What are you doing for Earth Month? Environmental Celebration and Grow Green Awards Saturday April 23, 2022, 10:00am-2:00pm

Come out from hibernation, meet your environmental neighbours, and celebrate Earth Month!

Join Brampton’s first ever Environmental Celebration and Grow Green Awards. Attend the BEA Member Meeting at the same time.

Your BEA events team has been busy with Brampton city staff organizing an Earth Month celebration! This family oriented event includes earth friendly activities for both kids and adults including interpretive walks, rides, litter clean up, and more. Leo will be putting on a unicycle show. Who knows, he may even let you try it out!

We will also be recognizing environmental volunteers and leaders during an awards ceremony followed by a short BEA meeting.

Brampton’s Urban Forest Management Plan – Have Your Say

Urban Forest Management Plan Art Contest – Hirnakshi Joshi, second place winner

The City of Brampton is looking for citizen feedback on its urban forest master plan. The urban forest encompasses all the trees on both public and private lands, including parks, valleylands, and woodlots. It also includes street trees, trees in parking lots, trees on institutional/employment lands and trees on residential property. Residents and stakeholders are being asked to complete a survey available until April 1, 2022.

Trees are a very important part of the city-scape. According to the Government of Canada, “Urban Forests increase our quality of life by promoting mental well-being and encouraging physical activity.” Trees, produce oxygen, filter out air and soil contaminants, support biodiversity, reduce heat loss in the winter and cool temperatures in the summer. Their shade and majesty beautifies neighbourhoods and increases property values. As many tree species can live for hundreds of years, they connect us to our past and help build our sense of community.

For Brampton, trees are critical to the city’s 2040 Vision and the achievement of the Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, (CEERP). Brampton’s trees absorb over 7,700 tonnes of carbon each year which is like taking more than 1,500 cars off Brampton’s roads. Large trees store 75 times as much carbon as smaller trees so the maturity of the forest is also an important factor.

The presence of trees also helps reduce Brampton’s energy requirements by slowing the rate of heat absorption in the hard surfaces of nearby roads and buildings. Urban locations with lots of tree cover can be as much as 10-12 degrees cooler than those with lower amounts of natural vegetation.

Brampton boasts an inventory of 3.6 million trees with an estimated economic value of $780 million. Yet, despite its reputation as a green city, Brampton’s urban forest falls short in several key areas including, canopy coverage, species diversity, and forest maturity. The tree canopy covers only about 18% of the city’s total land mass. This compares to a 25% average cover for other selected communities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Three tree species, maple, ash and, spruce account for almost half of the total cover. And Brampton’s forests are dominated by smaller younger trees.

These short-comings make the forest vulnerable to climate change risks. Invasive insects such as the emerald ash borer have all but wiped out the city’s stands of large ash trees. The 2013 ice storm killed more than 30,000 trees, with larger mature trees experiencing the most damage. Mature trees are particularly important in terms of the eco-system services they provide. They store 75 times more carbon than small trees and filter out approximately 10 times the amount of pollution from the air. Larger trees also provide more shade and wildlife habitat.

Fewer than half of Brampton’s trees are considered to be in good or excellent condition. The Urban Forest Management Plan’s purpose therefore is to outline a vision for the future of Brampton’s urban forest, define the targets necessary to achieve that vision and then implement a process to monitor progress towards those targets. Click here to see a draft of the city’s urban forest management plan.

City Council reaffirms Active Transportation Master Plan for 2022

ATMP Map Courtesy City of Brampton

In a unanimous vote at this past Wednesday’s Committee meeting, Brampton Council said yes to the updated implementation schedule of the Active Transportation Master Plan for 2022. This includes an $8.6 million budget for education, programs and infrastructure including, bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, counters, initiating a bicycle friendly business program, updating the city’s cycling map, and providing support for a return to live events such as the Bike the Creek signature cycling event.

The motion did not pass without debate. The installation of cycling infrastructure often creates controversy, particularly in suburban cities, like Brampton, where cycling for transportation is less common than in larger urban centres. A recent study found that most drivers don’t like sharing the road with cyclists because they believe the cyclists are inconsiderate. It turns out the vast majority of cyclists treat the road rules with respect yet the impression lingers. Local politicians are a target of vocal opponents who don’t want to compete for road space with cyclists or who see bike lanes as taking away valuable road space that otherwise could be used for more traffic or on-street parking.

The fact is bike lanes can often improve traffic flow by defining a clear space where cyclists are supposed to be on the road. They also tend to calm traffic, reducing average speeds, making the road safer for all but especially for vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists. Safer infrastructure also encourages more pedestrian and cycling behaviour, thus reducing the number of cars on the road. As communities become more active, there are corresponding improvements in health outcomes and the sense of well-being amongst practitioners.

Despite these public benefits, the controversy remains. Residents may object to a bike lane being installed in front of their house because it would take away their on-street parking. Yet it is often the same residents who complain about high speed drivers and who want calming measures put in place.

Quelling the controversy is possible. Communication is the key, letting residents know about the coming infrastructure, educating them about the benefits and listening to their concerns. Once the infrastructure has been in place for a few years, it becomes the norm. Strangely enough, when that happens, residents will complain bitterly if a civic leader proposes they be removed.

Brampton’s Transportation Planning and Road Engineering staff listened patiently as Council raised complaints received from constituents. They agreed to do a better job of contacting those residents to ensure their concerns were heard and addressed without compromising the integrity of the planned active transportation network. Satisfied with this approach, in the end, all 10 Councillors and the Mayor voted to support the updated implementation schedule.

Brampton Council puts OMERS on notice re Climate Action

At last week’s Committee meeting, Brampton Council voted unanimously to urge AMO, to formally request that OMERS provide clear targets and timelines for eliminating its fossil fuel related investments and improve its climate risk reporting. This motion was in response to a delegation from Laura McGrath, Pension Engagement Manager for Shift: Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, a delegation from Pat Burns, a former municipal employee, OMERS beneficiary and Pension Engagement Volunteer, and a recommended motion submitted to Council from the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee that resulted from their February 11th meeting.

The AMO, (Association of Municipalities of Ontario), is a not for profit organization representing nearly all of Ontario’s 444 municipal governments. Its mandate is to support those governments in matters of federal or provincial nature that could affect municipal services and finances. Therefore, the AMO has influence over how OMERS does its job.

OMERS, (Ontario Municipal Employees’ Retirement System), is the pension organization for the Province’s 500,000 plus active, deferred and retired employees, including 3,500 city of Brampton employees. OMERS manages $121B in assets and is one of Canada’s largest pension funds. According to Ms. McGrath, currently about 15% of OMERS assets are n the oil and gas industry.

The most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change indicates that the window of opportunity to maintain the earth’s temperature within a safe range is closing rapidly and there is an urgent need for actions that will lead to reduced emissions. Brampton Council has been taking climate action seriously. It declared a climate emergency in 2019 and set aggressive carbon reduction targets through its Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Program, (CEERP). Most recently Council approved seed funding for the Centre for Community Energy Transformation, (CCET), a new, not for profit organization to develop projects aimed at decarbonizing Brampton homes and businesses.

Pension funds manage vast asset portfolios and their investment strategy can be another form of climate action. For example, New York State Pension Fund and the Quebec Pension Plan are selling their stakes in oil and gas related industries and making climate friendly investments instead.

Divesting from fossil fuel investments is not only good for the environment, it is also a good economic decision. Ms. McGrath cited a recent analysis of ten pension funders over a ten year period that indicated higher returns had the pension funds not held oil and gas assets as part of their portfolios. In OMERS case this would have improved asset returns by more than 60% over the 10 year analysis period.

OMERS has committed to eliminating fossil fuel investments from its portfolio by 2050 but has yet to publish a credible plan for achieving that commitment. As municipalities across Ontario pressure AMO, it is likely they will in turn apply pressure on OMERS to be more aggressive and transparent in their plans.

This approved motion by Council is another example of how citizen advisory committees like the Brampton Environment Advisory Committee can impact Council decision making and positively influence public policy.

What should YOU do about the latest IPCC report?

Front cover artwork: A Borrowed Planet – Inherited from our ancestors. On loan from our children. by Alisa Singer,
www.environmentalgraphiti.org © 2022 All rights reserved. Source: IPCC.

We can’t seem to catch a break. Just as the world begins to emerge from the grip of the pandemic, more uncertainty strikes with a vengeance as the horrific images of the war in Ukraine stream across our phones, tablets and televisions.

With all that bad news on every channel, it’s little wonder the report from the International Panel on Climate Change, released on February 27th, received little in the way of coverage. Two hundred and seventy representatives and climate scientists from 195 countries, including Canada, authored or approved this report.

The report is warning in the strongest terms yet, that we are not on track to keep temperature levels from rising above the safe limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It’s also telling us that we are woefully unprepared to deal with the consequences of climate impacts that the science indicates can no longer be avoided. According to the report’s authors, “Any further delay…on [climate change] adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”.

When faced with bad news from seemingly every direction our natural reaction is to seek shelter and then focus on the immediate threat. For most of us, we are already doing what we can to reduce the COVID risk. We continue to wear our masks, socially distance and exercise caution in our activities, even as health mandates are eased. As far as the war in Ukraine is concerned, other than sending prayers and money to the Red Cross, (or other legitimate charity), there is little most of us can do to affect the course or the outcome.

The threat from climate change to our freedoms and our livelihoods may not be as apparent as war or disease, but it is just as real. We are already seeing the changes. For instance our fruits and vegetables are now coming from farther afield as climate related disasters, including wildfires in California and frosts and floods in Florida hit familiar sources.

Small changes make a difference
In the case of climate change, there are things we can do right here in in Brampton to slow down the rate of change and to prepare for the likely scenarios resulting from a warming world.

According to Ko Bennett, a vice-chair and senior advisor for climate at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the IPCC report emphasizes the importance of doing everything that we can to give us time to make the shift to a sustainable energy future. She says, “Every fraction of a degree of warming matters and every action helps.” 1

That could be as simple as not idling your car or warming it up in the morning before you leave. Deciding to walk or ride a bicycle to go to the local store. Taking transit instead of driving. All these little things add up to a big difference if everyone does it.

It also means being aware of things going on in your community that are either threats or benefits to the environment. That’s one of the reasons why the Brampton Environmental Alliance was created. To make it easier for the average Brampton resident to stay informed on local environmental issues and actions.

So please, stay tuned to the BEA Weekly newsletter and encourage your friends and family to subscribe. We will do our best to keep you accurately informed on the important environmental issues facing our community, on the actions you can take and, on the successes we can all celebrate!

1, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-humanity-unprepared-for-impacts-of-climate-change-un-report/ https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-humanity-unprepared-for-impacts-of-climate-change-un-report/

Passive House for Brampton’s Mount Pleasant Village

Courtesy of Daniels Homes

There is a new development coming to Brampton that raises the bar for environmentally sustainable buildings in the GTA suburbs. Built by The Daniels Corporation, on the north side of Bovaird between Mississauga Road and Creditview Road and located within easy walking distance of the GO station and Mount Pleasant Village’s Civic Square, this master-planned community will boast innovative features designed to improve energy efficiency and lower carbon emissions.

Construction on a 26 floor condo tower will start later this year. A state-of-the-art ground sourced geo-exchange system will provide zero emissions heating and cooling for the condo units.

Next year, the company will start construction on an environmental highlight, two six story purpose built rental buildings to meet Passive House standards. Availability of these rental units is forecasted for 2025.

Passive House comes from the German “Passivhaus” and is considered to be the most rigorous voluntary, energy-based standard in the design and construction industry today. Passive House buildings can result in up to 90% savings in energy used for heating and cooling, compared to conventional buildings. And the energy efficiency is designed into the building’s core and exterior rather than being dependent on complex heating and cooling systems that add cost and require care to maintain efficiency.

A neat feature of the Daniels’ rental project is that it will use mass timber construction, the first building of its kind in Brampton. Mass timber is made from layers of boards using a “cross-grain” technique, meaning each layer is glued at 90 degrees to the layer below it. This creates a slab of wood that can be used to make the entire building including, floors, walls, ceilings and other structural elements.

Mass timber is as strong or stronger than concrete or steel. It does a better job of insulating the building from heat and cold and from transmitted noise both outside and inside the building. The slabs can be manufactured in a plant and then transported and assembled on-site. This reduces construction costs and timing as well as the amount of site transportation.

Generally, people are happier, healthier and more productive working or living in a space where they experience higher levels of thermal comfort. Thermal comfort is a concept worthy of its own article but, basically, it is the combination of air temperature, air velocity, relative humidity, and the radiant temperature of walls, floors, ceilings, that affects a person’s sense of how cold or hot they feel. Mass timber buildings typically deliver superior thermal comfort.

Counter intuitively, mass timber can also perform better in a fire than concrete or steel. As the outside layer of wood chars, the inner layers are shielded from the heat slowing down the burning process. A burning mass timber building may remain standing longer than its steel or concrete counterpart where structural integrity deteriorates rapidly at sustained high temperatures.

Perhaps the best feature of mass timber construction is the carbon emissions reduction it provides. Wood supply is effectively carbon neutral so long as it is sustainably sourced. A substantial amount of carbon is sequestered in the wood itself. More carbon is saved by the reduced building time and transportation requirements by assembling the building in modular form. On balance mass timber buildings reduce global warming potential by more than 25% according to a study done by the University of Washington.

Environmentalists are rightly concerned about the sustainability of forestry practices that may be used to harvest wood for mass timber construction. Procurement must come from sources using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) practices, considered the gold standard of “climate-smart forestry”. But mass timber may be the only way to accommodate our growing population while meeting our carbon reduction goals. So, hats off to Daniels for bringing this innovative building material to Brampton. Let’s hope it is the first of many!