In the past, local climate action groups across Bruce, Grey, and Simcoe counties worked in isolation from each other. That changed a year ago when representatives from nine groups (Blue Mountains, Collingwood, Georgian Bluffs, Grey Highlands, Meaford, Northern Bruce Peninsula, Owen Sound, Saugeen Shores, and West Grey) formed the Grey Bruce Climate Action Network (GBCAN), to work on issues affecting all the counties.
GBCAN is comprised of representatives of citizen-initiated Climate Action Teams (CATs) currently from eight municipalities in Grey, Bruce and Simcoe. The Network has just completed its first annual report, which can be found at https://greybruceclimateaction.ca/local-news/gbcan-annual-report, with a list of contacts included at the back as an appendix to the document for those who are interested in joining/starting a climate action group.
Odette Bartnicki unofficially represents Saugeen Shores and is a member of the town-appointed ad-hoc Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee (ESAC), in addition to being a member of the Canadian Federation of University Women Southport (CFUW)that has identified climate change and environmental concerns as top priorities.
“There is immense strength in numbers and in collaboration,” said Marilyn Struthers of Georgian Bluffs, “and we can now work powerfully together locally and regionally as well.” Struthers added that the Network’s first year involved a mapping project to show the progress Grey and Bruce Counties and lower-tier municipalities have made toward climate action. The Network advocated for the restoration and preservation of the important role of the Conservation Authorities.
The creation of the Network coincides with progress at regional and local levels, says the annual report. For example, Grey County now has a draft Climate Change Action Plan and a Manager of Climate Change Initiatives; Georgian Bluffs has hired a Climate Action Coordinator and will be developing a climate action plan, and Owen Sound has employed a climate lens for revising its official plan as a step toward developing a climate action plan – all done with encouragement from local climate action groups and the region-wide Network. Local activities have included urging other councils to develop climate action plans and encouraging the development of waste diversion facilities for styrofoam and plastic film recycling
“Our Network is off to a strong start,” said Bartnicki. “This summer showed us how close every part of our country is to climate disaster. But working locally and regionally complements what must be done nationally and globally to keep emergencies from becoming catastrophes.”
The Network also enables each local group to share its successes and pitfalls with other groups. “For us, being copycats is a virtue, not a weakness,” added Bartnicki.
“None of what we’ve done would have happened unless several hundred local folks joined their local climate groups in the last three years,” said Joachim Ostertag of Owen Sound. “Working together, we can move from hundreds of activists to thousands. Think of what that means for the achievements we can report on in our Network’s future annual reports.”