Now is the time

·4 min read

WATERLOO REGION — Now is the time to let the community leaders know what you envision Waterloo Region could look like in 30 years.

All eight municipalities and two major community climate non-profit groups have come together to create one community climate change strategy to guide how Waterloo Region will transition to an equitable, prosperous, low-carbon economy over the next 30 years.

The strategy is called TransformWR and it is a plan to achieve 80 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2050 from 2010 levels.

The strategy was produced as a collaboration between all eight municipalities in the region, and two leading local climate change non-profits: Sustainable Waterloo Region and Reep Green Solutions.

“TransformWR has been developed to be our official community climate action plan,” says Kate Hagerman, Manager of Environmental Planning and Sustainability at the Region of Waterloo. “It is the broad umbrella strategy under which municipalities, businesses, organizations, and households will work to transition our community off of fossil fuels.”

The region is hosting a survey on its engagewr.ca for community feedback until April 12.

Once feedback from the survey is received, the final version of TransformWR will be presented for approval by the councils of all cities, townships, and the Region in late spring.

The strategy identifies six main transformative changes that need to be achieved by 2050, and how to achieve them.

These six transformative changes include:

Active transportation: By 2050, most trips are taken using active transportation, with the support of a robust public transit system.

Personal and commercial vehicles are zero emissions vehicles.

Businesses and homes no longer use fossil fuels for space heating and cooling, and water heating.

Waterloo Region uses less, wastes less, and no longer disposes organic matter in landfills.

Waterloo Region has a thriving local food system built on local farming and food processing that feeds much of our community

Waterloo Region has leveraged GHG reductions to become more prosperous, equitable, and resilient for all.

The strategy also includes an interim greenhouse gas reduction target of 30 per cent by 2030, along with 75 actions needed in the next decade to achieve this target.

The TransformWR strategy works in tandem with the Waterloo Region’s own in-house policy direction paper on climate change. This policy was created as part of the Regional Official Plan Review. The Official Plan is the main document that will guide growth until 2050.

The policy paper will guide how the region implements the actions of the TransformWR strategy, says Hagerman.

The TransformWR strategy team says its interim goal of 30 per cent reduction by 2030 is consistent with the Province of Ontario’s target and the Paris agreement, and that it is ambitious but achievable.

However, some argue this goal is not ambitious enough.

Kai Reimer-Watts, a volunteer with the community climate action group 50 by 2030 Waterloo Region says he supports the TransformWR goal and the work put into the strategy, but argues the goal needs to be a 50 per cent reduction by the year 2030.

“There is no scientific basis to the 30x30 target — it is unfortunately a political target only,” he wrote to the Record in an email.

He points out that Vancouver and Halifax have committed to their respective 50 per cent and 75 per cent reductions in carbon emissions by 2030.

“Let’s aspire to what’s required, and not sell ourselves short,” he writes.

Samantha Tremmel, a Plan Manager with ClimateActionWR, the organization managing the collaboration between all the municipalities and community groups to produce the strategy says that the goal of 80 per cent reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 was chosen because each municipality approved this target in 2018.

“At the time, this target was in line with both the Provincial and Federal reduction targets, as well as several other municipalities across Canada, and was also informed by the results of wide scale community engagement across Waterloo region,” she says.

The TransformWR strategy focuses on what can be done locally, says Tremmel. “To go further, we will need support from other levels of government.’

“This strategy is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make transformative change and build the community that we want,” says Tremmel. “This is the time.”

The entire TransformWR draft strategy can be viewed at engagewr.ca, along with the public consultation survey available until April 12.

Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email lgerber@therecord.com

Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record