Our Climate and Energy Transition

Climate change is a global challenge with local solutions that will require leadership, ambition, and collaboration. In response to this challenge, the Region of Waterloo has committed to reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2030 below 2010 levels. We are also preparing for and responding to the local impacts of climate change. We believe that by working together with our partners, the Region of Waterloo can build an equitable, prosperous, resilient low-carbon community. 

Our Policy Context

To respond to the climate emergency, we will need leadership at all levels of government and across all sectors of our society. The policies of upper-level government, together with global commitments and goals, will directly shape and motivate our actions in our community.

Global: UNFCC’s Paris Agreement

Federal:  Canada’s strengthened climate plan (2020); Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Growth and Climate (2016), 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan (2022); Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy (2022) 

ProvincialMade-in-Ontario Environment Plan (2020)

Our Changing Climate

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change, released its Sixth Assessment Report in 2021 and 2022. The overwhelming evidence indicates that no part of the world has been untouched by the impacts of climate change. Here in Waterloo Region, we will continue to experience warmer temperatures, more precipitation, and more extreme weather events. 

Projected Conditions

  • Projections to the end of the century suggest that we could regularly experience extreme heat days with temperatures above 39 degrees Celsius.
  • The number of extreme heat days (i.e. temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius) we experience each year could double by 2050, and increase to 50 days annually by 2100.
  • Average annual precipitation is estimated to be 12% higher for the 2051-2080 period and 17% higher for the last 30 years of this century.
  • More frequent storms are likely to occur, including short duration, high intensity precipitation events that lead to flash flooding in urban areas.  
 Anticipated Impacts
  • Health: Climate change can be directly linked to negative health outcomes, including an increase in vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, heat-related illness, physical injuries due to storm events, respiratory and cardiovascular disease, mental health impacts, and food- and water-borne illnesses. In 2022, Public Health released a Climate Change and Health Vulnerability Assessment that provides valuable information to guide adaptation and resiliency planning across our community.  
  • Infrastructure: A hotter, more volatile climate will continue to damage and disrupt the roads, buildings, and energy systems (e.g. powerlines) that are essential to our wellbeing and economic activity. An analysis conducted by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario found that climate hazards would increase transportation infrastructure costs by an average of $2.2 billion per year, totalling $171 billion in additional costs by 2100. Proactively accounting for future climate change and building for resilience can help us to ensure our infrastructure continues to provide essential services to the community.
  • Economy: The economic risks associated with climate change can be categorized as physical risks and transition risks. Physical risks may be associated with damage to assets or supply chain disruptions, while transition risks may be associated with changing energy costs, an increase in litigation, and a decline in the value of assets as new low-carbon technologies displace old systems. A recent report from the Canadian Climate Institute estimates that by 2025, climate impacts will be slowing Canada’s economic growth by $25 billion annually, which is equal to 50 percent of projected GDP growth. Ultimately, low-income households will feel these impacts most acutely.

Our Response

The Region recognizes the magnitude of change that is needed to transition to a more resilient, low-carbon community. At the same time, we view this as an opportunity to advance multiple strategic goals. For example, by tackling the climate crisis, we can also improve local health outcomes by reducing risks and hazards that disproportionally affect vulnerable community members. We can also reduce the Region’s financial exposure to rising carbon pricing and fuel prices, while creating new green employment opportunities for existing and future residents.

To achieve our climate and energy transition at a corporate-scale, the Region is aiming to achieve the following by 2050:  

  • Eliminate fossil fuel use in corporate operations
  • Optimize local energy
  • Enable a modal shift to active transportation  
  • Minimize fugitive methane emissions
  • Increase resilience of essential programs and services
  • Reduce risks to infrastructure through asset management
Mitigation Action
  • Implementing TransformWR, which outlines our community’s pathway to 80% GHG emissions reduction by 2050. In 2021, the Region of Waterloo and all seven lower-tier municipalities endorsed TransformWR, demonstrating a shared commitment to an equitable, prosperous, resilient, low carbon community.
  • Monitoring our corporate and community GHG emissions. The Region conducts an annual GHG emissions inventory to inform our decarbonisation efforts, and directly supports a community-wide inventory and forecast as a member of ClimateActionWR.
  • Increasing energy efficiency by retrofitting existing Regional facilities and implementing new building standards in line with the Corporate Energy Plan. All new Regional buildings will be designed to produce net-zero operational carbon, ensuring that such buildings are aligned with climate goals and will not require a premature retrofit at additional cost.
  • Switching to clean energy sources in Regionally owned facilities and in corporate fleet and public transit vehicles. GRT is piloting fully electric buses, an undertaking that will inform efforts to decarbonize the fleet.
  • Encouraging compact and complete communities that facilitate active transportation as the primary mode of travel. The Regional Official Plan provides direction for an energy efficient built form by utilizing the concept of 15-minute neighbourhoods, which will be further supported through Transportation’s Integrated Mobility Master Plan.
  • Pursuing local renewable energy opportunities (i.e. district energy systems). The Region’s new biogas co-generation facilities, which make use of methane captured to offset energy used for wastewater treatment.
  • Reducing methane emissions from landfills. The Region is actively exploring opportunities to maximize capture of the remaining 20% to 30% of methane emissions from the Waterloo Landfill, based on available and proven technology options and landfill waste diversion policies, as well as exploring potential future renewable natural gas opportunities.
  • Supporting our community partners and encouraging cross-sector collaboration. The Region supports the work of WR Community Energy, REEP Green Solutions, and SustainableWR, who are all playing key roles in advancing deep energy retrofits in the residential and ICI sectors, and the community’s overall energy transition to more renewable and sustainable energy sources and infrastructure.
 Adaptation Action
  • Working with our partners to implement the Community Climate Action Plan, which outlines the actions our community can take to become more resilient to the impacts of climate change.
  • Decreasing risks to infrastructure through informed and strategic asset management that considers the impacts of future climate conditions. The Region’s Asset Management Office is leading the development of a Corporate Climate Change Adaption Infrastructure Master Plan (forthcoming), which will identify the actions required to increase the resilience of our infrastructure assets. Through this work, the Region will consider changes to operational protocols and identify investments needed for adaptation retrofits and enhancements, while also noting opportunities for decarbonization and emissions reduction concurrent with addressing vulnerabilities.
  • Understanding local health risks and vulnerabilities under a climate-adjusted future through comprehensive, data-driven community assessments. Public Health recently released a Climate Change and Health Vulnerability Assessment that will inform adaptation planning in an effort to reduce health risks for vulnerable populations.
  • Reviewing services and operations to understand and reduce climate risk. The Region’s Water Services has recently conducted risk assessments to identify and respond to the potential impacts of climate change on water and wastewater facilitates. 

Resources for Community Members

Small Business
Business and Industry
Contractors and Developers



Physical Risks

Physical risks resulting from climate change can be event driven (acute) or longer-term shifts (chronic) in climate patterns. Physical risks may have financial implications for organizations, such as direct damage to assets and indirect impacts from supply chain disruption. Organizations’ financial performance may also be affected by changes in water availability, sourcing, and quality; food security; and extreme temperature changes affecting organizations’ premises, operations, supply chain, transport needs, and employee safety. (Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures, 2017

Transition Risks

Transitioning to a lower-carbon economy may entail extensive policy, legal, technology, and market changes to address mitigation and adaptation requirements related to climate change. Depending on the nature, speed, and focus of these changes, transition risks may pose varying levels of financial and reputational risk to organizations. (Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures, 2017


The process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects. In human systems, adaptation seeks to moderate or avoid harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In some natural systems, human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects (IPCC, 2019)

A human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (IPCC, 2019)


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