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LETTER: Highway 413, bypass will only spew more emissions

Premier Ford has to bring back wind, solar and geothermal energy and train people in these new industries, rather than build more highways, says letter writer
highway freeway stock

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Does Highway 413 align with Canada’s climate change goals and the U.N. statement endorsing a healthy environment?

Canada has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050.

“The move to a cleaner, prosperous economy needs to be both an immediate priority and a sustained effort over the years and decades ahead. To meet this long-term goal, Canada needs to keep innovating, strengthening, and building on existing measures.

That is why Canada is committed to achieving net-zero emissions by the year 2050 and why the Government adopted the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act to provide an accountability and transparent framework to deliver on this target.” (Government of Canada)

To achieve this goal, a Pan Canadian Framework consisting of all provinces, territories, Indigenous Peoples, businesses formed an advisory panel. The 2022 Emissions Reduction plan was published in March and has outlined an ambitious strategy to reduce emissions by 40 to 45 per cent by 2030. 

In addition, the United Nations Assembly declared on August 15 that everyone on the planet has the right to a healthy environment.

"This resolution sends a message that nobody can take nature, clean air and water, or a stable climate away from us – at least, not without a fight," 

The resolution comes as the planet grapples with what executive director of UNEnvironment Program Inger Andersen called a triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. Left unchecked, the new resolution said those problems could have disastrous consequences for people around the world, especially the poor, and women and girls.”

"The resolution will trigger environmental action and provide necessary safeguards to people all over the world. It will help people stand up for their right to breathe clean air, to access safe and sufficient water, healthy food, healthy ecosystems, and non-toxic environments to live, work, study, and play.”

So, how do the highway projects Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass align with these goals?

Premier Doug Ford says the highways would be good for the environment by doing away with bumper-to-bumper gridlock. But, is it?

The 59-kilometre highway cuts through a protected greenbelt area, 2,000 acres of prime agricultural land, 220 wetlands that help prevent flooding, 85 waterways, and will disrupt the habitats of 10 species at risk.

The UN statement ensuring a healthy environment for Canadians means also choosing to protect areas on land and in the water based not only on whether they contain endangered species or ecosystems, but whether they contribute to people’s lives and well-being. How does Highway 413 contribute to the farmers who work there, the waterways we depend on for clean water, and how does it protect animals at risk?

Scientific researchers state that even building the highway is equivalent to a vehicle idling for a thousand years! Does this sound healthy?

The highway would also encourage longer car trips, which in turn will spew more emissions. 

Urban sprawl along the highway will also be encouraged. Large houses on parcels of agricultural land will be built. With drought conditions spreading across the globe as well as in the United States and parts of Canada, food shortages are already taking a toll on human life. Water shortages are causing water restrictions in some states.

Building the highway, including tunnels, on/off ramps, and bridges could produce approximately 413,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas. How does this help lower our emissions?

In Austria, which aims to be carbon neutral by 2040, Agence France-Presse reported in December that the government was cancelling eight highway projects. And in April, U.S. regulators approved a railway merger in part because it would get trucks off New England roads.

Building mega highways is a thing of the past and shows that there is no new vision for the future of Ontario’s environment. 

The government has to do better for the people of Ontario. We need to stop our dependence on fossil fuels and plan for a just transition for all workers, training them to work with green energy. In the past, new strategies were endorsed but people lost their livelihood. This cannot be allowed to happen. 

Premier Ford has to bring back wind, solar, and geothermal energy and train people in these new industries.

Climate change is here! We are seeing the destructive forces of uncontrolled wildfires, torrential rains, landslides, more intense hurricanes, and more tornadoes. Intense heat was felt all over the globe this summer. Ice shelves are melting and oceans are rising. The poor and vulnerable are at most risk. We MUST eliminate greenhouse gas emissions NOW.

So, to answer my question, how do these highways align with greenhouse gas emissions and the UN statement for healthy environments? They don’t”!

It’s time for the federal government to create guidelines that provinces must adhere so that we meet our targets.

Sharon Willan, Aurora