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Michael McSweeney Remarks  2015 AMO Conference




Thank you Gary. Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

It’s an honour for me to be able to share a few words with you this morning before introducing the Honourable Glen Murray, Ontario’s first Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Let me start with a tip of the hat to all of you and your commitment to finding pragmatic and local solutions to many challenges that Ontarians face.

As a former municipal councillor in Ottawa, I know that municipalities are the pointy end of the stick: tight budgets, crumbling infrastructure, the need to be as efficient and effective as possible for a well-run city, and now the added pressure of reducing GHGs and investing in climate adaptation. It’s daunting, complex and crucially important responsibility. And our industry is here to help.

As you may have heard me say before, and as I know Minister Murray can attest, the cement and concrete industry is a strong proponent of collaboration. When it comes to addressing climate change, we’re walking the talk not only by reducing our emissions, but by helping governments and communities across Canada secure a sustainable, resilient, low carbon and prosperous future.

We are at a critical inflection point in our journey to a low carbon economy, one that the cement industry has been anticipating and preparing for, for decades. The pace of innovation in our industry has been staggering – ultra high performance concrete, concrete that reduces GHGs by 70%, pervious pavements, pollution eating or biodynamic concrete, self-repairing concrete, transparent concrete, and the list continues. Our industry has a proud record of reducing GHGs by 15% on a voluntary basis over the past decade and we stand ready to do more.

Putting a price on carbon is an important first step. A well designed cap and trade system guarantees emissions reductions while rewarding good environmental behaviour. Carbon pricing is essential, but it is only part of the solution to climate change. As Ontario’s Climate Change Discussion Paper rightly points out, our built environment makes up the lion’s share of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario. It’s also our first line of defense against extreme weather. We know today’s built environment isn’t up to the task and that models of investment and asset management need to be re-tooled.

To address today’s challenges, we can’t just continue to do things the way we’ve always done them. We can’t just look at initial costs but need to move to a life cycle paradigm that emphasises long term value, putting the twin goals of emissions reduction and resilience and longer term costs at the centre of decisions about how we plan, build, and power our communities. For example, as our insert in your delegate kit points out, and I urge you to take a look, concrete roads are now lower cost in Ontario than asphalt at first cost and even lower cost when you include maintenance ? and they are more environmentally friendly. That’s a triple-win for municipalities.

For government, at all levels, it will be essential to use life cycle assessment as a means of optimizing the economic, environmental and social value of our investments in public infrastructure.

Lifecycle assessment is the rigorous standard that our industry applies when researching and developing the most cost-effective solutions to high value, low carbon and resilient buildings and infrastructure. One of the great strengths of our sector’s life cycle value proposition is that we are a “hyper” local industry with access to global technologies and solutions. Our products are locally manufactured by local employees in communities across the province. Our industry is the solution to the 100 mile low carbon construction diet!

We are so fortunate here in Ontario to have Glen Murray leading our response to this crisis. For those who have had the pleasure of working with Glen and hearing him speak on Climate Change, you'll appreciate his passionate articulation of both the dangers that climate change poses matched only by his optimistic vision of a thriving low carbon economy.

Glen Murray has had a lifetime of activism in urban planning, sustainable development and community health, and is a founding member of the Canadian AIDS Society. He served as mayor of Winnipeg from 1998 to 2004. He has also served as a Visiting Fellow at the Faculty of Architecture and Landscape Design at the University of Toronto. Glen was appointed Chair of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy in 2005, and was named president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute in 2007. He was first elected to the Ontario legislature in 2010, and currently serves as Ontario’s inaugural Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

It has been a great pleasure to work with Glen in my capacity as a member of the Climate Advisory Group and it is my honour to welcome him to the stage now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Honourable Glen Murray.


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