The David Suzuki Foundation acted as a consultant on the planning of the Institute's conference.
These days, amid record setting floods, fires and tornados, we are well aware of the threats and impacts of climate change. We are also aware of Canada's dismal environmental record, and our federal government's failure to step up to the task. We each do what we can, but our time and bank accounts are stretched, and we know that it's going to require commitment from more than just us.
Imagine if local governments made it easier for people to take effective action, action that could have a cumulatively massive impact. A new study by the Columbia Institute, This Green House: Building Fast Action on Climate Change and Green Jobs, outlines how we can significantly reduce GHG emissions.
Energy use in buildings accounts for a significant portion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada. And energy-efficiency retrofits offer a fast and affordable way to cut GHG emissions, conserve energy and save you money on your utility bills. As well, energy retrofitting increases the value of your home. Consumers, communities and the environment all benefit — it's a win, win, win.
The major barrier is that a typical retrofit — with simple changes like upgrading hot water tanks, home heating and cooling systems, and improving weatherization and insulation of homes — will cost a homeowner about $6000, and most of us don't have that kind of money sitting around. However at current energy prices that investment could double in return ($12,000) over 25 years, and with rising energy prices, you stand to save even more over time.
Municipal leadership on retrofit financing presents a tremendous opportunity for Canadian municipalities to reduce greenhouse gases by making these retrofits feasible and affordable. With municipal financing, homeowners can retrofit their homes to reduce energy consumption by accessing loans that will be paid off with small annual payments on their property taxes. Even better, loan payments can be made through energy bill savings. And because municipalities are giving loans — and not grants — to homeowners, there's no net cost to municipalities and taxpayers.
Not only that but energy efficiency retrofits create jobs — 20 jobs for each $1 million invested. That's significantly more than the 5.2 jobs created for each $1 million invested in the oil and gas industry, and they are good, green jobs that contribute to restoring environmental quality.
This Green House demonstrates the best practices in retrofit programs across North America while also doing the legwork to figure out the unique opportunities and obstacles in each province. With municipal energy efficiency financing, fast action on climate change is within the reach of most communities and homeowners. A small investment in one's home — supported with loans provided at the municipal level — will allow homeowners to significantly reduce their GHG emissions while realizing energy savings that they can take to the bank.
Given the pressure that the Canadian climate puts on household energy use and the need to dramatically reduce GHG emissions quickly, the time to act is now. These minor changes in our homes, supported by local governments, can have a mighty impact on our future.