New Brunswick communities join national climate change program

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Liberals' carbon tax plan an 'empty accounting exercise': Coon

Liberals' carbon tax plan an 'empty accounting exercise': Coon

Another 11 communities in New Brunswick have become members of a federal program aimed at tackling climate change at the municipal level.

The Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick announced the new members Tuesday in Quispamsis, which is now part of the climate change initiative.

With Saint John at the helm, the town is partnering with Grand Bay-Westfield, Rothesay, Sussex, Petitcodiac, Rexton, Perth-Andover, Woodstock, McAdam and Dalhousie in joining the only national program in which municipalities can report their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities runs the 15-year-old Partners for Climate Protection program, which has members in every Canadian province and territory. With the group of 11 that joined Tuesday, there are now 43 members in New Brunswick.

Group approach cuts costs

This is the first time municipalities have decided to join the endeavour as a group — although there will be separate action plans — and are funded in one project. This reduces the cost to participate for each community.

The federal government is providing roughly $175,000, or about half of the funding, for the newly announced project, while the province has committed another $75,000. The individual municipalities have also contributed.

Once they implement their action plans, municipalities can seek additional funding for specific items through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Fund or the New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund.

The program is structured around five milestones, the first of which requires its members to compile a greenhouse gas inventory — or a snapshot of the emissions the municipality and the larger community produce.

Will decide on targets

From there, municipalities must set targets for reducing their emissions. According to a consultant for the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick, members typically aim to reduce corporate emissions by 20 per cent and community emissions by six per cent. 

To do so requires members to collaborate with community stakeholders, said Eddie Oldfield, who chairs the New Brunswick caucus of an organization that promotes Smart Energy Communities across Canada. In addition to his position at QUEST, Oldfield is working on contract as an adviser for the provincial Union of Municipalities. 

Representing the municipalities group, Oldfield will present each of each new member's action plan to its respective municipal council later this year. 

If approved by council, the member has fulfilled the third milestone — developing and passing an action plan to reduce emissions. Next, the municipality has to actually implement the plan.

2 cities reach last milestone

Finally, the fifth milestone requires municipalities to monitor progress and, ideally, to meet their targets.

So far in New Brunswick, only Bathurst and Fredericton have reached this point. Describing the provincial capital as "one of the leaders in Canada," Oldfield said Fredericton is now setting deeper emissions-reduction targets.

Moncton is at milestone three. 

The Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick developed a resolution at its annual conference two years ago to undertake this project with communities interested in the program.

"In actual fact, we had some very small municipalities with less than 1,000 people who became involved in it," executive director Raymond Murphy said.

Since then, more municipalities have expressed interest, and close to 25, including the 11 involved in this project, attended a followup meeting last year.

Proposals by December

"I think all we have to do is look at every year and the changes that have taken place in different provinces and territories and you can easily see, I think, why it's important that all municipalities in some way, shape or form become involved."

Building toward the action plans, the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick will hold consultations in each of the 11 municipalities over the next six to eight months.

The purpose of the consultations would be to seek feedback from community stakeholders and to verify the action plans, which will be presented to municipal councils in December.