Whistler residents asked to give up a tonne 

Environment Weeks kicks of local One Tonne Challenge

It’s not easy to lose a tonne, but the federal government is here to help.

Last Saturday during EnviroFest, the Resort Municipality of Whistler officially kicked off its participation in the One Tonne Challenge, a national program to get Canadians to reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne to help meet our commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Whistler is one of only 41 communities across Canada who were selected to take part in a One Tonne Challenge pilot project, with the federal government providing financial and material support.

"The goal is to work with Whistler residents and visitors to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions by the one tonne goal, which means signing people up, passing out information and directing people to where they can go to get even more resources," said Marc Zurbuchen, One Tonne Challenge Coordinator for the RMOW.

"The more people that get involved, the better. For Whistler and the rest of Canada, the average resident emits about five tones of greenhouse gas per year, so we’re asking people to reduce their emissions by about 20 per cent. It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually pretty realistic."

The program is simple. Most people can meet the one tonne target using a checklist of 10 suggestions that range from driving 10 per cent less, checking tire pressure once a month, using compact fluorescent light bulbs and installing programmable thermostats. The complete list is available online.

"The response (in Whistler) has been pretty good so far," said Zurbuchen. "It was the first time we’ve put ourselves out there and made materials available for the public." "Everyone was really positive, and we were amazed by the number of people we talked to that are already participating. Some are now driving hybrid cars, others have started riding bikes and taking other types of sustainable transportation and leaving their cars at home."

Transportation is just one part of the One Tonne Challenge. The other part focuses on household emissions, and ways to reduce energy consumption.

The One Tonne Challenge was first introduced in March of 2004, but it recently got a sizeable funding boost through the 2005 budget. The federal government will spend an estimated $10 billion on initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between now and 2012.

Under Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, Canada has pledged to reduce annual GHG emissions by more than 270 megatonnes per year, or roughly six per cent below 1990 levels.

It is believed that increased levels of GHG are contributing to climate change, resulting in extreme weather events and general warming trends that have seen average temperatures increase by approximately one degree Celsius over the last century. Polar regions and mountain regions have been the hardest hit, with seasonal temperatures increasing well above the average and speeding the melting of glaciers and ice packs.

In Canada, individuals contribute 28 per cent of all emissions, but if the One Tonne Challenge is successful those emissions will drop by a fifth. Other programs, such as tax rebates for purchasing hybrid vehicles and retrofitting homes with efficient appliances, are also expected to have a sizeable impact on individual GHG contributions.

The federal One Tonne Challenge funding will help to promote the challenge in Whistler, as well as provide educational resources to the community. There will be several events over the next few months, according to Zurbuchen, including information sessions on green building standards and retrofitting homes to become more energy efficient; working with elementary and high school students to increase awareness of climate change issues; looking at new ways to enhance alternative forms of transportation in Whistler; and getting as many residents and visitors as possible to sign up for the challenge by having a presence at public events.

"There are kits that are available and more materials will be available shortly. A lot of it is pretty basic, really simple things that people can do, while some of the materials will be more technical for people like builders and governments," said Zurbuchen.

"The great part about this program is that it’s really in everyone’s best interest to take the Challenge because a lot of the suggestions can save you money, or have health benefits."

Information of the One Tonne Challenge is available online at www.climatechange.gc.ca , and will be available in the next few weeks on the RMOW website at www.whistler.ca . The One Tonne Challenge has also been incorporated in the municipality’s Whistler 2020 strategy.

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