North Cowichan Coun. Christopher Justice said he believes residents support council’s moves to deal with climate change. (File photo)

North Cowichan Coun. Christopher Justice said he believes residents support council’s moves to deal with climate change. (File photo)

North Cowichan approves updated climate action plan

Municipality also to hire new climate-change specialist

North Cowichan council adopted an updated Climate Action and Energy Plan at its meeting on Jan. 19 that aims to reduce the municipality’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

Council also approved the hiring of a new climate-change specialist, at a cost of $90,000 per year plus benefits, who will help North Cowichan implement the strategies and plans to meet the goals of CAEP.

Mayor Al Siebring was the only council member present at the meeting (Coun. Tek Manhas was absent) who voted against both motions.

RELATED STORY: SIEBRING WON’T SUPPORT NORTH COWICHAN’S DRAFT CLIMATE PLAN AS WRITTEN

Among the many actions to be undertaken to help meet climate goals in the new plan are to shift personal and commercial vehicles to electric ones, retrofit homes for energy efficiency and switch to heat pumps, improve industrial/commercial energy efficiency, and replace natural gas with hydrogen and renewable natural gas.

“Council officially acknowledged the climate emergency in 2019 and recent weather events with effects such as drought, fires, atmospheric rivers, flooding and two heat domes underscore the urgency,” said Coun. Kate Marsh, chair of the environmental advisory committee.

“We are committed to addressing GHG emissions, looking at all applicable decisions through a climate lens, laying a foundation for a low-carbon future, and using the best information and predictions we have. This plan, along with rewriting our Official Community Plan and reviewing the management of our municipal forests, will help North Cowichan set the goals, targets, strategies and actions needed. Actions that each of us can take to do our part towards healing the planet.”

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN INVESTIGATING 6 STRATEGIES TO REDUCE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

Asked by a citizen during the meeting’s question period why he was opposed to the updated CAEP, Siebring said he believes the plan is fundamentally misguided.

He said, for him, the focus of the plan should be for North Cowichan to talk to other levels of government to try to acquire funding for infrastructure to deal with climate change, and about dealing with the impacts and effects of climate change, including flooding, heat domes and other emergencies the municipality has had to deal with in the past 52 weeks.

“When I look at GHG emissions globally, Canada produces 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions and when you take out the oil sands and Ontario industry, we’re down to less than one per cent,” Siebring said.

“I don’t buy that emissions in North Cowichan have significant impacts on global emissions.”

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN SEEKING PUBLIC INPUT INTO CLIMATE CHANGE

As for his vote against hiring the climate-change specialist, Siebring said council had struggled with filling a number of other positions that were, from his perspective, as important or more important than hiring a climate-change specialist.

“Those positions are still on the table somewhere,” he said.

“There are all kinds of things that we’d like to do, but we’re restrained by financial realities.”

Coun. Christopher Justice pointed out that the municipality, and the globe, are in trouble with climate-change issues.

“I believe most residents recognize that and support the hiring of this position and see it as in the best interests of the community,” he said.

“I also think that, after spending years of staff time and money developing a plan, most residents would be disappointed with us if we fail to follow through and not do what we know needs to be done.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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