Brandonites can breathe easy when it comes to air quality as it has some of the best in the country, according to a recent environmental data report.
The latest findings from the Climate Reality Project Canada’s (CRPC) fourth annual National Climate League (NCL) Standings shows Brandon as one of six cities tied for air quality. Brandon had zero reported smog days based on a daily score of four out of 10 on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) reported on the Weatherstats website.
Five other cities also scored high marks with Brandon for air quality: Ottawa; Charlottetown, P.E.I.; Prince Albert, Sask.; Whitehorse, Yukon; and Yellowknife, N.W.T.
The report stated all the cities are small when compared to population size overall and are spread out across the country, but noted none of the cities are located in British Columbia due to the devastating forest fire season of 2021. The smoke that was generated greatly reduced the air quality of the province overall, the report stated.
A report like this helps inform the public on what improvements municipalities have made so the data can be used for initiatives in other communities, said Margo Burgess-Pollet, lead commissioner for the National Climate League.
"It’s important to act locally," she said. "It makes people more aware and more likely to act on things like climate change."
Other communities, such as Steinbach, were noted for both improvements such as affordable housing, but also noted for having a lack of EV charging stations. It’s important to highlight the winners, she said, but the report is also there to highlight where cities can make improvements in specific areas.
They focus on cities and communities considered major hubs because it is more relevant for those communities to compare and contrast their performance.
It wouldn’t be fair or accurate for a small community to be compared to a large city, she said.
There were 16 municipalities lauded for improvements in areas including affordable housing, sustainable housing, bike lanes, climate litigation, energy mix, EV charging stations, gender equity, landfill waste, air quality, municipal employees dedicated to transition, public transit, shared vehicles, sustainable jobs, urban agriculture, urban greenhouses and walkability.
This year, they added justice to the list. The climate crisis is a social justice issue, she said.
It puts some people more at risk than others, exposing and enhancing the pervasive inequities and injustices in our society.
"We identify that climate isn’t just about greenhouse gas emissions, it’s also about quality of life," she said. "It’s important to have a broader understanding than just physical things like landfills or air quality. We are also looking at this with a justice lens because when it comes to climate, women tend to be most affected by climate change."
They also wanted to highlight employees who are working toward environmental sustainability, as well as jobs being created around that mindset to demonstrate this is a goal that can be worked toward and generate income.
The CRPC is the Canadian branch of the Climate Reality Project, founded in 2006 by Nobel Laureate and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore.
Volunteers across Canada track the progress of municipalities across Canada on 31 sustainability indicators. CRPC developed 16 primary and 15 complementary indicators representative of living a better and more sustainable life, centred around themes such as transport, food, waste and health.
To enter a municipality in Climate Reality’s annual NCL standings, residents can request city councillors submit data on the 31 sustainability indicators to an open CRPC database called the Stat Tracker.
The citizen-led process is designed to help members of the public feel involved and empowered, while boosting accountability on the part of elected officials, said the CRPC. The ultimate purpose is to "encourage municipalities to reach net zero by or before 2050, by highlighting local solutions that help improve the lives of Canadians.
Residents can use the data collected in the report to advocate at the municipal level to advocate for change, or to highlight a positive aspect that needs to be protected.
A snapshot of the National Climate League Standings are available at climatereality.ca/ncl.
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