Winnipeg, MB – September 29, 2010
The current municipal election campaign is an opportunity for Manitobans to put the environment on the public agenda. Green Action Centre encourages citizens across the province to ask all candidates for mayor/ reeve and council what they will do to make their communities greener.
As a specific guide for citizens of Winnipeg, Green Action Centre is offering its views on what it sees as the top five environmental actions for the City of Winnipeg. This list highlights key planks of an environmental platform that is recommended for all municipal candidates this fall. Green Action Centre does not endorse any candidates for public office. But we do hope that this list encourages all candidates to make environmental solutions a priority.
AN ENVIRONMENTAL PLATFORM FOR WINNIPEG
1) Climate Change: Commit to measurable targets and specific timetables for greenhouse gas reductions both community-wide and within City operations, and take the actions necessary to achieve them
2) Active and Sustainable Transportation: Complete Winnipeg’s initial planned rapid transit line and develop a plan to implement rapid transit across the City, and continue completion of the Active Transportation Network
3) Waste Reduction: Develop and implement a comprehensive and integrated waste management strategy for all sectors
4) Greener Neighbourhoods and Communities: Reduce toxic pesticides through bylaw and example to protect our green spaces and maintain our urban forest
5) Greening the City of Winnipeg Budget: Commit to greening the City budget to make sustainable choices easy, discourage environmentally harmful actions, and raise the money needed to fund services.
BACKGROUND AND DETAILS
1. Climate Change
Climate Change is an urgent issue with both global and regional effects. Manitoba farmers and flooded homeowners have experienced a taste of what the effects of climate change could look like in the coming decades. Increased heavy precipitation and unpredictable weather events are on the radar unless we manage to get emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under control and office plants to rent. Green Action Centre recommends that climate change should be an overarching lens through which City policies are evaluated. With 55 % of the provincial population, Winnipeg is a keystone for achieving provincial climate mitigation goals under the Climate Change and Emissions Reduction Act. A greener Winnipeg must play a leadership role in fighting global climate change.
Last year the City of Winnipeg adopted a greenhouse gas reduction plan that would see corporate emissions (those from City-run facilities and operations) cut by 20 % compared to 1998. Unfortunately, the City plan did not commit to a target date for achieving this reduction. As well, there has been no target set for community wide emission reductions. Addressing these gaps must be a priority for the next city council.
All Winnipeg candidates should commit to reductions of both community-wide and City operations emissions. Across the City, we can aim to achieve a reduction of emissions of at least 50 % within ten years on a community wide basis. With City-wide total annual emissions of 5.2 megatonnes, Winnipeggers emit over 8 tonnes of GHGs per capita. This leaves lots of room for improvement. The city should show leadership by committing to achieving its declared City operations target of a 20% reduction within the upcoming council’s mandate of four years.
Change at this scale would require improvements in transportation, city planning, waste management, and energy efficiency, but Green Action Centre believes that the above targets are fully achievable. They would bring Winnipeg into line with more ambitious climate change plans of other Canadian cities including Ottawa, Vancouver and Edmonton. These cities have made significant progress in greenhouse gas reductions while experiencing economic and population growth.
2. Active and Sustainable Transportation
A shift to more sustainable transportation will be necessary to achieve proposed cuts in GHG emissions. Transportation makes up approximately one-third of Manitoba’s greenhouse gas emissions, and 16% of the City’s operational emissions. To achieve this shift, Winnipeggers need a range of viable transportation options – from transit to walking, cycling and other human-powered modes.
Winnipeggers have waited too long for rapid transit to be made real. Indeed, plans for rapid transit have been in discussion for half a century in Winnipeg. Over the past decade several proposals have been put forward. The first phase of rapid transit started work in 2009 from Downtown to Jubilee. To be successful, this project requires the second phase extending rapid transit to the University of Manitoba. Without connectivity, rapid transit is unlikely to gain acceptance or to meet the transportation needs of a growing Winnipeg.
Whether council chooses to adopt wheel or rail based rapid transit is less important than that it be completed within a short time frame. Unfortunately, Council voted to remove phase 2 funding of rapid transit from the city’s five-year capital plan. The City should commit to putting transit as their highest transportation priority in their negotiations for infrastructure funding from other levels of government and restore capital funding for the second phase extending rapid transit to the University of Manitoba.
With regard to active transportation, one of the key elements to making walking and cycling viable transportation options in Winnipeg is the availability of safe, convenient and accessible infrastructure that integrates with transit for longer trips. While significant progress on pedestrian and cycling facilities has been achieved this year and more people are choosing to walk and cycle, there is still much to do to complete the network and make it possible for many more Winnipeggers to choose active, healthy and sustainable modes of transportation.
3. Waste Reduction
Winnipeg has some of the lowest rates of waste diversion for both recycling and composting in the country. In spring 2010, after pressure from Green Action Centre and other organizations, City Hall agreed to launch a review of its waste reduction strategy. The need for action is demonstrated by Manitoba’s drop to ninth place among provinces in waste reduction. While some areas, like the region’s low landfill tipping fees, will require action by the Province, others are directly within the City’s control.
Winnipeg should adopt a City-wide compost pickup program with an early introduction of a pilot program. Curbside pickup of residential organics should be one component of an effort to get both public and private sector service providers involved in recovering the value in discarded compostables. This material is just too good to waste and its disposal as garbage produces excessive GHGs in the landfill. The City should conduct a full review of options including alternating collection of compostables and residual waste in order to reduce costs and greenhouse gases from haulers.
Furthermore, the Winnipeg recycling program needs improvement. City Hall should examine on a material-by-material basis the best options and practices for recycling. Some materials like appliances or drywall find markets in other jurisdictions but are not recycled to the same extent in Winnipeg. Winnipeg needs to do more to work with industrial, commercial, institutional and construction sectors to ensure that they recycle to the same extent as residential households.
The Brady landfill is the largest single greenhouse gas emitter in the Province. The City is required by provincial legislation to implement a methane capture program by the end of 2010. Candidates should commit to achieving this target while ensuring that any long term methane capture plan is consistent with other sustainability goals. Candidates should commit to rejecting any methane capture contact which would limit their ability to reduce methane generation at source through waste diversion and reduction.
4. Greener Neighbourhoods and Communities
Winnipeg’s enviable location at the forks of two of the region’s greatest rivers provides a lush and fertile backdrop for a greener environmental policy. This environment should be protected. Instead we endanger our local ecosystem with toxic chemicals. Winnipeg has some of the highest rates of cosmetic pesticide use on lawns and gardens in Canada. The City’s insect control policy relies on chemicals like chlorpyrifos that are so toxic that the federal government is considering banning them from several uses. Winnipeg’s next council should move quickly to provide a transparent and open scientific review of its insect management plan. Winnipeg should also follow the lead of dozens of other cities across Canada and adopt an effective and comprehensive cosmetic pesticide ban to limit unnecessary exposure to chemicals that are dangerous to ourselves and to our environment.
Winnipeg has one of the most extensive urban canopies in Canada. We have escaped the worst of blights that have wiped out elms and ash in many other cities. However climate change and the inevitable spread of new pests will bring challenges to the city in the coming years. Winnipeg has not invested sufficiently in renewing its urban forest. Program commitments are needed to ensure not only that existing trees are protected, but that fallen or diseased trees are replaced and treeless streets are planted with species that do not require protection and maintenance using synthetic chemicals. Trees add great value to the quality of our neighbourhoods and perform essential ecological services including carbon sequestration, water retention and wildlife habit.
5. Green the City of Winnipeg Budget
City Council should identify and implement fiscal measures to raise revenues that will, at the same time, provide financial incentives for people to live more sustainably and fund programs which will enable them to do so. A community task force can help. Some of the areas a community task force could consider include: parking taxes, shifts in property taxes from built property to land value, and inverted rates for city services so that consumers are rewarded for using less. Too often we offer perverse subsidies that reward behaviour that is detrimental to our communities and the environment. As a society, we need to do more to make it easier for individuals, organizations, and governments to make the greener option their first choice.
Green Action Centre is non-profit organization that promotes composting, sustainable transportation, waste reduction, and resource conservation. It changed its name from Resource Conservation Manitoba in September 2010. The new Green Action Centre web site is online at www.greenactioncentre.ca