On May 3rd, 2016 Sustainable Waterloo Region held a long awaited breakfast event on Environmental Policy Planning at the CIGI Building. Due to winter storms, the event was postponed earlier in February.
The event was a combination of short info sessions, followed by the presenters engaging the audience in a panel discussion. The Environmental Policies in question surrounded the recent discussions and agreements arising from the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more popularly known as COP21 as well as the Ontario-wide cap and trade regulations.
Moderated by Ian Rowlands, the focus of the event started with an introspective look at environmental politics from a futuristic global perspective, given by Matthew Hoffman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. Hoffman began by highlighting the important step that was taken at COP21, as 177 countries signed an agreement to start the process of de-carbonisation. Hoffman highlights the importance of first envisioning the components of a progressive de-carbonised society and then working towards these components as achievable goals. So far, Hoffman mentions that things are looking up. The use of coal power is declining and there are a lot of conversations regarding the reduction of fossil fuels. Hoffman ended his talk with a powerful statement – the long term goals have to be a part of the short term decisions
The next speaker was Keith Brooks from Environmental Defence, who was able to give some insight at the provincial level. Brooks provided a summary of Bill 172 that Ontario is overseeing as it moves through legislation. The aim of the bill is to assist with the reduction of carbon emissions in manners that support the reduction targets by making them laws. He also gives the audience a glimpse of what we can expect in the near future with these changes in place. We may see a shift towards electric vehicles, a clean form of electricity, and incentives for residents and businesses to transition towards more sustainable means of running.
Following Brooks was Sarah Petrevan who works with the government towards clean energy, with a focus on carbon pricing and energy programs. Sarah enlightened the audience about how cap and trade works and what it aims to encourage. In tandem with Quebec and California, the focus will be on delivering a clean energy future and a reduction of 25000 metric tonnes of CO2 a year; cap and trade will tackle 30% of industry emissions as well as a little bit of transportation, buildings, and agriculture emissions. The way this will work is by setting a cap of the number of GHG emissions allowed to be produced, and one must purchase the allowance to expel these emissions. As such, not only will the emissions likely reduce, but businesses can also sell their allowances to others that need it, regaining some of the financial expenses made initially.
The presentations were concluded with the final instalment presented by Claire Bennett, the manager of Wilfrid Laurier University’s Sustainability Office, who focused on what these policy implementations meant to the Region of Waterloo and on a more local level. She described a wide variety of initiatives and options that are offered for residences, workplaces, transportation and talked also about the increasing focus on corporate social responsibility.
After a short coffee break, the speakers were re-invited to the podium and were asked their input on how will this information influence the steps being taken at various levels within and out of Canada. Speakers gave their almost unanimous response that the various levels at which these progressions are occurring should be complementary to one another or at least with the same goals in mind. When asked for which sector would they give advice to, the technology sector was mentioned as well as business management. These were identified as sectors with potential to start the transition to a more sustainable society. The strength of universities was also highlighted as they are a hub for innovation, knowledge, network of private and public relations as well as a hub for ideas.
Overall, there was great potential identified for Canada to become a sustainability-focused country. There is a positive outlook, which means that we could be seeing some advancements being made in the near future – a sustainable future.