Mayor John Dooley and council have approved Nelson’s climate change plan entitled Nelson Next. The report will be officially launched in January. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Mayor John Dooley and council have approved Nelson’s climate change plan entitled Nelson Next. The report will be officially launched in January. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson council approves climate change plan

Nelson Next sets out targets and strategies for the next 30 years

In the coming years, Nelson might implement and enforce an anti-idling bylaw. Maybe it will create an on-demand, electric micro-transit shuttle to move residents and guests through downtown and surrounding areas on a continuous loop.

The city may require low-carbon or zero-carbon construction sites. Perhaps it will require large subdivisions to contribute to walking and biking infrastructure.

These and hundreds of other ideas are proposed in the city’s new long-term plan for dealing with climate change in the city. But those ideas are suggestions and recommendations, not necessarily prescriptions, aiming toward some basic climate change goals, the report says.

Those goals are the same goals as those recommended to municipalities by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: 75 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 and zero emissions by 2040.

Last summer, Nelson council voted to adopt those targets, according to Councillor Rik Logtenberg.

“They are the most ambitious municipal targets in the country,” he told the Nelson Star.

Logtenberg said this led to the question of what Nelson will look like if it gets to 75 per cent reduction by 2030. He said Nelson’s new climate change plan, entitled Nelson Next, attempts to answer that.

The plan recommends many significant and wide-ranging actions over 30 years, but it does not yet have an implementation schedule or a budget – these will be addressed at a council meeting in the spring.

Kate Letizia was hired 18 months ago to create the plan, and she presented it to council at its Dec. 18 meeting. The plan can be found here.

She said Nelson Next follows parallel paths of mitigating climate change and adapting to it.

“For example, when we insulate a building to save energy, we perhaps look at using natural local materials with a lower footprint that creates less waste and simulates the economy as well,” she said.

Related: Nelson hires climate change co-ordinator

Letizia told council she sought out the opinions and desires of members of the public, organizations, businesses, and subject matter experts in the city, through a variety of events both in person and online.

These consultations, coupled with her own research, resulted in seven basic aspirations for Nelson’s future.

1. Transportation

Passenger and public transport is clean, active and shared.

2. Buildings

New buildings are net-zero ready, have low embodied carbon, and are resilient against a changing climate. Existing buildings are retrofitted for energy savings, reduced emissions and climate resilience.

3. Connection and collaboration

Climate change impacts are integrated into city planning and Nelson’s highest priority climate risks are widely understood and collaboratively addressed. Nelson contributes to a regenerative and viable regional food system.

4. Ecosystems

Clean air, clean water, and biodiversity are accounted for and protected. Our water supply is safe, secure and responsibly used by residents and businesses.

5. Renewable energy

Renewable and low-emission energy is generated locally and consumed responsibly.

6. Low waste

Our community is committed to the zero-waste hierarchy, prioritizing waste avoidance, reduction and reuse.

7. Funding and monitoring

Progress on Nelson Next is continually monitored and reported on in a transparent and accessible way.

Along with each of these seven aspirations there are lists of strategies and tactics, which, as was often pointed out in the meeting, are not written in stone but have come out of Letizia’s consultations and research. She said community consultation will continue.

The Nelson Star will delve into some of those suggested strategies and tactics in a second article when the plan is officially launched in January.

Kate Letizia in the summer of 2019 just after she was hired to co-ordinate the city’s climate change strategy. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Kate Letizia in the summer of 2019 just after she was hired to co-ordinate the city’s climate change strategy. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Evidence of climate change

Letizia said evidence of climate change is readily evident in Nelson in two ways — higher average annual and seasonal temperatures with an increasing number of extreme heat days, and shifting precipitation patterns with increases in annual precipitation and heavy rainfall days.

She added that since 2007 Nelson’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 10.8 per cent, and are on a trajectory to be 11.8 per cent higher than 2007 levels by 2030.

In 2018, she said, Nelson’s total community emissions was 79,102 tonnes of CO2, primarily derived from vehicle use (59 per cent of total emissions), and heating and cooling of buildings (37 per cent).

The council discussion of the draft plan can be viewed here:

Questions about funding

In council’s discussion of the document, Councillor Cal Renwick and Mayor John Dooley questioned the absence of dollar signs in the document.

“The language has to be soft enough so people not on the far side of green will understand what we are doing here,” Renwick said. “We are being asked to approve a plan that we have no idea how much it will cost. There is no number. I need to see numbers that say here is what this is going to cost us.”

City manager Kevin Cormack said this is a policy planning document, and that costs are not normally attached at this point. He said if any of the initiatives recommended in the document are seriously considered, they would come before council and be part of the budget process, and the timing and feasibility would also be affected by available grants.

Mayor John Dooley also asked about a proposed budget.

“Has this been calculated? If we say yes to this, are we opening the door to spend whatever we want?”

Planning director Pam Mierau responded that it is like the city’s Railtown plan, which outlines a path to desirable actions but those actions are individually subject to grant funding and council decisions in the future.

Cormack said many of the city’s other long-term plans began in the same way: The Path to 2040, the Downtown Urban Design Plan, the Downtown Waterfront Plan.

“The next step [in the climate change plan] is an implementation plan,” Mierau said. “We [city planning staff] need to explore all these ideas better … that is when we will come back with some costing and timing … this is the standard way for us to bring a plan to council.”

Dooley said he has many questions about details in the plan because “my job as mayor will be to go out in the community and sell this.”

Councillor Rik Logtenberg said he thinks the document fulfills a responsibility of council.

“We are living up to our moral commitments, and we are helping the city to be shovel-ready when the province and the feds make money available to do this work. This is a foundational document for that.”

Councillor Janice Morrison said she reads the document as a path to follow, with a collection of ideas to be considered.

“Technology will change and will drive the plan,” she said.

Councillor Jesse Woodward said the document is an acknowledgement what the United Nations and climate scientists are saying.

“There are some tight timelines and we have 10 years to get a grasp on this,” he said. “This is a living document we can move and shift as we need to. It is our personal responsibility and our community responsibility.”

Councillor Keith Page agreed with Woodward. He said the plan is a good step and he supports it, but more work needs to be done on making the data and graphs understandable to lay people.

“This is a document about story telling, it is about how we are going to have that conversation as a city and as a community.”

Council voted to approve the plan and directed staff to develop an initial implementation plan and budget by March 31.



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

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