Carrying out Nelson’s climate change plan over the next several decades will require re-ordering of priorities for citizens, according to a city councillor and the city’s mayor.
“Nelson Next is a multi-decade planning document,” says Councillor Rik Logtenberg. “It will require a fairly big transformation in everybody’s behaviour and in their daily routines and habits.”
The plan lists hundreds of actions, some small, some very ambitious, that will help us reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and mitigate the effects of climate change.
The result of almost two years of research, discussion and consultation, the plan is centred around aspirations in seven areas: transportation, buildings, mitigating the effects of climate change, ecosystem health, renewable energy, waste management, and municipal operations.
Nelson’s goal is a 75 per cent reduction in community wide GHGs by 2030 and net zero by 2040. The city is aiming for net zero in its own operations by 2030.
In Nelson, according to research done for the city’s climate change plan, 59 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation, and 33 per cent from heating with natural gas.
Transportation and buildings are two emission sources that municipalities have a lot of control over, through urban design and building regulations. So it is hardly surprising that they are the listed in Nelson Next as the first two of Nelson Next’s seven aspirations.
In the area of transportation, the plan contains a list of about two dozen tactics, including:
• Offer a limited-time free parking pass for electric vehicles registered in Nelson
• Implement and enforce an anti-idling bylaw
• Increase the parking meter rate in the designated downtown area to reduce congestion, traffic noise, and pollution
• Require large subdivisions to contribute to a fund earmarked for active transportation infrastructure, upgrades, and connectivity
• Explore the feasibility of an on-demand, electric micro-transit shuttle to move residents and guests through downtown and surrounding areas on a continuous service loop
• Establish a low emissions zone – a defined area where access by certain types of fossil-fuel vehicles is prohibited
• Invest annually in the design and construction of new walking and cycling infrastructure as set out in the city’s Active Transportation Plan.
Logtenberg says these things will be introduced gradually and experimentally, moving from the easy-to-accept to the more difficult. As an example, he points to the city’s electric bicycle subsidy program, already in place, in which homeowners are offered low-interest loans to be repaid on their hydro bill.
This program aims to get people used to electric bikes. It also helps people identify as someone who is taking action on the climate crisis, Logtenberg says.
“At the beginning we want to prioritize actions that will help people become more receptive to the harder things that will come later on.”
But by then perhaps they won’t seem so hard, he says.
Logtenberg said the city has already started with some of those basics, including, in addition to e-bike subsidies, the High Street bicycle corridor, installation of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs), and minimum requirements to make all new buildings EV charging-ready.
He said the plan looks at transportation as a network including transit, automobiles, parking, biking, and walking.
The goal, according to Nelson Next, is to ensure that “passenger and public transport is clean, active, and shared … active and public transportation infrastructure is accessible, connected, and maintained … and Nelson is congestion and pollution-free.”
In the area of infrastructure and buildings, Nelson Next contains a list of about two dozen tactics, including:
• Further accelerate the adoption of the BC Energy Step Code beyond provincial requirements
• Explore low embodied carbon development incentives and local replacement options (such as mass timber) for construction materials that have the highest carbon footprint
• Develop a solar-ready bylaw to advance solar hot water systems
• Incentivize the switch from wood burning stoves to low carbon heating
• Incentivize landlords to complete energy efficiency upgrades through reduced permitting
• Amend the Official Community Plan to allow for row housing throughout the city
• Promote and support natural, carbon-negative building initiatives that utilize local, renewable resources
• Require zero carbon/low carbon construction sites (long term)
Mayor John Dooley, who has a background in construction, told the Nelson Star he favours bringing in the Energy Step Code in sync with the province, and he said the code’s increasing requirements of energy efficiency will gradually become normalized.
Nelson council adopted Step 3 of the Step Code in March.
Dooley said the issue of embodied carbon (the carbon footprint of the manufacture and transportation of building materials) has been discussed in the background for a while but “this over time will become front of mind. There will be a slow, gradual shift to looking at embodied carbon.”
He echoed Logtenberg’s concern that changes have to be gradual and understandable, each one building on the last.
“You have to make sure that people understand what you’re doing,” Dooley said, adding that ideally the changes should not increase building costs.
Nelson Next lists four climate actions already underway in the city with respect to buildings and infrastructure: early adoption of the BC Step Code, the EcoSave energy retrofit program, the annual green home and energy show, and sustainable design guidelines.
“I think going forward, we’re probably going to find that people are going to be looking for certain certification,” Dooley says. “When they’re buying a home, they’re going to be looking at energy efficiency. They’re going to be asking questions we might not be asking now. But now’s the time to meet that code.”
The goal, according to Nelson Next, is to ensure that new buildings are net-zero ready and have low embodied carbon, that existing buildings are retrofitted to save energy, that the city is a leader in green building research and innovation, and that financial barriers to energy efficient buildings are reduced.
All of the other five aspirations in Nelson Next (mitigating the effects of climate change, ecosystem health, renewable energy, waste management, and municipal operations) are also discussed in the plan with lists of strategies and supporting research.
To explore the plan’s discussion of all those areas, read Nelson Next at https://bit.ly/3u0oPi6.