Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay lays out path to net-zero in draft strategy

A draft plan that lays out a strategy for Thunder Bay, Ont. to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, is now open to public review. 

Plan outlines key actions aimed at drastically reducing emissions over next 30 years

Thunder Bay is one of a growing number of Canadian municipalities pursuing a goal of net zero emissions by 2050. (City of Thunder Bay)

A draft plan that lays out an ambitious strategy for greenhouse gas emission reduction in Thunder Bay is now open to public review.

The draft Net-Zero Strategy sets a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, and will allow the northwestern Ontario city to "get in front" of the issue of climate change, said Summer Stevenson, the city's acting sustainability coordinator.

"It's really important that we have a long-term plan to measure our progress so that when decisions are made, we are always thinking about greenhouse gas emissions, and … how these decisions impact the emissions in Thunder Bay" she stated, adding that the plan is especially important in the context of Thunder Bay's 2019 declaration of a climate emergency. 

Reaching the net-zero goal would mean reducing the city's emissions by 90 per cent below 2016 levels over the next 30 years, she said, noting that while the goal may seem daunting, the plan points to a number of key actions that could account for the bulk of that reduction. 

Those priority actions include transitioning to electric vehicles, retrofitting buildings and diverting organic waste to an anaerobic digester, where methane can be captured, among others.

Summer Stevenson is the acting sustainability coordinator with the City of Thunder Bay, Ont. (Supplied by Summer Stevenson)

The plan, which was presented to city council on Monday night, does a thorough job of mapping out how lower emissions can be achieved in the city, said Graham Saunders, president of the organization Environment North and a lecturer at Lakehead University. 

"It does pretty well," he said. "One of my problems with the federal zero carbon budget is that they don't outline how we get there. And the city report … gets into some of those details."

For example, the focus on retrofitting buildings, is "a key one," he said, for the city to reduce its carbon footprint. 

Saunders said he was also impressed by how city council received the Net-Zero Strategy, noting that overall, Thunder Bay city council has been "fairly progressive," in its thinking about climate change. 

"I think there's some good reasons for that, because one of the first areas that gets hit with weather related disasters is cities and towns," he said. 

Where the city could face a challenge he said, is in getting the public on-board with the plan and goals that involve public action such as encouraging people to drive less. 

Securing that broad public support is essential, stated city councillor Andrew Foulds, who also serves as the chair of the city's Earth Care Advisory Committee, adding that work will also have to be done to secure investments from other levels of government. 

"But I think if we can sell the benefits … I think we can move the dial on this one." 

The city is now hosting a virtual open house where people can review the report and provide feedback through a survey until May 30. Registration is also open for a virtual launch event, which will include a live question and answer period, scheduled for May 18, between 6:30 and 8 p.m. 

The report is due to go back before council on June 7, for endorsement. 



  • The original version of this story stated that meeting the 2050 target would mean reducing emissions by 90 per cent. The story has been updated to specify that the goal is to reduce 90 per cent of emissions from 2016 levels.
    May 06, 2021 9:29 AM ET