Local initiatives crucial to staving off climate catastrophe

On the left, Keith Kerr, Reeve of Tay Valley Township; Michael Glover, Director of Ecotay Education Centre; and Lanark County Warden Bill Dobson prior to the start of the Climate Change Workshop. They are standing in front of a field of switchgrass, a crop that may be used to produce biofuel in the future. Photo: Terry O'Hearn
Posted on: September 25, 2017

Terry O’Hearn

Michael Glover is convinced that some local municipalities, including Tay Valley Township, can become self-sufficient using renewable energy before a widely accepted 2050 deadline. Glover is a former National Research Council manager, and now director of Ecotay Educational Centre, situated west of Perth on the Upper Scotch Line.

The 2050 deadline was announced in 2008 by Andrew Simms, an author, analyst, and co-director of the New Weather Institute, and is generally thought of as a ticking countdown clock towards a climatic catastrophe for Mother Earth.

That year could be the final tipping point from which the human population could never recover. Some individual tipping points such as carbon have already passed us by, many experts believe.

Hoping to improve involvement with local government and other organizations, Glover hosted a climate change workshop targeting local development of zero-Emission solutions on Sunday, Sept. 24 at the barns of Ecotay.

The aim was partly to discuss some initiatives aimed at climate healing, and speakers included local Tay Valley Township Reeve Keith Kerr; Bob Argue, executive director of EcoPerth; and Bill Dobson, Warden of Lanark County, along with numerous other professionals from the environmental field.

At the top level of Canadian government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the premiers agreed in March 2016 to work together and hopefully agree on a national climate plan. An outline of the resulting Federal Climate Action Plan was released in December 2016, and Ian Bruce of the David Suzuki Foundation wrote at the time “This is a major milestone in Canada’s history. For the first time, Canada has built the foundation of an effective national climate plan that, if fully implemented, would put the country within striking distance of meeting our 2030 greenhouse gas target. This is a huge step for Canada’s response to climate change, but our country must strive to do better.”
Glover points out that while both federal and provincial governments promote net zero energy (NZE), which will soon be mandated in building codes, a better path for the future would be towards zero emission (ZE). A ZE house would use off-peak power only, and he is retrofitting the 200 year old farmhouse on the Ecotay property to demonstrate how it can be done at the local level.

“We have to get something going related to regulation of the production of natural gas and its distribution,” Glover says. “Heating with fossil fuels is the issue, and oil, propane, and natural gas are the three main fuels we need to find alternatives for.” The focus of the workshop examined the feasibility of setting a smart grid, renewable energy system in Tay Valley that will link together renewable energy producers, consumers and storage system operators.

The subject of ending the use of fossil fuels came up repeatedly during the workshop, and echoed the dialogue put forward by Clean Energy Canada (CEC). CEC is self-described as “a climate and clean energy think tank within the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University,” and they feel that the “shift from fossil fuels to clean electricity is needed in Canada, but to an even larger extent around the world.” The organization adds that “the global market for clean electricity is growing quickly. So is demand for the technologies and services that underpin electric transportation, buildings, industrial processes and smart grids.”

Glover is also optimistic about the use of some alternative fuels, which could be grown locally, including crops of switchgrass. While there has been a technical problem in the extraction process of the switchgrass biomass in the past, the Canadian company Cennatek has recently unveiled a new technology Bio LiNE (liquid nutrient extraction), which overcomes the problem of high nutrients usually left after the thermal conversion process, by extracting and recycling the nutrients separately. In short, the new process would produce high quality biomass fuel pellets similar to the ones now manufactured from forest residue, and have been widely used for many years. Glover stressed that “the key is to make renewable energy affordable – to avoid Hydro markups.”

Local municipalities, including the Town of Perth, often work closely with the not-for-profit organization ecoPerth, and Argue outlined his relationship with those officials on environmental matters. He mentioned that Perth has been proactive, and a climate action plan in place, along with Mayor John Fenik’s Task Force on Climate Change. He went on to say that the Perth plan has several checks and balances in place to ensure the plan is carried out, and communication between ecoPerth and town officials is ongoing.

Dobson and Noelle Reeve, Planner for Tay Valley Township during their session each outlined green initiatives their respective municipalities are pursuing. Dobson revealed that the Active Transportation Plan for Lanark County includes paving the shoulders of all county roads during new construction, which has an impact not only in providing a traffic lane that can be used by cyclists, but cuts down significantly on future road maintenance. Also in the works is completion of a ring foot trail around the county, which is expected to help reduce automobile traffic.

Reeve pointed out that Tay Valley is relatively small, and has no specific funds allocated for climate change. However, she wished to leave the gathering with a hopeful thought, in that the township was at least partly responsible for long-awaited changes to Ontario’s Mining Act, giving much better protection to property owners.

Many dire warnings were heard from a seasoned group of experts throughout the day, and although there were some disagreements on items of discussion such as the dismantling of Ontario’s nuclear power plants, the consensus of opinion was: now is the time to take action. There may still be time to save the planet, but immediate action is needed on climate change problems.

One thought on “Local initiatives crucial to staving off climate catastrophe

  1. Bob Ewing

    I agree local actions towards reducing the impact climate change will have on communities is what is needed. Renewable energy, growing crops for biomass and carbon sequestration can work together to ameliorate the impact. It is encouraging to read this article.

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