Five steps to improve the green balance sheet of cities
The City of Granby is working on its 2.0 green plan. It invites its citizens to participate in the reflection by completing a survey proposing 27 measures to improve its environmental record. Respondents can also go for their suggestions. We surveyed five specialists, who are interested in so many distinct areas, to identify each one of the most important measures to include in the city’s future environmental plan. Their advice is aimed at the entire municipal world, they argue.
1. Identify and protect natural environments
The City of Granby must have a plan of its wetlands, water and natural and “especially apply it,” without hesitation answers Kim Marineau, President of Biodiversity Council, a firm specializing in environmental assessment and natural environments.
All valuable natural environments in the municipality must be identified and protected, the biologist insists. “If municipal leaders are serious, if they want to preserve biodiversity, that’s what we need to do,” she says.
In addition to identifying natural environments, the plan must include measures to protect them, targets to be reached, timelines and tools to validate the progress made. A budget must be provided for acquiring natural environments just like a bank of land to exchange to obtain them.
The City must set itself the goal of protecting 17% of its territory, as required by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, notes Ms. Marineau. Certainly, she points out, it is the Government of Canada that is a signatory to this international agreement. Municipalities, however, have an important role to play in achieving this goal by 2020, she says.
“It’s going to allow us to get through climate change and make sure we’re looking after the health of our citizens,” she says.
The number of collection days for black bins (waste) must be limited to 12 per year, believes Marlène Hutchinson, specialist in the management of residual materials. This will encourage citizens to better sort their materials using their blue and brown bins.
Using incentive pricing for citizens will reduce the amount of residual materials sent to landfill, says Marlène Hutchinson, President of Cycle Environment, a firm that helps municipalities and businesses to better manage their residual materials.
The concept of incentive pricing is based on the polluter pays principle. By limiting the number of garbage collection days to 12 per year, municipalities that adopt this approach are encouraging their citizens to better sort their residual materials. This translates into a reduction in the materials thrown in the garbage. Those who refuse to use their recycling bins and compost bins will have to pay a higher waste management fee than participating citizens.
This is a question of tax fairness between citizens, says Hutchinson. “In recent years, we have noticed that diversion rates do not really increase. If we want to empower citizens and improve diversion rates, incentive pricing is a good way to get there. ”
The City of Beaconsfield, the Township of Potton and several municipalities in the English-speaking provinces of Canada and Europe have adopted incentive pricing. “Here in Quebec, it’s slow. Elected officials are afraid of people’s reactions, “said Hutchinson.
The City of Granby must take stock of the greenhouse gases produced in its territory and set an “ambitious and realistic” reduction target, says the chemist Marc Olivier.
The City of Granby must make a balance of greenhouse gas (GHG) produced on its territory, believes Marc Olivier, lecturer at the Master of Environmental Studies at the University of Sherbrooke. Such a balance sheet, explains the chemist, who is interested in the major problems of air pollution, will enable the city to set itself a “quantified, ambitious and realistic” reduction target within a horizon of ten years and to give itself the means to get there.
The fight against greenhouse gases is not the sole responsibility of central governments, insists Mr. Olivier. “Municipalities do not have the means that other [government] levels have, but they can make things happen, take action, and move society forward,” he says.
Among the means to put in place to reduce GHGs, Mr. Olivier suggests the electrification of municipal vehicles (when they are replaced) and those of public transportation, the installation of charging stations along commercial streets for vehicles. electric, the replacement in public buildings of heating oils by renewable energies such as renewable natural gas and biomass. The factories, businesses and businesses on the territory must be invited to also undertake this energy transition to reach the set objective, adds the academic.
“The balance sheet will give us the quantity of our GHGs in Year 0. We can then, over the years, calculate where we are and if our measures are effective,” concludes Mr. Olivier. The City of Montreal intends to be carbon neutral in 2050, he said. Such an objective is within the reach of smaller cities, he believes.
The densification of existing neighborhoods, especially those near the city center, is imperative for a city to improve its environmental record, says urban planner Jean-François Vachon.
A better occupation of the territory remains a priority for any city wishing to improve its environmental record, assures the urban planner Jean-François Vachon. This challenge can be met by putting in place a population densification strategy that focuses on the built environment, including the downtown core, says this speaker and former director of the City of Bromont’s Planning Department.
The intensification strategy must be based on measures to encourage residential construction in the downtown perimeter, access to affordable housing and easy and safe traffic for pedestrians and cyclists.
“The goal is to create an interesting living environment for people to want to live there. Everything must be thought of to ensure the active movement of the people of this district, “he explains. This dynamism will provoke a craze for the renovation of buildings and homes, he says. Local shops will follow, he says.
“The problem for municipalities is their spreading. Now, when we live in a new neighborhood, we have to take our car to do our shopping. There is nothing sustainable in there. Yes, we can build ecological homes, but we must stop sprawl and rather densify, “says Mr. Vachon.
The revitalization project in downtown Granby seems exciting, Vachon said. It will work if demographic densification accompanies everything, he says. “We have to target the issues and ask ourselves what measures can be put in place to bring this sector back to life. You do not revitalize a city center to attract tourists or to please cyclists. We do it to create a living environment. ”
Reducing losses in municipal drinking water systems must be a priority, says Réjean De Ladurantaye, lecturer at the Université de Sherbrooke.
The loss of drinking water in the water system remains a serious environmental problem in municipalities, says Réjean De Ladurantaye, lecturer at the Université de Sherbrooke. Finding these leaks and fixing them should be their priority, he argues.
Quebeckers are the largest consumers of water in Canada, says De Ladurantaye. They use 573 liters a day, according to data from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, which is 28% more than the Canadian average. However, obsolete aqueduct systems result in significant losses of drinking water.
These losses have significant impacts because they force municipalities to filter more water than necessary, which increases costs, says De Ladurantaye. In addition, a large volume of the drinking water lost ends up in the sewer systems, which also costs the sewage treatment plant, he adds. “Look at the bad state of our roads. It’s because of a letting go. Imagine the state of infrastructure that you do not see, “he says.
The new Québec Drinking Water Strategy 2019-2025 aims to reduce the amount of drinking water distributed per person by 20%. To achieve this, a change in consumer behavior is necessary, opines Mr. De Ladurantaye. It has always been difficult, he said at once. The best way, according to him, to improve the balance sheet in terms of preservation of drinking water is to fill the gaps in the distribution networks.
In its last strategy, the 2011-2017 strategy, Quebec’s objective was to reduce them by 20%. The goal has not been achieved. Significant investments must be made in the aqueduct networks to reach this target, thinks Mr. De Ladurantaye.