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Georgian Bluffs planning to take climate change action

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Georgian Bluffs is turning over a new leaf with plans to be a leader in Grey County in tackling climate change.

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The municipality’s climate action committee and staff made a presentation to council Wedenesday about how to deal with climate change. A motion was passed for council to consider contributing $150,000 over the next three years toward climate action planning initiatives. The municipality will consider making the first $50,000 pledge towards that work at its annual budget meeting planned for Tuesday.

Chief administrative officer Al Meneses said during the meeting that it is important that Georgian Bluffs does its part to combat climate change.

“I think it is important that all municipalities across the world all take a leading hand in driving the climate folder forward and making a sizable difference in their specific communities,” said Meneses. “Collectively we will have a change on climate action and it is the only way of doing it is if everyone can take some collective action on what they can control.”

Last October, council approved an initiative spearheaded by the Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team residents group to form the climate action committee. Coun. Cathy Moore Coburn chairs the committee, which also includes Deputy-mayor Sue Carleton as well as five members from the community – vice-chair Ann Schneider, and members Danuta Valleau, Bob Gray, Luc Zandvliet and John Anderson.

On Wednesday, Meneses and clerk Brittany Drury presented a framework on how the municipality’s climate action plan could look going forward.

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It involves establishing baselines and forecasts of the the municipality’s greenhouse gas emissions, outlining a strategy for the municipality to respond to climate change locally, exploring future grant opportunities, establishing targets of how the township wants to mitigate climate change risks and reduce GHG emissions and determining the impacts of the proposed measures.

Meneses said having an emission baseline for its operations will allow the municipality to measure its successes and put pressure on areas where it needs to improve.

He said to be successful the municipality will need to look at everything with “a green lens,” from how its facilities are operated and retrofitted, to its vehicle fleet, to the materials used on its roads. They will also look to other sectors to be a part of the solution, including the agricultural community.

Meneses said they plan to “mine” for every available grant to help offset some of the costs involved.

They also hope to work with other municipal partners, including lower tiers and Grey County. The county has been developing its own climate change action plan.

Meneses said he has already heard a willingness to work together from CAOs of other municipalities within the county.

“There is a really strong will for all of the municipalities and townships to work together to look for opportunities for cost sharing, to move it forward,” said Meneses. “We all recognize there has to be a sort of a plan and a sub-plan.”

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Meneses said the impact will not be measurable in dollars and cents, but the “cost of doing nothing is going to far outweigh the cost of doing something.”

“If everyone plays a role the situation will improve and we need to lead the way,” said Meneses. “Not only do we need to lead the way as a township, we need to lead the way within our county and we need to lead the way so that our residents and our ratepayers can see we are taking it seriously.”

Meneses said it is about preserving the beautiful landscape of Georgian Bluffs that everyone has come to enjoy.

“What we are talking about is really creating a community that everyone is going to be proud of,” Meneses said.

The $50,000 being proposed to cover the municipality’s costs this year includes about $20,000 for membership with the Building Adaptive and Resilient Communities (BARC) program. The remainder of the funding would go towards beginning the climate action planning process, including hiring a consultant to assist in the creation of the township’s plan. Township staff would like to see a climate action coordinator position created, working on a two-year contract to help develop the plan. The funding will need to be approved in Georgian Bluffs’ 2021 budget. The municipality is holding a public meeting on its budget Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Committee member Anderson, a retired marine scientist who moved to the area from Newfoundland about seven years ago, commended council for the steps they are taking in leading the way locally.

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“I think it is really important that we all understand we are taking a very courageous step here,” said Anderson. “We are in a community that is looking at a future that is much different than anything that we or our parents or grandparents have known and it is intimidating, it is scary.”

Anderson said the Town of Lincoln near St. Catharines passed a similar resolution to the one passed by Georgian Bluffs and it has led to letters from an organized climate denier group trying to “undermine” the decision.

“We may get hit with something like this too and I just want you to know that your committee is here and we are here to support you,” Anderson said, adding they have the knowledge to provide support and information.

Both Moore Coburn and Mayor Dwight Burley emphasized that ensuring the community is involved every step of the way will be important.

Burley said he completely agrees with the initiative of the municipality to take action on climate change, but it will be important to explain to residents why they are doing it.

“We all have to work together and this is something completely new for Georgian Bluffs and we have to go very cautiously and make sure we dot our I’s and cross our T’s all the way through as we go,” said Burley. “It is just totally amazing to have the experts that live in Georgian Bluffs to help out with that.”

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