Sustainability is incredibly important to me and I’ve been working on environmental issues for almost 10 years. We need to ensure that the Kitchener is prepared for the impacts of climate change.
Infrastructure is a long-term investment and we need to ensure we are making decisions based on the best data and with as much foresight as possible. For example, our sewer system needs to be prepared for more intense rainfalls. Whenever we build new parts of the sewer system or replace parts of it, we need to ensure the capacity reflects the new rainfall predictions. This is also true for flooding, we need to assess the risks of flooding around the city and implement any preventative measures possible to address this. Key to this, is ensuring we have lots of areas where water can be absorbed by the ground, like parks and other green spaces.
Intense heat is another area we need to consider. The reality of climate change is that we will be experiencing new extremes in terms of weather. One of the simplest ways to address having hotter days is to ensure we have a good tree canopy in the city. Trees and vegetation help to counter the heat island effect often found in cities as a result of the asphalt and other surfaces that absorb the heat. Tree cover can help ensure that our parks can still be enjoyed on those hot days and that your air conditioning cost can be lower. Not to mention they also improve the air quality. Another innovative idea I’ve seen used to combat the heat in the city is to add living walls to benches around the city.
There are plans for new developments in Ward 5 and I believe this provides us with opportunities to build neighbourhoods that are at the forefront of sustainability. This could include ensuring more surfaces are permeable, building smart microgrids and solar panels, and making them walkable/cyclable communities. We must also respect the development boundaries we have set out for the city and region so that we maintain sufficient green and agricultural space around our city.
Finally, the city of Kitchener has committed to a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. In order to ensure we can meet this target, I want the city of Kitchener to implement a GHG budget. Financial budgets ensure that every policy conversation includes finance; it creates an infrastructure that helps the city plan, and holds our representatives accountable. A carbon budget would create a mechanism that forces us to think about and plan for emissions as a part of every policy discussion. Questioning the environmental cost of our decisions should be as routine as questioning the financial cost.
Municipalities have moved to the forefront of fighting climate change, Kitchener can and should be amongst its leaders.