Climate Action & Sustainability
Waterloo has set the path forward on climate action with the TransformWR plan—now we need the commitment to follow through and identify other ways to strengthen our natural environment.
Waterloo should evaluate changes to city regulations to further permit and support naturalized lawns and No Mow May, and explore if some city land could be used for such programs.
Waterloo should look at successful sustainability programs in other cities, such as Kitchener’s Urban Forest Strategy, for inspiration and guidance.
Waterloo needs to ensure that marginalized groups are equitably included in our shift to a more sustainable future.
How we can do it:
The TransformWR plan that has been adopted by all the municipalities in Waterloo Region sets a number of milestones to significantly lower our emissions by the year 2050, and the region’s municipalities have also approved an intermediary goal of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. These are ambitious but achievable targets, and it’s going to take our continued commitment to reach them.
Waterloo should centre the milestones in the TransformWR plan in our planning to ensure that we meet our goals—many improvements that residents want for the community (and my other priorities), including active transit infrastructure, mixed-use zoning, and 15-minute communities, are supported by the TransformWR plan. These policies have multiple connected benefits to happiness, quality of life, community spirit, economic development, and sustainability, which creates even greater reasons to act. The plan also supports expanding our publicly-accessible network of electric car chargers. This would give more residents the ability to make the leap to an electric vehicle for their mobility needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Other aspects of creating a more sustainable city also deserve attention. Naturalized lawns and “No Mow May” are two grassroots movements that strive to support indigenous plant and animal species (including the key pollinator, the bee!) through voluntary changes to how residents structure their greenspaces. Waterloo has started the path toward the legalization of naturalized lawns; however, some community groups have said it isn’t enough—Waterloo should listen to its community and consider adjustments. Additionally, we should look at municipal land that doesn’t need to be mowed to serve its purpose and evaluate if we can provide additional naturalized space to support our local species and food systems.
Waterloo also needs to be mindful of the disproportionate impact that policies can have on residents with disabilities, who are part of racialized groups, and from low-income backgrounds. The shift to sustainable development, lowered emissions, and a greener city needs be equitable and compassionate. The TransformWR plan notes this, and it's vital that Waterloo take it to heart.
Waterloo can also look at programs used in other cities to bolster our sustainability initiatives. In 2019, Kitchener adopted its Urban Forest Strategy, which sets a long-term goal of 33% tree coverage in the city with incentives and protections to reach the goal. This supports the climate, provides ecosystems for wildlife, and makes for cooler, more walkable streets in the summer. Waterloo should consider this and other strategies to build a healthier, greener, and more sustainable city.