A Manitoba organization has a vision for a future that has fewer cars, better public transit, more efficient buildings and more inclusive democracy — and says it has a road map to get there.
The Climate Action Team released a report called “Manitoba’s Road to Resilience: A Community Climate Action Pathway to a Fossil Fuel Free Future” on Thursday, which outlines in detail the ways in which Manitoba can address pollution and work toward a future that’s more sustainable.
“We’re talking about an effort similar to World War II, but instead of directing it towards building bombs and blowing things up, that effort would be directed towards making things better,” said Curt Hull, the lead author of the report and project director for Climate Change Connection, one of the organizations behind the report.
“Making our buildings more efficient, making our transportation systems more efficient and being able to work together more closely and even at a neighbourhood level.”
The road map recommends Manitoba growing its own food without the use of fossil fuels, heating buildings without natural gas, investing in fossil-fuel-free transportation and further developing the province’s hydroelectric resources.
That will help provide a pathway to full decarbonization in Manitoba — zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
It’s “an achievable and concrete pathway to a climate resilient future,” the group says.
The Climate Action Team is a collaboration of a number of groups, including Climate Change Connection, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Green Action Centre, The Wilderness Committee and Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition.
Nix natural gas
The report recommends ensuring buildings and homes are more efficient and are heated differently.
That’s because climate pollution from Manitoba buildings comes almost entirely from the burning of natural gas for indoor space heating and hot water, the report says.
Natural gas is between 70 and 90 per cent methane. Over 20 years, methane has more than 80 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
“Also, reducing natural gas consumption keeps money in Manitoba,” the report adds.
Another way to make buildings more energy efficient is by encouraging more multi-family buildings to reduce the per-person or per-unit heating and cooling load.
Hull acknowledges that converting all buildings, whether old or new, to alternative warming technologies will cost more, but says these costs are ones the province and the country must bear now, not later.
“The longer we wait, the more expensive it becomes, not just in terms of the solution cost, but I’m talking about the impacts of climate change that are coming our way regardless that we have to prepare for. And those costs are going to be more and more and more expensive every year,” he says.
“If we wait until then, and let that catastrophic situation happen, it’ll be too late. We need to do it now.”
The report also calls on policy makers to invest in more sustainable transportation, saying that road transportation accounts for two-thirds of climate pollution in the sector.
The primary cause is heavy-duty diesel trucks and light-duty gasoline trucks as Manitoba’s population continues to increase.
The report recommends reducing the need for transportation, including by investing in internet for virtual travel for medical needs, education and business, and building neighbourhoods to be functional communities.
“People need to have access to essential amenities near where they live,” the report says, recommending rezoning to encourage more multi-family dwellings and smaller units.
Another opportunity for reducing carbon emissions is by tackling agriculture and investing more in growing food locally, the report says.
Agriculture produced roughly 31 per cent of Manitoba’s total climate pollution in 2018, the report says. That’s 43 per cent higher than in 1990, when records began, and nine per cent higher since 2010
Although emissions are increasing, fertilizers account for the bulk of the spike.
On top of all the recommendations, the report authors say any work to address climate change in Manitoba must be Indigenous-led and ensure free, prior and informed consent.
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