Environmental Stewardship Committee presents extensive report and recommendations to Council

As the effects of climate change became clear both locally and around the globe, the Town of Saugeen Shores established an Environmental Stewardship Ad Hoc Committee in April, 2021.  The Committee delivered its 39 recommendations to Town Council on February 14, which were focused on assessing the Town’s existing environmental sustainability policies and making recommendations for improvements or noting the potential for new initiatives.  Councillor Cheryl Grace chaired the committee that included dedicated members of the public and Town Staff.

ESAC‘s mandate required the Committee to:

“…prioritize its recommendations for implementation” and “to aid the municipality in providing appropriate stewardship for the natural assets and resources in its care and to mitigate against the effects of climate change in the community.”

  • Acknowledging that a climate emergency exists shows that Council demonstrates leadership in caring about our Environment and Climate Change.
  • Stewardship of our environmental assets and Climate Change should be top priorities for Council and Staff each day in every department.
  • The science is unequivocal regarding climate change and the need for significant action to limit global warming. 98% of global scientists (over 11,000 of them) agree that Climate Change threatens all life on earth and that Canada is warming at twice the global average. Acknowledging that a climate emergency exists shows that Council believes in settled science.
  • In 2021 alone, Canada faced heat domes killing over 800 people, fires causing mass evacuations and significant loss of homes, livelihoods, and biodiversity. Droughts have significantly impacted agriculture and threatened water sources. Floods displaced thousands of people, killed livestock, and impacted agricultural operations. Disrupted transportation corridors impact the Canadian supply chain and the cost of living and Climate change is also responsible for rising costs for health care. Saugeen Shores is not immune to the impacts of climate change. Since September 2021, multiple severe weather events have caused significant damage to trees and property, disrupting lives and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Property Insurance costs are rising rapidly, and insurance may be difficult or impossible to procure along the waterfront in the future.
  • By January 2021, 2,045 jurisdictions in 37 countries, including Canada, had already declared a climate emergency. By June 2, 2021, 506 municipalities in Canada had enacted climate emergency declarations, including Collingwood, Town of The Blue Mountains, Meaford, West Grey and Grey Highlands. ESAC recommends that Council show leadership across Bruce County by acknowledging that a climate emergency exists as soon as possible. Science shows there is no time for delay.
  • Acknowledging that a climate emergency exists, demonstrates that Council recognizes the reality of climate change locally and globally and that Council is committed to taking proactive action to reduce negative impacts while seeking to implement best practices to mitigate and adapt for the protection of our environment and the well-being of current and future residents of Saugeen Shores.
  • A Climate Emergency Acknowledgment signals to the public that Council is serious about climate change and provides focus for staff, suppliers, businesses, residents and visitors that environmental sustainability is a priority. Publicly acknowledging a climate emergency means that Council is committed to action and is willing to be held accountable. Council’s leadership can have a significant impact on local businesses, citizens, visitors, and to Bruce County and beyond.
  • Decisions will need to take Climate Change into account. Future budgets will be impacted by climate change initiatives as well and this may have an impact on local taxation. However, the cost to future generations and current citizens of not addressing climate change can far outweigh such investments.
  • It is the responsibility of Council to effect strategies to reduce carbon emissions and take steps to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change.
  • Council’s leadership is essential to inspiring staff and community members to address Climate Change individually and collectively if sustainability is to be realized in Saugeen Shores. There is a moral imperative to do our part for our region, our country and globally

ESAC‘s mandate also refers to the Town’s Corporate Strategic Plan which –

“…asserts that the municipality is conscious of the natural assets and resources in its care and is a responsible steward in the protection of those assets.”

Included in the ESAC report was the recommendation to update waterfront maintenance policies annually to include updated information and resources about Climate Change and other environmental stressors. In its Introduction, the 2021 Beach Maintenance Plan states:

“Effective waterfront stewardship is a function of balancing environmental, social, and economic interests. Often in the past, the environment was left out of the equation. In order to sustain our natural waterfront, we need to act now for the future.”

The recommendations from the report highlighted achievable actions for new municipal environmental initiatives to help the municipality in providing appropriate stewardship for natural assets and resources in its care and to mitigate against the effects of climate change.

Also included in the report, is an extensive rationale and recommendations around the issue of trees and significant woodlands (Pages 48 – 58).  ESAC recommended that the By-laws, policies and programs should be reviewed and revised if necessary to ensure that the ratio of parkland, green space, wetlands and significant woodlands to developed lands within the urban area is maintained and increased where possible.

When it came to what other municipalities are doing, ESAC observed that “there are several approaches to defining the lifespan of the Committee. Some environmental advisory committees are reviewed for membership with each new council (every 4 years) while others have a defined lifespan to align with the current council. Several committees have been established for decades.”

While other committees were generally found to be similar to ESAC, in one instance, there is a “youth representative” and ESAC suggested that could be an important addition to the Saugeen Shores ESAC as it would “promote inclusion and engagement of an essential demographic”.

The recommendations from the report also highlighted achievable actions for new municipal environmental initiatives that would help the municipality in providing appropriate stewardship for natural assets and resources in its care and to mitigate against the effects of climate change.

The ESAC report summarized the recommendations into five key areas:

· Prioritize Environmental and Climate Change Initiatives;
· Protect Natural Assets and Resources;
· Increase Public Awareness, Participation on Environmental and Climate Change initiatives;
· Enhance Waste Management and Diversion Strategies; and
· Conduct annual assessment and public reporting of progress.

“We all have a role to play in our efforts to address environmental stewardship and climate change,” says Councillor, Cheryl Grace. “I would like to thank the dedicated individuals that worked on the Ad Hoc Committee.  The time and energy they invested in this initiative will create meaningful impact for years to come in the community of Saugeen Shores.”

“Saugeen Shores is committed to stewardship of our natural resources.  The Committee has done a lot of work to translate this guiding principle from the Corporate Strategic Plan into tangible actions,” says Mayor Luke Charbonneau. “I am looking forward to working on next steps to prioritize an implementation strategy that Council can consider as this will impact generations to come.”

To read the entire ESAC report, CLICK HERE