Huntsville becomes the third Muskoka municipality to declare a strong Climate Emergency resolution, joining the Township of Georgian Bay and the Town of Gravenhurst. The resolution which was passed was rewritten by the Muskoka CAOs from the original CAM resolution. It includes the language and the strong targets in the original resolution. However, the community engagement component was missing but was added back in with an amendment by Mayor Terziano. This will ensure that Huntsville voices and Huntsville-specific actions are included in the Community Action Plan to be developed.
MUSKOKA – On June 13, 2021 Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) sent an open letter to MPP Miller and Premier Ford to raise awareness of a misguided Ontario policy – the expansion of new gas lines. The goal of affordable home heating is a good one. However, adding more greenhouse gases (GHGs) to the atmosphere is not the way to go. Muskoka must reduce GHG emissions 50% by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050.
CAM advocates practical, workable solutions. We suggested four obvious ways to eliminate the need for natural gas heating: 1) super-insulated buildings require far less energy to heat; 2) advancements in heat pump technology make them the most energy efficient form of heating available (and they function well to -20C); 3) solar panels can help reduce the need for grid electricity; and 4) cash rebates can offset electrical energy costs. CAM also opposes the use of natural gas to generate electricity.
Our letter cited the government subsidies for Burk’s Falls and Hidden Valley. The cost: $3.1M for 144 buildings ($21,500 per unit!). We did not include the cost of the full Natural Gas Expansion Program (NGEP). In 2018 the Ford government put aside $234M to fund new gas distribution to 8,750 buildings ($26,000 per unit!).
It is provincial tax contributions that are funding the installation of natural gas lines by private companies. However, residents will be required to purchase natural gas furnaces themselves, committing them to the use of GHG-emitting fossil fuels for the next decade.
CAM believes that the NGEP is a misguided use of our Provincial resources. The policy does not reduce heating costs for the majority of Ontarians, and causes significant harm to our environment.
The Ford government is not responding to the urgency of the climate crisis and taking appropriate steps to address it. In fact, the government has already spent $231M to cancel over 750 renewable energy projects. As well, they have proposed legislation (within Bill 276) to repeal the existing requirement to give priority consideration to renewable energy production.
CAM calls on the provincial government to:
1. Halt and reverse the expansion of natural gas distribution.
2. Phase out gas-fired power plants by 2030.
3. Spend the previously allocated funds on energy solutions that reduce GHGs.
4. Distribute the benefits of the spending more equitably.
You can now find Muskoka District Council and Gravenhurst Town Council on the list of governments that have declared a climate emergency worldwide. Visit www.climateemergencydeclaration.org or click the image below to view the list. We are so proud of our District and Town councillors!
May 7 at 8:47 AM · In October the District Municipality of Muskoka declared a climate emergency. A few weeks ago, the Town of Gravenhurst was the first town within the district to follow suit. As a member of Climate Action Muskoka, I applaud these declarations and hope that they come with the intention to take action. But I am quite aware that some people are rolling their eyes at the news, even pushing back against it.
We are in a comfortable climate bubble here in Central Ontario. We are hardy to long, cold winters, hot summers and buggy springtimes. We have seen a flood or two and the windstorms have become more frequent, but we aren’t getting wildfires, biblical flooding or demolition winds. Looking around, the only emergency we see is represented on the masked and worried faces of our friends and neighbours. The Covid-19 pandemic is currently front-and-centre in our lives.
So what is the significance of declaring a climate emergency? The way I see it, the declaration is an act of solidarity with those who are currently facing the ravages of climate change, and an announcement that yes, we believe in science. We believe NASA, we believe the United Nations and the World Health Organization when they say this is an emergency. And hopefully, we realize that sooner or later, climate change is going to affect us here in Muskoka.
In this futuristic year of 2021, there are solutions. There are ways we can help decrease emissions, draw carbon out of the atmosphere, and live more responsible lives. While many of us – including myself at one point – may have imagined giant vacuums in the sky, sucking in greenhouse gases and re-arranging their molecules, the best solutions are a lot more straightforward and are usually based in nature. Here are a few areas where I think we can make a difference in Muskoka:
Public Transportation: There is a lot of room to improve public transportation here in Muskoka. We need a frequent green bus service that serves a wider community, and we need people to use the bus service so that it remains viable. (I know this is a touchy subject during covid, so let’s think beyond this pandemic.) And trains! I am so glad to hear of work being done to bring back the train. How I long to climb aboard and forget the jammed highway.
Active Transportation: Long-distance commuting by bicycle sucks here in Muskoka. It’s scary to bike along the highway with big trucks blowing past you, whipping dirt into your face. We could look at how other municipalities are promoting and enabling active transportation, (walking and rolling) and follow their examples.
Green building: This is a huge one, and there is a lot of opportunity here. Environmentally-minded builders and architects are now looking at the embodied energy of a building. It’s no longer just about how well we can seal up a building so it’s energy efficient, it’s about looking at the energy (carbon) required to build, and to manufacture the building materials. It’s about choosing more natural, green materials like responsibly-harvested wood, straw and hemp, that are, essentially, made of carbon. (The carbon in plants comes out of the atmosphere, but most of it just ends up going back up… unless we make something out of it!) There are green building materials on the market, like hempcrete and insulation made from recycled materials. Builders need incentives to use more of these materials, so those markets can grow.
Regenerating our soils: Agriculture presents a major opportunity for carbon draw-down. I have rambled on at length about that in the past. Similar practices can be applied to our urban soils. Our parks, lawns and gardens can be real, functioning carbon sinks, if managed well. For more on this, see my blog post, “The Power of Living Soil.” (Link later.)
Green infrastructure in towns: The more plants the better; native ones are best. Parks, grassy boulevards, garden beds, street trees, green roofs and walls – all of these plantings serve multiple purposes. They cool the streets, purify the air, hold carbon, create habitat and make us happy.
Culture: How do we create a local and tourist culture that values the health of the planet? I have always thought of the tent and canoe as icons of Muskoka culture, but when I head out onto the lake, I see whopping powerboats and summer mansions. I want to think of Muskoka as a place for hiking and biking and paddling, but usually, it looks more like a monster-truck rally. How do we steer this place back toward nature, toward active recreation and a culture that generates awareness of ecosystems, an appreciation for nature, serenity, simplicity and peace? We need our local influencers and culture-makers to help us do this.
Personal choices: Even a raging tree-hugger like myself can evaluate her choices and find opportunity for improvement. For me, it’s adjusting my schedule so I can choose my bicycle instead of my little car, making better choices about the products I buy, growing more of my own food and putting on a third sweater instead of turning on the heat. What does it mean for you?
I enthusiastically invite you to join Climate Action Muskoka’s Community Carbon Challenge.https://www.climateactionmuskoka.org/community-carbon…/Please sign up and join others in the commitment to lowering emissions and living a lower-carbon lifestyle. CAM members post new ideas, weekly. If sign up as a business, we’d love to give you a card to display at your store or workplace. Sometimes living a lower-carbon lifestyle will suck. We’ve gotten used to our comforts and luxuries. But it’s important. And it will suck a lot less when we’re doing it together. The cartoon in the pic is by Len Ring Lensue Mckring.
MUSKOKA – Gravenhurst has become the first Town in Muskoka to unanimously declare a Climate Emergency and to align its greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals with the District of Muskoka’s targets – a significant event in Earth Week, 2021.
At its Tuesday, April 20, 2021 meeting, Council passed a Climate Emergency resolution brought by Climate Action Muskoka (CAM), pledging to reduce its GHG emissions 50% by 2030, reaching zero by 2050.
“It’s the miniature, little needle-pushing that we do – our municipality, other municipalities, the province, federally that add up and make it a success,” said Councillor Steven Klinck, “And in the end, and hopefully as a nation, we reach these goals. If we fail, at least we failed trying.”
In her presentation, CAM co-founder Sue McKenzie stressed the urgency of taking action, noting that in 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave us just 11 years to take significant action to limit global heating before planetary tipping points are reached. This has now shrunk to 9 years. She urged Gravenhurst to join the over 10 000 cities and municipalities around the world which have adopted meaningful carbon emission reduction targets.
“We are ecstatic about this outcome,” McKenzie said. “We only have praise for the forward-thinking Gravenhurst councillors who understand everyone must take action NOW to keep global heating below 1.5C. I am so proud to live in Gravenhurst!”
Councillor Sandy Cairns, who seconded the motion, stressed the importance of putting Gravenhurst on the map as a community moving forward on climate action. Echoing her comments, Councillor John Gordon, mover of the motion, noted that Earth Week is a great time for Gravenhurst to show its commitment to making the earth a liveable place for all future generations.
Councillor Jo Morphy liked the idea of showing climate impacts of Town decisions on reports and Councillor Penny Varney pointed out that many people in the community want to know what they can do to help.
Mayor Paul Kelly stressed the importance of collaboration among the municipalities, noting that area CAOs are already working on a plan to co-ordinate actions.
CAM will ask the other lower-tier governments in Muskoka to pass the same resolution over the next few months. The Township of Georgian Bay declared a Climate Emergency in February, 2020, and has a Climate Action Plan in place.
This is the first submission in the Re-Imagining Series from Climate Action Muskoka – MuskokaRegion.com
Imagine a future where we are no longer staring down a climate crisis but are experiencing a drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere, where the health and well-being of people in an equitable and resilient Muskoka are reflected in communities around the world, and where a global response to what was once a heating planet has been achieved.
Imagine our Muskoka filled with small, thriving, locally-supported businesses and hundreds of green energy and care sector living-wage jobs — where everyone has an affordable, sustainable home built or retrofitted with carbon sequestering materials — a Muskoka powered by locally produced electric power.
Imagine walking or cycling to services from your neighbourhood, visiting neighbouring communities via a network of paved, separated and safe cycling lanes. Imagine no more noisy, internal combustion engines, quiet streets and lakes, an accessible public transport system, an inexpensive train service linking us to communities both near and far.
Imagine urban agriculture within easy walking or cycling distance of our homes where we can work our own plot, buy fresh, local, organic produce, or subscribe to a regular delivery of produce to our homes — a Muskoka where feeding ourselves means food no longer travels long distances or is at the whim of constant price rises. Imagine a tourism economy thriving on ecotourism in a protected and cherished world class destination.
Imagine a future in which we no longer worry about our children’s and grandchildren’s future, because we ensured it would be safe 20 years ago when we took action in 2021.
We know the path we are on now is unsustainable. We know we need to set out on a new path. Join our inspired Climate Action Muskoka team of contributors on a journey as they look to Muskoka in 2030, 2040, and onwards. Through a series of columns, they will be Re-Imagining the Future and capturing the steps we need to take now in order to get there.
From their diverse areas of expertise, our writers will help us imagine a decarbonized, equitable and resilient Muskoka. They will motivate us to see our opportunities as individuals, as communities, and as elected officials to get to where we need to go. Seeing what that future could look like makes it easier for us to embrace the changes needed now to get there.
Impossible you say? We are at a crossroad with opportunities like never before. We have the solutions. Join us as we explore the possibilities within our own Muskoka communities.
Imagine what a collective difference we could create in Muskoka if our very first step is to take up the Community Carbon Challenge (CCC) and reduce our own carbon footprint 50 per cent by 2030: climateactionmuskoka.org
In the words of Christiana Figueres, key architect of the Paris Accord, “Impossible is not a fact. It is an attitude.”
Linda Mathers -Thursday, March 11, 2021
Linda Mathers is a retired teacher, advocate and longtime volunteer working for a future for her grandchildren.
In 2020, amidst the pandemic, the district government of Muskoka declared a climate emergency and endorsed a plan which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and take them down to zero by 2050. This is a region which votes staunchly conservative every provincial and federal election. Who made this happen and how did they do it? The organization behind the curtain working tirelessly to make these changes are the “rabble rousers to watch” at Climate Action Muskoka. Here is what I learned in my interview with rabble rousers Sue McKenzie and Linda Mathers from Climate Action Muskoka. Read the whole story – here
Listen to Sue McKenzie and Linda Mathers speak with Maya Bhullar about how they organized to have their municipality declare a climate emergency on rabble radio- here.
MUSKOKA – Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) activists are joining forces with groups all across Canada on Friday, January 29 to say Fossil Banks? No Thanks! to the Big 5 Canadian banks. CAM is inviting everyone to call, fax, and email their local bank branches to protest the Big 5 banks’ ongoing destructive fossil fuel investments and loans.
“This is our opportunity to act locally by adding our voices to amplify the national Fossil Banks, No Thanks campaign,” says Sue McKenzie, CAM co-founder.
Canadian banks are among the biggest investors in fossil fuels worldwide and have poured $481 billion into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement, according to the 2020 Banking on Climate Change Fossil Fuel Finance Report. The breakdown of fossil investments for each bank are as follows: TD $43.7 billion, RBC $40.1 billion, SCOTIA $39.1 billion, BMO $36.7 billion, and CIBC $32.4 billion. Three Canadian banks have even made the “Dirty Dozen” Worst Banks Since the Paris Agreement (2015-2019) list. The tar sands are completely reliant on Canadian banks.
While recent stay-at-home orders keep climate protesters out of the streets, the banks keep pumping money into fossil fuels. While the rest of us are sacrificing to keep our communities safe, the Big 5 are making new loans and investments that are putting the well-being of future generations at risk.
“Slowing climate change is one of the most important things I can do to ensure a bright future for my daughter,” says Matt Lie-Paehlke of Climate Pledge Collective, explaining why he has stepped away from his PHD work to do climate work. “I’ve put aside other goals to help people lower their carbon footprint and get involved in politics – but the flood of money coming out of RBC and other big banks outweighs any small gains I might achieve.”
“The main goal of this campaign is to challenge banks to compete for our custom by cleaning up their own investment policies, not just through greenwashing projects, but by moving investments away from fossil fuels,” states McKenzie.
The concept is simple. You tell your branch manager you’re moving your money to a more responsible financial institution on Earth Day, April 2021. Hopefully, you won’t have to make this move if your bank steps up and makes substantial changes to its investment policies. You will find specific information, letter templates for each Bank, and talking points for speaking with bank managers here: climatepledgecollective.org.
CAM is an inclusive, non-partisan group of citizens concerned about climate change in Muskoka. climateactionmuskoka.org
MUSKOKA – On Monday, December 21, the darkest day of 2020, Muskoka District Council brought light, hope, and the best Christmas present ever to the people of Muskoka, unanimously passing A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy to address the Climate Crisis, with a goal of ensuring a safe, just and healthy future.
“This strategy names the Climate Crisis as an emergency, requiring immediate action,” said Climate Action Muskoka (CAM) spokesperson, Melinda Zytaruk, in support of the proposal. “It brings strong policy leadership and firm targets which put climate action at the fore-front of all decision-making.”
She stated that A New Leaf also provides for strong partnership between the community and the District, and praised the work of Kevin Boyle, Climate Initiatives Coordinator and his team.
Zytaruk urged the District to make immediate policy changes in 2021 requiring decarbonization of all new builds in Muskoka and retro-fitting of existing buildings, conversion of the District fleet to electric with provision of District-wide charging infrastructure, and finally promotion of low-carbon leisure activities through the development of active infrastructure for walking, biking, hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing etc.
“Listening to the recent delegations from CAM has prompted us to consider the opportunity to bring forward a more comprehensive, collaborative strategy for your consideration,” Christy Doyle, Director of Environmental & Watershed Programs, told Council. She pointed out that doing anything meaningful requires an all-hands-on-deck approach.
A New Leaf, includes the District government’s plan to reduce its own carbon footprint, the MCCAP. It also embraces as a guiding framework the strong Climate Emergency resolution brought to the Council by CAM: a greater than 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030, reaching zero by 2050, development of a Community Climate Action Plan (CAP), with input from a diverse, representative Community Working Group, which will regularly review and update the CAP.
Councillor Nancy Alcock, urged all councillors to sign up individually on the CAM website to take the 50% by 2030 Community Carbon Challenge to demonstrate leadership on climate to their constituents.
The District now joins countries, municipalities, businesses and individual citizens around the world in raising its ambition to address the Climate Crisis ahead of the 2021 COP26 international climate conference. Some countries have revised their decarbonization goals upwards, noting that 50% by 2030 is now considered insufficient to keep the heating below the 1.5C degrees over pre-industrial levels.
[See a PDF of the presentation to council here and the report to committee which includes a copy of A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategyhere.]
CAM is an inclusive, non-partisan group of citizens concerned about climate change in Muskoka.
MUSKOKA – Climate Action Muskoka’s (CAM) ambitious Climate Emergency resolution is on its way back to Muskoka District Council as part of the District’s A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy after the report received unanimous support from the District Community and Planning Services committee (CPSC) at its meeting Thursday.
“This is a bold climate framework for Muskoka with timelines, goals and broad community input. It acknowledges the important role both the District of Muskoka and the community must play together to address the mounting climate crisis,” said Sue McKenzie, co-founder of CAM after the meeting.
The report, developed by Kevin Boyle, the District’s Climate Change Initiatives Co-ordinator, Christy Doyle, Director of Environmental and Watershed Programs, and the MCCAP Steering committee includes the detailed Muskoka Corporate Climate Action Plan (MCCAP).
Committee chair, councillor Nancy Alcock, suggested that staff needs to hold Council’s feet to the fire to ensure the strategy is implemented.
“This isn’t us holding Council’s feet to the fire,” responded Boyle. “This is everybody holding everybody’s feet to the fire. This is a co-ordinated effort that crosses all departments in the District. This is Council holding staff’s feet to the fire, community groups holding staff and Council’s feet to the fire. It’s the Watershed Council and Climate Action Muskoka. It’s a unified approach that means we move these actions forward.”
Councillors expressed enthusiasm about the possibility of taking the climate strategy back to their area municipal councils.
“!’m so amazed to see how quickly this morphed from a plan into a strategy,” said councillor Mike Peppard. “I very much look forward to seeing how this can go to the area municipalities and how we can work with this plan instead of reinventing the wheel.”
A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy will come before Muskoka District Council on Monday, December 21 for a final vote.
CAM invites citizens, groups and businesses to join its community-wide project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030. Sign up to take the 50% by 2030 Community Carbon Challenge. https://www.climateactionmuskoka.org/
Climate Action Muskoka is an inclusive, non-partisan group of citizens concerned about climate change in Muskoka who believe in working together to inspire individuals, groups, and every level of government to make the dramatic changes needed to meet this historic climate challenge.