BC cities tackle climate change

The 2007 Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference was held at the end of September. There was a pre-conference session on climate change. The following are notes from a panel discussion on the things some BC cities are already doing to mitigate the human contribution to climate change.

Their presentation slides can be viewed from the UBCM website.

Advice from Russ Fuoco, Director of Planning for the District of Saanich

  • Measure current emissions so that you can understand how big the challenge is and track progress.
  • Set target for reduction that that everyone knows what the goal is that they’re working toward and help track progress.
  • Demonstrate local leadership to be innovative and put in place new ways of doing things, even when it costs more upfront or when faced with resistance to change.
  • Set aside a carbon reserve fund for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or absorb them from the air.

Ron Westlake, Transportation Manager, Central Okanagan

  • Embed energy efficiency in OCP so that it is a consideration is all other decisions and plans.
  • Place an emphasis on transit in transportation planning and land use.
  • Use public engagement process to make plans for improved transit to ensure plans meet their needs and to build buy-in so that changes are supported.
  • Use “Integrated Community Planning” that is guided by 5-10 minute walking circles and uses targeted density to make local business and transit more viable.

Mayor Mussatto, City of North Vancouver
They created a district energy company, Lonsdale Energy Corp, to provide heat to buildings. The company generates income for the city. Their investment has a 3-5 year payback.

They are exploring opportunities to expand their business to include solar water heating and geo-cooling in civic facilities and private developments.

Mayor Mussatto said that for initiatives like this to happen and be successful, leadership is needed on council and staff.

Tim Williamson, Canadian Forestry Service, and
Councillor Brian Frenkel, Vanderhoof

  • Determine sources of vulnerability due to climate change
  • Draft an Adaptation Plan
  • Build “adaptive capacity”

The challenges of climate change are the

  • complexity of the systems involved
  • interrelated impacts create chain reactions or feedback loops making the original problem much worse
  • dynamic change that is difficult to predict
  • communicating effectively with community to help build understanding of the challenges, threats, and initiatives.

What is necessary to address challenges and build adaptive capacity is

  • technology to do things better and more efficiently
  • funding for new initiatives and transitioning to new ways of doing things
  • social capacity – strong social networks to facilitate information dissemination and peer support for adopting new choices.

It is suggested that a “vulnerability model” be generated to guide planning.

Judy Villeneuve, Surrey City Councillor
“In order to ensure smart, integrated planning happens, local government has to be a gorilla to ensure developers are told where development will happen – to not allow sprawl” and tell them where density will be permitted.

Masato, Mayor of North Vancouver
“City of North Vancouver is looking at urban agriculture. It’s working in New York – reducing fuel and greenhouse gasses from transport of food.”

“Challenge is to communicate the research in a way that the community can understand and digest it. It would help build support for these kinds of initiatives.”

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