Canadians could play a large role in helping the country meet its overall greenhouse gas reduction target by cutting back on their own emissions -- and the federal government has launched a program to help them do it.
Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Transport Canada and other departments are involved in the program.
They’re working with the environmental group Pembina Institute and businesses ranging from Petro-Canada to Sobeys Inc. to get Canadians committed to the One-Tonne Challenge program
The goal of the nationwide program is to get people to reduce emissions in their day-to-day activities.
Through their daily activities each Canadian is responsible for more than five tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
The program aims to get individuals to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by at least one tonne a year.
“Canada needs to reduce its annual emissions (to comply with its 2010 greenhouse gas goal under the Kyoto Accord agreement) by 240 megatonnes,” says Matthew Bramley, director for climate change with the Pembina Institute’s Ottawa office.
“If every Canadian reduced their emissions by one tonne, that’s 31 megatonnes, or over 12% of the goal.
“And most people will find they can easily go beyond one tonne.”
Pembina helped develop a climate change calculator, available on the One-Tonne Challenge Internet site (www.climatechange.gc.ca/onetonne), which helps people measure the emissions they’re responsible for. There are several tips on how they can reduce their emissions too, at home, in the office or on the road.
The federal government is spending $45 million to promote the One-Tonne Challenge and to create partnerships with others to expand it.
Bramley says many of the reductions can come through “lifestyle adjustments,” such as replacing older appliances with ones that are energy efficient, reducing household waste (only about 25% of household waste is recycled but studies show that could rise to 70%), and using public transit more often.
Petro-Canada employee Maureen Pyne, who works in the company’s downtown Calgary head office, says she was amazed when she used Pembina’s online calculator, as part of an effort by the company to get employees involved in the One-Tonne Challenge.
“Realizing that I produced about five tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year was shocking,” she says.
“I live a pretty modest life and I had no idea I produced that many GHGs.”
PetroCan is one of several large oil and gas companies working with Pembina to challenge their employees to reduce their GHGs by at least one tonne.
Pyne says the first “lunch and learn,” when the program was introduced, created interest in it. But it was using the GHG calculator that really got staffers interested.
“It’s a very motivational tool because you can see right away that even small actions make a big difference,” she says.
“It makes you realize you don’t have to eat the whole elephant in a single bite.”
Scouts Canada has also signed on to participate in the One-Tonne program. The organization, which has over 100,000 youths participating in its various programs, got funding from the federal government to develop a comprehensive climate change program, which will include the One-Tonne Challenge.
“The (program) fits in well with Scouts Canada’s mission to help build a better world,” says Mike Scott, Scouts Canada’s chief commissioner.
“We have a long history of environmentalism through planting Scoutrees, bottle drive recycling, community clean-ups, and no trace camping. This new program will bring about awareness and action among Canadian Scouting youth and their families.”
Other sponsors of the program, aside from the federal government, are Alcan Inc. and Nexen Inc.
The new program will be launched by Scouts Canada this September.
Other companies, including Sobeys, Home Depot, Hudson’s Bay Company and TD Financial, are working on programs to involve their employees and customers in the One-Tonne program.
Several labour groups, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and school boards also plan to get involved.
The program includes a component that will make Canadians aware of energy-efficient technologies that are available to them, including fuel-efficient and zero-emission cars and energy-efficient appliances.