As many of you know, our community climate change action plan, Orillia’s Climate Future, has a long-term goal to reduce Orillia’s carbon emissions down to net zero by 2050.
The plan received endorsement by Orillia’s city council in April last year and, although it’s a long-term plan, there are a number of ‘near-term’ initiatives, several of which will be implemented this year.
As these are very early years for our community climate action plan, many of the 2023 actions are foundational, designed to build a supportive base for the medium- and longer-term strategic actions identified in the plan. It’s been a few months since our last update, so a quick summary of the plan and its actions to date may be helpful.
Led by Renee Recoskie, manager, property and environmental sustainability, Orillia’s Climate Future is a very comprehensive plan, anchored around three ‘big moves’ — local renewable energy, transportation and housing.
As has been mentioned before, the overall plan has two parts — the corporate (the municipality of Orillia) and the community (the rest of us: citizens, businesses and organizations within the community). Each big move is organized around these two principal stakeholders. There are supporting action plans and both shorter- and longer-term milestones — all of which were informed with input and active participation by a wide range of citizens, including youth representation, as part of focus groups, consultations and steering committees.
Over the past year, council members and senior city staff have spent many hours reviewing and debating the final plan, and their support enabled a number of initial actions from the corporate plan during 2022, including:
- The launch of a series of greenhouse gas facility audits on key City of Orillia properties. Five were completed in 2022, providing ‘road maps’ to bring emissions down from these facilities.
- The first electric vehicle was purchased for Orillia’s city fleet, and EV charger stations were installed at Fire Hall 1, Orillia City Centre and the Municipal Operations Centre.
- The successful implementation of the clear garbage program — which has so far yielded a 40 per cent reduction in garbage collected at the curb and an increase in both green bin organics (+20 per cent) and blue box recyclables (+five per cent).
This year’s budget discussions reaffirmed the recently elected mayor and council’s commitment to forge ahead with Orillia’s Climate Future — as several near-term corporate or city initiatives were reviewed and received positively during the budget discussions. Pending ratification on Feb. 27, some of the initiatives planned for 2023 include:
- To conduct a series of feasibility studies for larger-scale projects such as solar installations on city-owned properties and the transit fleet electrification, among others. Findings from these initial studies will form the basis of when, and how best, to address the plan’s big moves.
- To complete the greenhouse gas facility audits for key city buildings, and
- To install more water bottle filling stations at city facilities. A number of these stations were installed during 2022 and feedback and use have been very positive.
The community-based steering committee (CBSC) was a rich source of input for the development of the original plan. This wide-ranging group of over 30 Orillia residents remains active and will continue to review and consult on key deliverables as the plan rolls out. We can expect priorities and opportunities to change, and the CBSC will continue to help identify and prioritize inevitable changes in the plan.
Community engagement will be vital throughout, and never more so than now, as we contemplate the implementation of initiatives that will start to touch our day-to-day lives. In addition to the big moves identified in the plan, we in the community will be challenged to make small — sometimes big — changes as we move further into the future, while at the same time shaping the future. The success of the clear garbage bag conversion is a testament to our ability to make these changes. Ditto for the whole-scale conversion to reusable shopping bags taking place right now across virtually all of our retail outlets. It’s happening.
Orillia, along with the majority of communities across Canada, will continue to take informed action to reduce our carbon emissions and, as an early adopter, Orillia has a head start on the path to net zero — and this plan, Orillia’s Climate Future, will show the way.
Please join with Sustainable Orillia to learn more about Orillia’s Climate Future and how we can all support the achievement of these planet-saving goals. For more information, visit the city’s dedicated web page by clicking here.