Just where the municipal money is in relation to the mouth on climate change action will be known once the next round of Nelson city budget discussions begin later this year.
Several councillors recently called for immediate financial support of Nest Lab — the city’s social innovation lab for climate solutions — at the conclusion of a presentation by Natalie Douglas, the climate change planning assistant for Nelson.
Douglas noted during the last council committee-of-the-whole (Zoom) meeting that there were five projects underway in phase two — neighbourhood community vehicles; low-impact transport map; Nelson climate leaders; iCan Network; and Kootenay hydrokinetic — but were in need of further financial commitment.
After Douglas related that the next task for Nest Lab was to secure multi-year funding to give those idea some time to germinate, Councillor Keith Page — who was also involved in Nest Lab as “faculty” on low-speed electric vehicles — said the city needed to step up and make sure the money was there until grants could be obtained.
“I don’t want us to go through an unknown period where we are waiting for a grant to show up and we don’t have resources committed to make sure we have a phase three go through, from a facilitation standpoint,” he said.
The city needs assurances that the emerging processes of Nest Lab will be funded because it is beginning to mature into something viable, Page added.
“How do we, as we get into budget season, insure that at least another two or three cycles of this lab iterate forward and we continue to develop this incubator so we can keep this work going and get better and better with it?” he asked.
Building the Nest
Nest Lab is convened by the City of Nelson, the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST), Interior Health, Nelson at its Best and Selkirk College.
It seeks to offer a platform for a diverse group of stakeholders from Nelson and the region to work collaboratively to unearth and test practical, innovative, and cross-sectoral solutions to the region’s most pressing climate challenges.
A test phase of the Nest Lab took place in the spring of 2020 with the goal to assist in the development of the city’s Climate Action Plan by helping to gauge a wide and diverse range of community perspectives and ideas for local climate action.
The lab then moved onto phase two, with the goal being to help the city implement community actions that align with the now completed Climate Action Plan (Nelson Next).
The key to that insurance is many layered, said city chief financial officer Colin McClure, beginning with a discussion at the city strategic priority session level, gaining a buy-in from the rest of council and then putting forward what kind of dollar amounts can be committed.
“So those are all important discussions that we will have to look at,” he said.
The city also needs to look at how to implement Nelson Next and its set priorities, added city manager Kevin Cormack, and determine how they relate to Nest Lab in order to reduce the overlap and not do too many things at the same time.
“My experience is we get a bit disjointed by trying to take too much on and we don’t follow through and do the best job we can on any one thing,” he said.
“That would be a really big part of budget (discussions) as well is how do we stay focused and hit some of these things out of the park, and what are our priorities and how do we get the community engaged … and who is doing what?”
Getting the community behind any project was the key, Cormack explained, since climate change ultimately resides with the individual making different choices.
He said the question of how the Nelson Innovation Centre, KAST and Selkirk College all fit together with climate change action needs to be answered.
“We have these networks that are already in place, so how do we align those so we are all working together on the same thing … and make use of our community resources?” Cormack asked.
And then there were five
The five projects include:
• Nelson Neighbourhood Vehicles: Low-speed electric vehicles are a solution to the issue of transportation being the leading source of GHG emissions in Nelson – low speeds for most needs.
• Kootenay Hydrokinetic: As transition moves away from GHG-emitting forms of energy, there is a need to increase a renewable energy supply. Small-scale, hydrokinetic turbines can deliver a local clean energy solution.
• iCAN (Climate Action Nelson): A positive space where the community will be able to share ideas, resources, and solutions to move forward local climate action.
• LIT Map (Low Impact Transportation): Low-impact transportation solutions exist in Nelson. The LIT Map will make it easier to access and plan low impact transportation options.
• Nelson Climate Leaders: A program to equip local businesses and non-profits with the knowledge and capacities they need to engage in climate learning and action.
Councillor Rik Logtenberg agreed that it was really important to understand what Nelson was doing as a community on climate change action.
“It seems to me that Nest (Lab) should look at what it takes to bring a community together and all of its resources,” he said, adding that all of the parties need to come together as a social challenge.
“It seems to me that it needs to get done soon and before the budget.”
But Mayor John Dooley said the greater discussion needs to happen before committing dollars.
“We do have a responsibility as a council to reach out to the community; that’s where we take our guidance from … so I think that the outreach piece is really important,” he said.
Dooley noted the endeavour needed to include all sectors of society or there would be push back.
Page re-iterated the importance of finding money to keep the good work of Nest Lab moving forward. He said the three biggest “buckets” of climate change — transportation, waste and building — are being addressed somewhat by the city, but more legwork was needed to create some wide-sweeping change like what Nest Lab was producing.
“So when they are searching for grants (we need to insure) that there isn’t a gap and it’s not going to stall the system in between funding cycles,” Page said.