many, many more people involved in making it happen.

The ‘Big Move’ theme continues into the Community Plan, reflecting projected shifts among the public to electric vehicles, widespread home retrofits (with supporting programs), higher building standards for new buildings, and greater residential uptake of solar energy—among others.To make these changes happen, the total additional outlay or costs to the community are projected to be $1.1 Billion over the next twenty-eight years. However . . . when the projected savings to the public of $3.109 Billion are netted out, upon implementation, the equation becomes a positive return of savings of $2.04 Billion for the citizens of Orillia.

Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 is an imperative for many reasons. We here in Orillia are not alone on this path. Every month, more communities across Canada (and around the world) are signing on, prioritizing climate action while informing and mobilizing their citizens to begin making change. The numbers in Orillia’s Climate Future may seem very big and, for some, the changes required may seem out of reach at the moment. Skepticism is understandable, but that skepticism further underscores why we need to start now with an implementation plan that engages and informs everyone across our community.

Most of us are naturally preoccupied by both short and mid-term priorities, starting with our personal well-being and family economics. Consequently, our ability to adapt to a goal that stretches over 28 years will be very challenging. We will be tempted to use our energy to deal with the here and now, to take short-cuts or procrastinate – that’s human. However, as the very future of humans now depends upon us accepting and working towards the longer-term goal of net zero emissions by 2050, wouldn’t it be best to get organized and underway sooner than later?

Sustainable Orillia’s Perspective

Sustainable Orillia has been an active partner with the City of Orillia and numerous other stakeholders in the process of developing the Orillia’s Climate Future plan. We found the process inclusive and we have considerable faith in the plan’s models and recommendations. We are very pleased with, and supportive of, the targets set by the plan. However, as you would expect, we have pushed for the targets to be more aggressive—and we will continue to do so. We fully agree with the report and, from our perspective, the three ‘Big Moves’ are the best bets for reducing emissions. We plan to continue as active partners as the “path to net-zero” moves into the implementation phase.

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