On Tuesday, August 8, 2022 City of Hamilton staff will be presenting Hamilton’s Climate Action Strategy Implementation Resources and Governance. This includes the Recharge Hamilton, a plan to help Hamilton achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and Climate Change Impact Adaptation Plan to help create a more resilient Hamilton in the face of climate change. At the General Issues Committee meeting staff and delegates will provide proposals for priorities, financing structures and potential for new staffing.
Green Venture’s Work
For over 25 years, Green Venture has been working on projects related to climate change mitigation and adaptation in Hamilton.
Green Venture works on many projects connected to these plans. Let’s break down how these plans reflect best practices in the field, the potential of the plans, and how we can improve.
Climate Change Mitigation within Residential Energy Retrofit Programs
From 2019 to 2020 the biggest proportion of GTHA emissions came from our existing building stock, more than 90% of which was from on-site space- and water-heating requirements (TAF, 2020). Acknowledging that 75% of the city’s current housing stock is expected to remain in use by 2050, there is a great number of homes that need to be evaluated in order to maximize energy efficiency and meet climate targets in Hamilton. A mass deep energy retrofit (DER) program needs to be in place to help increase the number of homes engaged and increase the number of DERs undertaken in Hamilton. Time is of the essence to address this source of emissions!
Green Venture has been providing expert guidance on home retrofits to ensure maximum energy efficiency for money and time spent for over 20 years. We’ve learned a thing or two about supporting homeowners undertaking home energy retrofits.
A local home energy retrofit support program will be critical to help us achieve our emission reduction targets for 2050. As the City of Hamilton is a few years behind other municipalities in implementing a Deep Energy Retrofit Support Program, we can learn from other programs across Canada. Collaboration from academic institutions, skilled trades, government, local organizations, utilities, financial institutions and program consultants will be needed.
Here are other key recommendations we’d like to emphasize:
- Hamilton’s deep-energy retrofit support program should be aligned with the existing EnerGuide Rating program. Adopting this Federally-recognized standard for Home Energy Efficiency programs as a benchmark in Hamilton is important for three reasons. Firstly, it ensures Hamilton’s program would be able to access Federal funding support (FCM Green Municipal Fund). Secondly, an EnerGuide Rating provides homeowners with a standardized evaluation and a data-driven retrofit pathway to guide them to increase home energy efficiency and reduce emissions. Finally, this standard will also provide the program a clear way to set targets and incentives for performance while tracking the program’s outcomes. A target-based program with performance incentives is flexible and supports the best net-zero pathway available for each home. Pre-and post-energy audits enhance homeowner certainty in savings by measuring air tightness as well as mechanical and renewable energy systems performance.
- Experience from other municipalities tells us that programs that provide one-on-one energy coaching support and advice to homeowners on net-zero pathways for individual houses, reduce project complexity from the homeowner’s perspective and lead to increased energy savings and homeowner satisfaction.
- Financing models (eg. Local Improvement Charge (LIC) financing, also called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing) should consider equity and the impact on lower income households to ensure that Hamilton reaches its climate goals without putting undue stress on households who could be negatively impacted. Recent research from our colleagues at REEP, highlights the barriers that prevent low and moderate income (LMI) households participating in home energy financing programs and the risks they face in participating. The report’s key recommendations should inform further inquiry to develop an equitable financing program in Hamilton, including:
- Ensuring that strong consumer protections will guard households not in the target market. Clearly defining the target market of a financing program, creates boundaries and barriers to ensure the program does not lend money to households who cannot afford the repayment terms.
- Ensuring upgrades that prioritize affordability and comfort are selected.
- Ensuring renter protections for landlord participants.
- Training skilled trades (including energy advisors, builders and plan examiners) should be a key priority. Lack of tradesperson capacity and trained energy advisors will be a key barrier to retrofit uptake across southern Ontario.
Climate Change Adaptation within Community Greening Programs
Green space in Canadian cities is shrinking rapidly. Nature such as plants, trees, naturalized yards are all tools to help our community fight and adapt to climate change. Nature plays a huge role in reducing emissions by absorbing carbon through green space (e.g. mature trees can absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year) and helping adapt to our changing climate (e.g. rain gardens can soak up 30% more rain than traditional lawns, helping to prevent flooding).
Green Venture currently runs three programs supporting Community Greening:
- Tree Planting & Stewardship Events: We plant and care for native trees and shrubs with volunteers on public and private property. Our Hamilton Tree Equity Project is a tree inventory research project working to reduce inequality of tree canopy in Hamilton to ensure all have access to the benefits of trees.
- NATURhoods: Naturally Adapting To Urban Runoff supports residents with a rebate of up to $500 towards projects that reduce stormwater runoff using nature-based solutions on their property.
- Depave Paradise: We bring communities together to remove pavement by hand and replace it with plants, trees or permeable surfaces.
For this blog, let’s focus on tree planting. Under the Growing Green priority of the Recharge Hamilton plan, there is a goal to plant 50,000 trees annually. More trees would be beneficial to our communities; however, emphasis should also be placed on protecting existing natural areas, investing in strategic urban forest management, and long-term tree protection and stewardship.
As outlined by the “Restore Hamilton” Plan shared by Environment Hamilton, Hamilton 350 Committee, Stop Sprawl Hamilton, Save Our Streams Hamilton, and Action 13, protecting our natural lands including farmland and wetlands is critical to protecting our communities. We know that mature trees have greater potential for absorbing carbon andclimate mitigation. Well-maintained and protected trees are more likely to protect our communities from flooding (stronger roots to soak up water) and extreme heat (larger canopy cover for more shade), helping with climate adaptation. There is potential for tree protection and tree planting to reduce the tree equity gap in our community. In Hamilton, and many cities in North America, canopy cover is not evenly distributed and those living in lower income areas are less likely to have access to trees and green space. You can read more about tree equity in our blog and our website. Recharge Hamilton should emphasize protection of mature trees and existing woodland patches which are not currently protected by municipal policies or bylaws. Emphasis should also be placed on strategic tree planting in lower canopy neighbourhoods, as well as integrating best practices for tree plantings to ensure trees can grow and thrive to provide benefits for generations to come. In theClimate Change Impact Adaptation Plan equity is discussed throughout, emphasizing that climate impacts will be felt disproportionately by those in our community that are more vulnerable. The 3-30-300 rule has been integrated as a supporting action into the plan and the inclusion of the Urban Forest Strategy monitoring and indicators is promising for ensuring tree equity in Hamilton. Monitoring, reporting on indicators, and formal review of the Climate Change Impact Adaptation Plan is important and we suggest this should happen every 2 years, not the “three to five years” that are specified in the report.