The Montreal borough of Saint-Laurent has long focused on sustainability and environmentalism, and it has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 15 per cent between 2009 and 2017.
Saint-Laurent, the largest of Montreal’s 19 boroughs by area, has been able to achieve this while experiencing significant population growth and strong residential development.
“Where the rubber hits the road is in local communities,” said Alan DeSousa, who’s been Saint-Laurent’s mayor since 2001 and was Montreal’s vice-chairman in charge of sustainable development, the environment, parks and green spaces.
“We contribute bit by bit and brick by brick on a cumulative level to make sure that we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We haven’t been able to wave a magic wand but, by a series of measures that we’ve implemented in a disciplined fashion coherently across the board in all parts of our daily living as a community, the cumulative effect has enabled us to reduce our greenhouse gases by 21 per cent from 1990 levels.”
Saint-Laurent’s per capita GHG emissions were 5.4 metric tons in 2017, which compared to 9.6 metric tons for Quebec and 19.4 tons for Canada, according to a recent study by Quebec’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Fight Against Climate Change.
Saint-Laurent municipal buildings at forefront
DeSousa said these results are mainly due to the excellent participation of all parties involved, including Saint-Laurent residents, industrial firms, commercial establishments, institutions, organizations and the borough’s own administration.
“We’ve been at the forefront of sustainable buildings in Saint-Laurent through providing leadership in our own city buildings that we’ve constructed, but also in incentivizing and encouraging others in the community involved with new construction to make sure that they’re constructing LEED-certified buildings.”
Saint-Laurent’s Bibliothèque du Boisé, which is heated and cooled using geothermal energy, is the only library in Canada to be certified LEED Platinum. It received the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s 2017 Green Building Award. The Saint-Laurent Sports Complex, which opened in 2017, is certified LEED Gold.
Existing municipal buildings are being retrofitted in pursuit of ISO 14001, the international standard that specifies requirements for an effective environmental management system.
“We introduced measures eliminating fuel oil and replacing it with electric heating or dual energy,” said DeSousa. “We reduced consumption by way of maintenance and changing HVAC units to consume less energy. We’ve introduced hot water exchange programs and reflective roofs as opposed to tar roofs.”
Other environmental initiatives
Bylaws have been put in place for non-municipal buildings, which make up the vast majority of structures in Saint-Laurent, that state replacement roofs must be white or green.
Saint-Laurent has created biodiversity corridors, the largest of which is called Cavendish-Laurin-Liesse, where it has placed indigenous plants to lower temperatures and promote biodiversity in fauna and flora.
“We’re bringing in a new landscaping approach that provides natural links between woodlands on one end and other green spaces along the way, and using landscape architecture to devise and implement a master plan where we can increase the amount of green spaces in the community,” said DeSousa. “I’m not just interested in protecting natural spaces as they are, but also creating natural spaces that bring nature back into the city again.”
Street lighting has been converted to LED, which is more energy-efficient than older styles.
Organic waste collection is being collected in buildings with eight or fewer dwelling units in Saint-Laurent. That program is being expanded to include residential buildings with nine or more units as well as more industrial firms, commercial establishments and institutions.
Saint-Laurent’s municipal transportation fleet is being converted to electric or hybrid vehicles, while combustion vehicles will be equipped with engine shut-offs to prevent idling. An emphasis is being placed on car- and bicycle-sharing services and increasing the number of bike paths, electric vehicle charging stations and dedicated bus lanes. Five stations of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec-funded Réseau Électrique Métropolitain light rail transit system will be located in Saint-Laurent.
DeSousa stressed that Saint-Laurent residents have eagerly embraced efforts to reduce energy use and GHG emissions and take pride in their achievements.
Successful completion of FCM’s PCP program
Saint-Laurent’s efforts have enabled it to become the first Quebec municipality with a population of more than 100,000 to successfully complete the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ and ICLEI Canada’s Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program, which receives financial support from the federal government.
More than 350 Canadian municipalities have been part of the PCP program since its inception in 1994. It involves a five-step milestone framework that guides members in creating GHG inventories, setting GHG reduction targets, developing local action plans, implementing actions to reduce emissions, and monitoring and reporting on results.
The PCP program’s goals are to save municipalities money, improve air quality, create jobs and improve local residents’ health. Initiatives created as part of the program are also contributing to Saint-Laurent’s objective, set by the City of Montreal, to reduce GHG emissions by 30 per cent from 2009 levels by 2020.