It is 2050.
Your passive home is comfortable through summer heat waves, and the coldest days of winter. After retirement, your parents have been able to stay in their nearby home, because retrofits have made their electricity, heating and water costs so low. They have already chosen a small apartment nearby so they can stay in the neighbourhood when the house is too much to maintain.
Your youngest child can walk or bike safely through neighbourhood streets to visit her grandparents and friends, or get to the park, school, or corner store. Your oldest child has safe bike routes and a convenient bus to get to class, and to job opportunities anywhere in Greater Sudbury. Street trees and trees in the park provide welcome shade.
Naturalized areas are a favourite play area for kids, and an oasis for bees and birds. A community garden and small farmers market down the street provides affordable, healthy food. Everything you need is a 15-minute walk from your home. You know all your neighbours and swap childcare, tools, and stories. When you’re heading farther afield, or need to carry a heavier load, you can pick up an electric vehicle from your local carshare.
The first goal in Greater Sudbury’s Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP) is to create compact, complete communities. This is often referred to as a ’15 minute city’ because everything you need is a 15-minute walk from your home. There is also a wider range of housing, including more smaller homes and multi-family dwellings. This CEEP goal is important for achieving net zero carbon emissions because it makes it easy for people to live a low-carbon lifestyle in efficient homes, with little or no need for a private vehicle. Since home heating and private vehicles are two of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, compact, complete communities can take a big bite out of our collective carbon footprint.
Fortunately, Greater Sudbury is especially well suited to meet this goal. Our “community of communities” can make each community complete, connected to each other with good transit and active transportation infrastructure. This would mean that whether you lived in Capreol, Lively, Minnow Lake, downtown Sudbury, or any of our city’s communities or neighbourhoods, you would have everything you need close to home, at every stage of life.
As with so many of the steps we need to achieve net zero, the benefits go well beyond tackling the climate emergency. We find ourselves in a moment of great changes. The climate emergency, the pandemic, social inequity, systemic racism, truth and reconciliation: all of these demand us to build a better society together that takes care of each other and the planet that is our home.
The urgency of the climate crisis is growing. In May, the hottest May on record, Sudbury set both a snowfall record and heat record, (https://www.sudbury.com/local-news/rollercoaster-temps-mean-sudbury-set-both-a-snowfall-record-and-a-heat-record-in-may-2391909) and extreme weather wreaked havoc around the world (from ‘super cyclone’ Amphan in India and Bangladesh, to catastrophic dam failures due to heavy rains in Michigan, to wildfires in Siberia).
Recent studies show the current pace of human-caused carbon emissions is increasingly likely to lead to global temperature increases well over two degrees, and trigger irreversible damage to the planet.
Big changes are needed. Big changes are possible. In Sudbury, we know from experience that we can work together to succeed at positive transformations that seemed impossible, just as we have regreened our landscape.
Sometimes it is hard to imagine big changes before they happen, but look back and you will see you have already lived through many. What has changed in the past 30 years? Smartphones became popular less than 10 years ago. Less than 20 years ago, not all stores had a debit machine. Now smart phones and debit cards are taken for granted as a part of everyday life.
The changes needed to achieve net zero emissions are all possible with existing knowledge and technology. They, too, will become part of everyday life.
With thought, that everyday life will be better in many ways. We will be healthier, have a higher quality of life, all members of our community will be able to thrive, and our lakes and forests will be healthy and resilient.
We all have a role and responsibility in building this better future together. We must use our voices and actions as citizens to tell decision makers what is important to us, and the leadership we expect from them. We can act as individuals to lower our own carbon footprint and create positive change in our own lives and neighbourhoods. Greater Sudbury’s Energy and Emissions Plan provides a roadmap to achieve net zero. All of us — individuals, institutions, businesses and governments — have an important role to play to succeed. We all need to play our part. What will you do?
Naomi Grant, on behalf of Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury
Coalition for a Liveable Sudbury is grassroots group of citizens and community groups who share a vision of Sudbury as a green, healthy and engaged community. To be a part of achieving net zero carbon emissions in Greater Sudbury, sign our climate pledge. For additional information on a net zero future for Greater Sudbury, see liveablesudbury.org/net_zero_sudbury