Jun 3, 2020

Climate Change Mitigation and Air Quality in Prince George


Posted by: lsackett


Just in time for National Environment Week (May 31st to June 6th) and National Clean Air Day (June 3rd), Prince George City Council approved the City’s 2020 Climate Change Mitigation Plan. The plan lays out targets and strategies to help reduce PG’s GHG emissions through 34 corporate and 35 community actions, as well as some important facts about the sources of GHG emissions in Prince George.

According to 2017 data, the burning of fossil fuels (to heat homes and power vehicles) is the biggest contributor to the city’s overall GHG emissions, and on a community level, about 52% of Prince George emissions can be attributed to vehicle travel!

As a group focused on the city’s air quality, PGAIR couldn’t help but see a connection...

Prince George’s main greenhouse gas contributors are also big culprits when it comes to poor air quality! One might then conclude that not only can reducing GHG emissions help improve air quality, but that many of the actions that can directly aid in the mitigation of climate change, can also result in cleaner, healthier air.

The actions identified to help achieve GHG reduction targets in PG’s 2020 Climate Change Mitigation Plan fall under 6 categories, with transportation and land use directly linked to air quality. A shift toward more active transportation infrastructure and improved public transit means more people might choose these options instead of their personal vehicles. Increasing the uptake of electric vehicles means fewer and fewer gas and diesel guzzling cars and trucks on the road, as time goes on.

When it comes to land use, actions aimed at limiting sprawl and promoting a more compact community will increase the opportunities for pedestrians to walk to their destinations, or ride if they’ve got a bike, scooter, or board. Protecting and growing the urban forest canopy will mean continued and increased pollution sequestering, and supporting local food production will continue to allow people to make food choices with a much lower transport footprint than imported foods.

On a corporate level, the exploration of green fleet potential could mean even less PM coming from transportation, and the re-activation of the Anti-Idling campaign for all City staff will encourage staff to set a positive example for residents, while reducing needless air pollution caused by vehicle idling.

It’s easy to see the direct connections between climate change mitigation and air quality, but what about connections further down the road? 

In Prince George climate change is happening faster than the global average. Here, we’re seeing hotter and drier summers which means extra dust in the air, and more wildfire smoke. Warmer winters spur more damage from forest pests, which means more and more trees that would normally be sequestering carbon, are dying. And lastly, climate change in Prince George means longer and more severe cold snaps, which leads to additional heating needs, and pollutants being trapped in the bowl due to temperature inversions. By working to mitigate climate change and lessen our impact on our environment, we can also help decrease these long-term threats to our air quality.

The good news is, Prince Georgians already seem to be in favour of actions toward climate change mitigation and thus, the improvement of air quality! Residents were surveyed by the city, and the actions we all most agree on include the support of local food production, planting more trees, and supporting active transportation.

This Clean Air Day, try to reflect on what you can do in your own life to help push forward the plan for climate change mitigation and healthier air. If you’d like to get into (or back into) active transportation but need a bit of a push, why not enter PGAIR’s Clean Air Day Caption Contest!? Winners will receive either a $150 or a $50 gift card to get them on the road with a bike. Check it out here - on our website, or at our Facebook page for details.