By Joseph Mathieu
Photos by Chris Roussakis

To build a sustainable world, you start at home.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson explained to Carleton University students on Oct. 11, 2018 how Ottawa is hoping to change the world for the better.

“It really boils down to the local level where I think we can make the most pragmatic changes to help preserve the planet,” he told the event, organized by Carleton’s Engineers Without Borders (EWB) chapter.

The student-led non-profit is one of many organizations pledging to advance the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development established in 2015.

That year, the UN identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that form a blueprint to build a more sustainable future for the entire world. Jim Watson, a Carleton alumnus who received his Mass Communications BA in 1983, described how the nation’s capital is working to build a sustainable city (SDG 11) by prioritizing affordable transit, preserving green space, and advancing clean energy.

Connor Ruprecht, VP of advocacy for Carleton’s EWB chapter, defined his group’s mission as addressing systemic issues and identifying root causes of inequality, poverty, and injustice in the world.

“The Carleton chapter of EWB is certainly one of our most active student societies in the Faculty of Engineering and Design,” Richard Dansereau, associate dean (Student Affairs) said as he welcomed the mayor and crowd to campus.

Jim Watson on Reducing Electricity Costs and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Jim Watson listed several initiatives the city is undertaking to reduce electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions, all of which address the 13thSDG, Climate Action. These include retrofitting buildings to meet higher energy efficiency standards and changing thousands of streetlights to LEDs.

“We know that we never do enough and we have to continue to do more,” said Watson. “(But) we do have a serious commitment to ensuring our planet remains vibrant for centuries and centuries to come.

“The single biggest weapon in our arsenal to fight greenhouse gases is light-rail transit.’’

The LRT is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 200,000 tonnes annually, contributing to the city’s pledge to reduce community-wide GHGs by 80 per cent below 2012 levels by 2050.

With its first stage operational in the new year, the LRT will connect Tunney’s Pasture to Blair by commuter train. Stage 2 will go further west and east, as well as south to the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.

Jim Watson also mentioned the $232-million Ottawa River Action Plan, which aims to reduce pollutants. The project that’s building a six-kilometre tunnel network under the downtown core directly works towards clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), as well as protecting life under water (SDG 14).

During a brief question and answer session, Watson was asked about the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, what he hoped for the future, and how Ottawans living in apartments could recycle.

“High rises are a problem because of storage capacity and a lack of proper chutes to bring it down to the main garbage room,” he said.

Developing Strategies to Increase Recycling Efforts

The city is developing strategies for existing apartment complexes to take on recycling efforts (SDG 12). Future buildings will be required to have recycling capacity to get approved.

The event coincided with the launch of EWB’s Hello 2030 awareness campaign, which aims to get citizens thinking about what they want the world and their community to look like in 2030.

Watson described a future Ottawa with intensification around transit hubs, better cycling, walking, and driving infrastructure, and a stronger transit link to Gatineau.

Schools can help develop civic and global responsibility, said Watson. Educating youth to recycle and care about the environment will help sustainable development become a norm.

“Unfortunately, in politics, long-range planning tends to be the next election, but it should be the next generation.”

Friday, October 12, 2018 in
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