Saint-Laurent set to meet 2020 target for greenhouse gas emission cuts: borough

Saint-Laurent is the first place in Quebec with a population of more than 100,000 to complete a five-step program co-managed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities aimed at reducing the community's carbon footprint.

Borough Mayor Alan DeSousa says citizens, businesses encouraged to reduce carbon footprint in concrete ways

Saint-Laurent borough Mayor Alan DeSousa says the community's participation has helped reduce the borough's greenhouse gas emissions by 21 per cent since 1990. (CBC)

The borough of Saint-Laurent has been challenging the entire community to do more for the environment for a number of years now and, so far, it seems to be working.

The borough said this week it's managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 21 per cent since 1990, as measured by inventories.

"I am very proud and thankful to the residents of our community, both individual residents and corporate residents, who have risen to the challenge," borough Mayor Alan DeSousa told CBC Friday.

"It's not something that is doable just purely by the city," he said, as the municipality itself generates only one per cent of emissions. He said its the participation of the community at large that makes the difference.

The borough has done its part as well, by building LEED-certified facilities, reducing energy consumption in all of its buildings, deploying electric vehicles, using less paper and other measures.

Among its initiatives, the borough has added 55 kilometres of bike paths since 2008, 22 electric vehicle charging stations and five car-sharing stations. It offers organic waste collection and a range of subsidies to the population.

Residents can get subsidies, for example, if they cut their lawn with mowers not powered by gas, use reusable diapers and install rain-collection barrels.

The borough also provides businesses with coaching and information about reducing their carbon footprint.

Population up, GHG emissions down

In the years between 2009 and 2017, inventories show a 15 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a statement issued by the borough.

Borough spokesperson Marc-Olivier Fritsch noted this reduction is significant, considering approximately 10,000 new residents moved into the borough during that time.

And despite the population boom, the borough says it's on track to have reduced emissions by 30 per cent from 1990s output by 2020.

For years now the borough of Saint-Laurent has been building LEED-certified facilities like its new library. (Claire Loewen/CBC)

The borough has a series of plans, policies and strategies aimed at meeting that goal.

A program co-managed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has served as a guide for Saint-Laurent as it develops these strategies.

Saint-Laurent is the first place in Quebec with a population of more than 100,000 to have successfully completed the Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) Milestone-5 program.

The program is funded by the federal government and co-managed by ICLEI Canada, an organization which helps local and regional governments take steps toward environmental sustainability.

The Milestone-5 program empowers municipalities to take action against climate change, guiding members in setting GHG reduction targets, developing local action plans, implementing actions to reduce emissions and reporting on results, according to the FCM's CEO, Brock Carlton.

"Saint-Laurent can now monitor and report on its greenhouse emissions so that it can turn around and develop more targets and more action plans for further reductions in the future," Carlton told CBC.

"Achieving those five milestones is not simple. It is a significant achievement for the mayor and his team, and it positions the borough as a leader in Quebec and the rest of Canada in terms of the municipal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

More than 350 Canadian municipalities, encompassing 65 per cent of the country's population, have joined the PCP since its 1994 inception — all making a public commitment to reduce greenhouse gases through a variety of initiatives.

Several municipalities in Quebec, Carlton said, are working to complete the milestones. Nicolet and Plessisville, considerably smaller than Saint-Laurent, have already reached all five.

Without the 5-Milestone program, the borough of Saint-Laurent may have achieved the 21 per cent reduction on its own, Carlton observed, but the program provides the tools and guidance needed to reach the goal and then measure its success with precision.

More can be done, advocate says

Saint-Laurent's reduction in emissions demonstrates that people and municipal practices can make a difference in the fight against climate change, said Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre — an organization that works to reduce society's impact on the environment.

After reviewing the report produced by the borough, he said it is clear Saint-Laurent has reduced its consumption of oil, but he notes that it has also increased its use of natural gas.

Sidney Ribaux, executive director of Équiterre, says Saint-Laurent has taken important steps, but there is much more to do to protect the environment. (CBC)

This reduces emissions in the short term, he said, but it is not the ultimate solution, as society needs to ditch fossil fuels altogether. The borough also needs to reduce its emissions from transportation, he said, by investing in public transit and electric vehicles.

"At the same time, what's happened in Saint-Laurent is what is happening across Quebec," he told CBC. "Quebec is lowering its emissions, and that's having an impact everywhere."

With files from CBC's Claire Loewen


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