EcoSociety asks city to become 100 per cent renewable

The plan would have Nelson ditch fossil fuels by 2050

A grassroots movement to make Nelson completely reliant on renewable energy by 2050 made its pitch to city council Monday night.

The council’s chamber was packed with supporters of the West Kootenay EcoSociety as executive director Fiona Galbraith asked the city to consider becoming the sixth Canadian municipality to commit to the goal.

Galbraith said the Renewable Kootenays Campaign is a public initiative, but that having council support is key.

“Councils have a lot of influence in terms of things like zoning bylaws and how densified a community can be all these different things that can lead to that renewable future basically,” said Galbraith.

“Fifty per cent of greenhouses gases are within the direct control of municipalities, so they have a lot of influence over how this can come about.”

If adopted, Nelson would become the sixth Canadian community to commit to the goal of completely reducing emissions from transportation, electricity and buildings.

A scenario of the EcoSociety’s plan based on current renewable technologies showed energy demands can be cut by 34 per cent by 2050, although that assumes electric cars will replace gas-powered vehicles within the next three decades.

Vancouver, Victoria, Saanich, B.C., Oxford County, Ont., and Slocan have already made the pledge, while Galbraith said the EcoSociety plans to pitch Castlegar, Rossland and New Denver next year.

“Smaller communities aren’t going to have as much of an impact as Vancouver, but one of the things I like about this campaign is that it is targeting the region as a whole,” said Galbraith. “Ideally there will be a lot more collaboration between the various communities.”

Galbraith said Nelson having its own electric utility gives it a practical way of getting a good head start.

“Nelson Hydro already built the community solar garden and they run the geothermal [system] up at Selkirk College, so they’re gaining the experience on the renewable side, plus they have the hydroelectric piece as well,” said Galbraith.

“There’s no doubt it’s somewhat of an advantage when you’re trying to make this kind of transition.”

Galbraith spoke at a committee of the whole meeting, where city council hears presentations but does not make decisions on them.

The EcoSociety presentation came with plenty of community support. Galbraith showed off a petition that has over 2,000 local signatures and more than 4,000 from the Kootenays, as well as the support of 45 local businesses.

The next step, she said, will be to hold public engagement workshops next year.

Canada is one of 170 countries signed to the Paris Agreement, which was first ratified in November 2016 and aims to keep global temperatures below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as well as pursue a further decrease to 1.5 C.

Canada contributes 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse emissions, the eighth most in the world, according to a 2011 study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

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