In the wake of last week's COP 26 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Sault Ste. Marie has agreed to join more than 20 other Canadian cities in pledging to put inclusive climate action at the centre of all urban decision-making.
Our city councillors agreed this week to join the Cities Race to Zero campaign, reaffirming our commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Race to Zero is a United Nations-backed global initiative aimed at persuading municipalities, private companies, educational institutions and other non-state actors to cut global emissions by half by 2030.
At the request of Ward 1 Coun. Paul Christian, the Michigan Sault will also be approached about making it a joint pledge.
"Have we given any thought to reaching out to our sister city across the bridge, and perhaps getting a pledge from them as well, to make it more of a regional flavour?" Christian asked at Monday's City Council meeting.
"At present, outreach to our neighbours across the bridge has not occurred," responded Emily Cormier, the city's sustainability coordinator.
"But I'd be happy to do so. It is a global initiative. Other municipalities in northern Ontario – specifically Thunder Bay – have participated... I'd be happy to outreach to them," Cormer said.
Here's what our City Council is pledging:
1. Publicly endorse the following principles:
- we recognize the global climate emergency
- we are committed to keeping global heating below the 1.5° Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement
- we are committed to putting inclusive climate action at the center of all urban decision-making to create thriving and equitable communities for everyone
- we invite our partners – political leaders, CEOs, trade unions, investors, and civil society – to join us in recognizing the global climate emergency and help us deliver on science-based action to overcome it
2. We pledge to reach (net)-zero by mid-century at the latest, in line with global efforts to limit warming by 1.5° Celsius
3. Further that City Council direct staff to report on steps that have been taken toward achieving Sault Ste. Marie’s interim goal of achieving 10 per cent corporate and five per cent community reduction of emissions from 2017 levels by 2030 in order to identify ways to increase that target to incorporate a fair share of the 50 per cent global reduction in CO2 by 2030 identified in the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° Celsius
4. Immediately proceed to planning the following inclusive and equitable climate actions as listed on citiesracetozero.org that will help to place Sault Ste. Marie on a resilient pathway consistent with the 1.5° Celsius objective of the Paris Agreement and begin implementation no later than 2022:
(a) create green and healthy streets
- pilot test and procure, with partners as necessary, zero emissions buses by 2025
- expand and improve walking, cycling and integrated transit access and identify potential areas for future zero emission zones by 2025
(b) develop zero-carbon buildings
- benchmark building energy use in existing buildings and implementing citywide efficiency programs with an approved roadmap to achieve all net zero buildings by 2050
(c) advance to zero waste
- ensure all waste generated in the city is being collected and residential waste is disposed of adequately in at least an engineered sanitary landfill
5. Report progress annually, beginning no later than 2022 to the PCP program, or another recommended platform. The 1.5° Celsius target and action commitment(s) should be shared through your regular channels of reporting
"Participating in the Cities Race to Zero program provides the City with a platform to showcase city and community climate action, network with other municipalities on a global scale and leverages the commitment to action and work that is already underway," Cormier said in a report prepared for Mayor Provenzano and City Council.
City Council voted to plan at least one "inclusive and equitable climate action as listed in the Cities Race to Zero campaign pledge," consistent with the 1.5° Celsius objective of the Paris agreement, and to start implementing no later than 2022.
City staff will be required to report annually on the progress they're making, beginning no later than the third quarter of 2022.
On Oct. 26, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) released the Emissions Gap Report 2021.
That report concluded that current mitigation inititives put the planet on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century, far in excess of the goals of the Paris agreement.
That, Cormier says, would result in catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate.
"To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gases within the next decade," she said.
"Cities Race to Zero campaign is a campaign for cities by cities to inspire commitments and actions from their peers around the world and channel the best available tools and expertise to help them stay on track with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement."
"It has mobilized a coalition of leading net zero initiatives, representing 799 cities, 35 regions, 4,468 businesses, 221 of the biggest investors, and 622 higher education institutions worldwide."
"Twenty-one Canadian cities have signed on so far, including cities such as Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Guelph, St. Catherine’s, and Ottawa," Cormier said.