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A New Leaf - Muskoka's Climate Change Strategy

a rock shoreline with pine trees abutting a lake

Muskoka’s climate is changing. As a result, the Muskoka of tomorrow will be drastically different than the Muskoka of the past. By 2050, Muskoka Watershed Council predicts the following significant climatic changes:

  • A 17% increase in late fall and early spring precipitation;
  • A 3-4oC increase in average temperature;
  • More frequent and severe weather events;
  • An increase in the prevalence of invasive species;
  • A significant reduction in winter lake ice;
  • 64% more winter days where the maximum temperature is above freezing; and
  • A 7x increase in hot days over 30oC.

Taking action now is necessary to increase the resiliency of the District of Muskoka’s assets and programs to prepare for these changes. As a result, the District launched the New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy to adapt and mitigate to climate change in a local context.

What is the difference between climate change Adaptation and Mitigation?

Climate change adaptation means taking actions to adjust to and prepare for climatic changes that are already happening or are expected to happen. Climate change mitigation refers to actions that help to minimize further changes to the climate by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What is the District of Muskoka doing about climate change locally?

On October 19, 2020, Muskoka District Council declared a Climate Emergency, a declaration that deepens the District’s commitment to protecting Muskoka’s economy, community, and ecosystems from the impacts of our changing climate.  On December 21, 2020, Council also approved “A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy” to address climate change at both corporate and community levels.

About A New Leaf: Muskoka’s Climate Strategy

A New Leaf is a set of integrated directions, actions, and projects designed to adapt and mitigate to a changing climate in a local context. The strategy consists of six components:

1. Muskoka Climate Change Action Plan (MCCAP)

The MCCAP is the District’s corporate climate change adaptation and mitigation plan. The MCCAP is a product of interdepartmental efforts across the District based on the District’s strategic priorities to categorize the Plan. The strategic priorities are:

-        Natural Environment;

-        Governance;

-        Economy;

-        Infrastructure; and

-        Community.

Each category has a set of goals and specific short, medium, and long-term actions, and the financial considerations for each action. For example, one of the goals under the Natural Environment category is to “Prevent the establishment of invasive species”. To support this goal, there are 5 tangible actions. One action for example is to “track the occurrence of invasive species on District-owned properties and along District roadways”.

Since the Strategy was approved, significant progress has been made with the District actively working on 51 of the 112 MCCAP actions, with 38 of those actions either complete, or fully initiated as on-going programs. District staff are implementing the MCCAP by pursuing and administering climate-related grants, managing flood plain mapping, coordinating the development of a regional climate adaptation plan with five Area Municipalities (AM), delivering the GHG initiatives, and continuing education and outreach programs. Highlights of key completed and ongoing MCCAP actions are provided in this report.

 

Click here to view the complete set of goals and actions outlined in the MCCAP.

2. A Corporate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory and Reduction Strategy 

A GHG inventory aims to measure how much GHG emissions are being emitted per year, per sector. The District launched a corporate inventory to measure how much GHGs are emitted per year.

By knowing how much GHG we’re emitting, we can prioritize, plan and strategize how we can take actions to reduce our GHG footprints. The inventory also helps track GHG reduction progress. This inventory is complete, and the reduction strategy will soon be underway. Click here to see the corporate GHG inventory. 

 

Top 4 District of Muskoka Corporate GHG Emissions in 2018

A Muskoka GHG Initiatives project page is live on the Engage Muskoka Platform. This page is an information hub and community engagement portal for the work being undertaken on this project. Opportunities for community participation will be posted to the page including stakeholder meeting dates, public surveys and community conversations.

Click here to visit the Muskoka Greenhouse Gas Initiative Project Page

 

3. A Community GHG Inventory and Reduction Strategy

Similar to the corporate GHG inventory, the District also launched a community GHG inventory. This GHG inventory measures how much GHGs are being emitted across the community of Muskoka. This inventory is complete, and the reduction strategy will soon be underway. Creating a reduction strategy will require the input of a Community Working Group.

Top 4 District of Muskoka Community GHG Emissions 2018

Click here to see the results of the community GHG inventory.

4. Continuing and Establishing Effective Partnerships

Climate resiliency depends on effective leadership, and partnerships. The District is committed to continuing its strong tradition of partnership with other governments, communities, institutions and organizations that have an equally vital role to play in managing Muskoka’s climate.

The District will foster partnerships, including its ongoing ones, with all levels of government including the Federal Government, the Province, and the Area Municipalities. Partnerships with agencies (i.e., the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit) and community organizations including Muskoka Watershed Council and Lake Associations, Climate Action Muskoka, and the Muskoka Steamship & Discovery Centre, among others, are also critical for sharing knowledge, ideas, and strengthening opportunities.

Municipal Partners in Climate Action: New Leaf Community Working Group

The District of Muskoka partnered with 5 Area Municipalities (Town of Bracebridge, Town of Gravenhurst, Township of Muskoka Lakes, Township of Lake of Bays, Town of Huntsville) to assess climate risk and vulnerabilities in Muskoka by participating in ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) Canada’s Advancing Adaptations: Vulnerability and Risk Assessment project. The outcome of this 14-month project will be a regional climate change adaptation plan that outlines actions to prepare our communities and corporations for local climate change implications.

To advance this project, the District and Area Municipal Partners have formed a New Leaf Community Working Group (NLCWG). The purpose of the NLCWG is to share and gather information on how the community has already been impacted by climate change, identify future climate change impacts, and assess climate change vulnerabilities and risks on a regional scale. This information will inform the regional climate change adaptation plan.

Learn more about the NLCWG here. 

5. Undertaking Education and Outreach

The District will continue to initiate, support and engage in outreach and educational programs that support climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Check out the event calendar on the District’s EnviroHub to find the climate and watershed team at an event near you. Here are some of the recently recorded webinars. 

  • District staff attending a Virtual Town Hall on climate change and the Parry Sound-Muskoka Environment. Find the video here.
  • To celebrate Earth Day 2021, The Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre welcomed local experts to talk about climate change, the impact on Muskoka, and the ways you can make a difference. You can view the recorded webinars on the Love Muskoka ♥ Sustain Muskoka website.
  • The Muskoka Lakes Association hosted a webinar called "Muskoka Lakes Water Levels - Past, Present and Future" to give waterfront property owners a better understanding of how spring floods happen, how we manage water levels today and what future water level management in Muskoka could look like. Click here to open the webinar video to watch!

6. Seeking and Securing Funding Sources

The District has significant existing financial commitments to address Muskoka's changing climate. Additional funding sources are constantly sought to further advance climate action in Muskoka, such as undertaking a local climate Vulnerability and Risk Assessment, launching the Floodplain Mapping Project, and having a large role in the Muskoka Watershed Conservation and Management Initiative.

 

In 2021, $2.8 million of external funding was secured for climate adaptation projects.

District Council Reports, Strategies, and Plans

A New Leaf: Muskoka's Climate Change Strategy

A New Leaf Update Reports to District Council

Greenhouse Gas Initiatives Reports to District Council

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