Communities Inspired for Environmental Action Central Saskatchewan is affiliated to Faith & the Common Good, a national, interfaith charitable network dedicated to assisting and inspiring religious congregations and spiritual groups of all backgrounds to take collective action in creating more sustainable communities. As the co-chair of Communities Inspired for Environmental Action, I am writing this brief letter to highlight the importance and tangible benefits for social equity and quality of life that accompany following through with the commitments outlined in the Low Emissions Community (LEC) Plan released by the City of Saskatoon in August 2019. That plan sets out a framework that seeks to transform the city that most of the people involved in Communities Inspired for Environmental Action call their home into a low emissions and sustainable community.
There are many initiatives and facts presented in the plan that are of interest to people involved in our group. Of note are the tangible targets for greenhouse gas reduction that the City of Saskatoon’s Council set in 2017 based on 2014 baselines of reducing emissions from corporations by 40% and from community emission by 15% by the year 2023. With reference to the same baseline year, the council set a target of an 80% drop in overall emission by the year 2050 (see p. 3 of the LEC).
It is exciting to see the paths of action that the council identifies to reach these targets. These paths include rethinking land use (p. 66), so that our city is structured in such a way as to encourage Sakatoonians to live out sustainable choices. Access, equity, and health are important to people involved in Communities Inspired for Environmental Action. In line with these features of deep sustainability, are the commitments to public and active transport in the plan, including ameliorating the city’s cycling and walking infrastructure (pp. 63-65). It is crucial that accessibility be at the forefront of this transformation with wide access to transit and active transportation networks in all our neighbourhoods. The report notes that along with transportation, buildings are one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Saskatoon (p. 38), thus the support for deep energy retrofits and energy steps code for new building and houses laid out in the LEC Plan are important (pp. 61-62) as they can help us reach those targets while also improving indoor air quality, saving water, improving energy performance, lowering monthly utility costs, and providing comfort through better lighting, insulation, draft proofing, and regulated indoor temperatures.
People of faith who participate in our group are often deeply committed to social equity. In light of this commitment, it becomes crucial to consider how sustainable buildings serve to address energy poverty. The LEC Plan will help reduce utility bills (p. 19), which holds the potential to benefit members of our community who spend disproportional amounts of their income on essential utilities through increased efficiency helping in poverty alleviation. It is a basic principle of faith-inspired ecological justice that burdens of un-sustainability should not be placed on those with the least capacity to bear them. The benefits of a sustainable Saskatoon will flow widely across the city from combining the plan with commitment to social equity so as to improve environmental quality for all. A Saskatoon with wide access to natural, recreational, cultural, and educational spaces will be a healthier environment due to less driving, fewer combustion engines, and better insulation in buildings (pg. 16). Such a fairer, more just, and greener Saskatoon is a place where people involved with Communities Inspired for Environmental Action want to live.
Let people of faith pray for and work to contribute to the incarnation of such a vital reality in Central Saskatchewan far before 2030.
Christopher Hrynkow, Co-Chair, Communities Inspired for Environmental Action Central Saskatchewan [email protected]