North Cowichan’s new senior environmental specialist wants the municipality to refocus on its long-term target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, but acknowledged the goal is challenging.
Dave Preikshot presented his proposal for an integrated climate action plan at the council meeting on Jan. 20 and successfully recommended that council direct staff to develop action plans, policy options and cost estimates based on six strategies outlined in the plan to achieve the reductions in GHGs.
The strategies include encouraging the transition to electric vehicles and less carbon-intense transportation, taking corporate leadership in lowering emissions, supporting local ecosystems and promoting carbon capture, making buildings more energy efficient, adapting to new climate norms and lowering carbon from waste.
“As a next step in developing North Cowichan’s climate action plan, the municipality should next determine a list of specific actions for each of the six strategies that would support achieving an 80 per cent reduction target by 2050,” Preikshot told council.
Like many other local governments in B.C. and across Canada, North Cowichan officially acknowledged in July that the municipality is facing a climate emergency and, following the hiring of the new senior environmental specialist, directed staff to report to council within 90 days with its plans for an integrated climate action plan.
The new plan is expected to merge ideas and initiatives of the municipality’s award-winning climate action and energy plan that was adopted by North Cowichan in 2013.
That plan originally suggested that the municipality reduce its GHG emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
Preikshot said North Cowichan currently has corporate and community targets, but doesn’t have an integrated strategy with which to frame plans and policies that have been, or could be, established.
“Larger cities like Victoria and Vancouver can leverage mass transit infrastructure to offset emissions from transportation and take advantage of extremely high-density housing,” he said.
“North Cowichan, though, is characterized by single-detached houses with personal vehicles used for commuting, including those that choose to live in communities like North Cowichan and commute to the larger centres. A cross-jurisdictional comparison suggests that the goal of 80 per cent reductions in GHG emissions by 2050 may be challenging.”
Some of Preikshot’s recommendations in his six strategies include installing charging stations for electric vehicles at municipal facilities and encouraging the installation of them in new developments, adapting transportation infrastructure to accommodate eBikes and scooters, seeking opportunities for water storage as the climate changes and creating development guidelines to protect species at risk.
Council gave the green light at the meeting to the recommendation that staff develop action plans, policy options and cost estimates based on six strategies laid out by Preikshot.
After a discussion of Preikshot’s report, council also directed staff to have an informal “lunch and learn” with members of the previously disbanded environmental committee and the public-at-large to discuss the report and gather further input.