It is time that we had a federal program to prepare cities in Canada to be carbon free by 2050. The economic advantages are huge, as the attached report suggests, but it will take a major reworking of urban master plans, new infrastructure plans, changes in staffing, public relations programs and more.
One of the best ways for the Federal government to contribute is to do the basic research for all Canadian cities. It takes money and time to find best practices, to work out technology road maps, to develop training programs, and to run pilot projects. Individual cities can’t afford it, but the Federal government can, and the Federal government can do it efficiently. In fact this is one of the key roles of the Federal government in the 21st century.
The project reaches form the top of the pile to the grass-roots. A city like Sudbury has to create a vision of itself without fossil fuels. That vision has to be one where the people of the city are healthier, happier and wealthier in real terms. How will we heat our homes in that better 2050 world? (This is easier for us than many places- we have enormous geothermal potential)
How much do we save by not buying natural gas and gasoline? (hundreds of millions) What changes to the Building Code do we need? (Insulation, materials that sequester carbon, green roofs? water collection?)
What will public transit look like in 35 years? (Possibly individual self-driving electric vehicles you call with your phone?. Will we recreate our old street railway system? – the right-of-ways are still there.)
Will we continue to allow costly urban sprawl? What financing tools will help people adjust? What will a school look like in 2050 and where will it be to minimize social costs? (My guess is that schools should be beside shopping and sports facilities at public transit nodes.)
How will we protect our lakes while enjoying them more? (bigger setbacks? Compulsory composting toilets? Public green strips around the shoreline? Banning all motorboats? Only allowiwing electric boats?)
We do need a federal program to help answer these questions. We also need our local politicians to start asking them. There is no excuse for Councilors to wait. The first steps – ask the question, launch the planning process, call for a federal program – are cheap and can be done tomorrow morning.