Sarnia to issue report cards on climate action progress

Residents took part in a Climate Change rally and March on Sarnia’s waterfront in September. Organized by Climate Change Sarnia-Lambton, the event was one of more than 50 held across Canada demanding politicians take immediate action. Journal File Photo

Cathy Dobson

Starting next year, City Hall will provide an annual “report card” to ensure its efforts at addressing climate change are more than hot air.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” Coun. Brian White said shortly before council unanimously endorsed Sarnia’s first climate change action plan and implementation strategy.

White, who is a member of an environmental advisory committee that put the plan together with staff, said it would help the city deals with challenges from climate change and tries to mitigate them.

He called it “a living document” that can be altered as issues arise, priorities change, and government grants arise.

Municipal governments control about 44% of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions in Canada, said Ken Brown, a committee member who with Nicole Karsch presented the plan to council.

A study by UN Habitat found cities account for less than 2% of the earth’s surface yet consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce 66% of its greenhouse gases, said Brown.

That makes municipalities key to reducing GHG emissions in the long term, he said.

Council directed staff to create an annual city report card to ensure the plan is being implemented. The first one will be submitted to council at the end of 2022.

The strategy is sweeping and impacts virtually every function of the city including parks, waste management, planning, and public transit.

Projects that are already approved or underway include:

* Shoreline protection;

* Combined sewer separation;

* Sewer rehabilitation;

* Purchase of electric ice equipment;

* LED fixtures at Clearwater Arena;

* Public transit upgrades to increase service, frequency and a smart card travel system;

* Assessing city vehicles and how much time they idle;

* Planting trees in parks and the Howard Watson Nature Trail.

Coun. George Vandenberg asked if Sarnia could develop a facility to turn organic waste into renewable energy, as the City of London does.

Preliminary discussions with Enbridge Gas have already started, Brown said.

Many local industrial companies could purchase natural gas generated from organic waste, he suggested.

The work has only just started but momentum is building, Brown said.

Emerging climate change impacts were highlighted recently by devastating floods in British Columbia, he added.

Sarnia’s strategy is to focus on the natural environment, flooding, emergency preparedness, and GHG emissions.

The plan was written after the city declared a climate change emergency in 2019.  Extensive consultation ensued with local residents and about 30 stakeholders including Enbridge Gas, the Lambton Health Unit, and Climate Action Sarnia-Lambton before it was presented to council last month.

One suggestion made during public consultations was to hire a climate specialist, something that could be considered next year, said community services general manager Stacy Forfar.