Mayor John Dooley has criticized Nelson residents who are concerned about climate change but have not taken part in the city’s EcoSave home energy retrofits program.
“If every person on the street who talked to me about climate change took advantage of that program we could reduce carbon dramatically,” he said at a Dec. 16 council meeting. “We had that graph showing us the housing stock in Nelson and how much carbon is being lost because people don’t insulate or have weather stripping, some very simple little pieces. I would put that out to the community that are challenging us.”
City manager Kevin Cormack had a different view.
“We have lots of solid stuff that lots of communities are trying to get in place,” he told the meeting. “The EcoSave program is a [good example]. If you can create momentum around a program, hopefully you have those same folks step up for the next thing. It is a real solid foundational piece.”
The EcoSave program gives Nelson Hydro customers both inside and outside Nelson a home energy evaluation to determine what energy efficiency upgrades (retrofits) should be done to reduce energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions, and offers access to rebates and energy coaching to get the work done. The work can be financed by Nelson Hydro and re-payed gradually on a customer’s hydro bill. The program has been in been in effect for seven years.
Program coordinator Carmen Proctor told the Star that an average of 700 people, or about 100 per year out of 10,000 Nelson Hydro customers have applied for the program but not all of those have followed through with an energy evaluation or retrofits.
Dooley and Cormack made these remarks during a presentation by the city’s climate change coordinator Kate Letizia, who started her newly-created job in the summer. Eighty per cent of her salary is funded for two years by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to create a climate change plan for the city.
At the Dec. 16 meeting she presented city council with an overview of her plans and her work so far.
Councillors Brittny Anderson and Jesse Woodward wondered if the development of Letizia’s plan was moving fast enough.
Anderson asked if the city could go ahead with proactive measures while the plan is still being built. Letizia responded that she hopes the city can continue to improve the current work it is doing while the planning process is underway.
Woodward told Letizia, “I know you are moving at speed, but science says we have to move with speed and it is not toward something 20 years out. It is in the next five to 10 years … I am hoping we can immediately start the plan and move at speed into the future with it.”
City planner Pam Mierau, who is Letizia’s supervisor, responded that she thinks the plan is moving “really fast. We have to have this in the bag by July. It is a great opportunity to step back, take stock of what we have been doing [in the past few years], and really think strategically about where we want to go in the future.”
Letizia said she is approaching mitigation and adaptation simultaneously. Mitigation is about causes, she said. It refers to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Adaptation refers to identification of risks and vulnerabilities created by climate change — dealing with impacts, both current and future.
“Low carbon resilience,” she said, “is a two-pronged approach that tackles both concurrently.”
Combining mitigation and adaptation results in what Letizia calls co-benefits — benefits that might not be achieved if a city tackled only adaptation or only mitigation.
“Co-benefits can include pollutant capture, improved biodiversity, energy savings, reduced waste, improved water collection, improved air and water quality, cost savings, green job creation, improved human health, carbon sequestration, increased property values, reduced congestion, and reduced extreme temperature.”
As an example she cited a green roof bylaw being implemented by the City of Toronto for large commercial buildings.
“Their major motivation is climate change,” Letizia said, “but [this will also] improve air quality and aesthetics, reduce energy use through decreased demand for air conditioning, increase local food production and biodiversity, create greater seismic resilience, create more green jobs, and reduce waste because green roofs last twice as long as regular roofs.”
She outlined the timeline for her first year required by the FCM funding:
Phase 1 – August to December 2019: Take stock
Phase 2 – November 2019 to February 2020: Define the challenges
Phase 3 – February to May 2020: Explore and develop solutions
Phase 4 – May to July 2020: Design and approve a plan, choosing highest impact and highest feasibility options
In year two she will begin to implement the plan and set it up for long-term adoption after the grant period.
Letizia outlined the city documents she has studied, the research on international best practices she’s done, the local groups she has talked to, interviews she has conducted, and partners she’s developed (including Selkirk College, BCIT, SFU and the EcoSociety) in her first months on the job.
She said she is forming a climate change working group consisting of city employees plus people from public health, information technology, economic development and social services, to assist in developing the plan.
Dooley advised her to consult with a mix of people.
“I appeal to you to have a good mix of focus groups,” he said. “You don’t get good results with like-minded people. You get good results with people who challenge us to think differently or come up with new ideas.”
City initiatives already in place, Letizia said, that form a basis for the plan, include the community solar garden, the EcoSave program, seniors home weatherization, high density zoning, emergency management research, forest fire mitigation work, early implementation of new building rules in the Step Code, water conservation, and flood mitigation measures.
Dooley advocated retrieving methane from landfills, incinerating waste for energy, and having recycling and compost bins within a five minute walk of any resident — all ideas he said he had gleaned from reading a waste plan that Letizia co-wrote for the Town of Banff in 2017.
“With waste,” Dooley said, “I think we are at a crossroads. This may be the opportunity to make the change necessary to shift how we manage waste. We have told our residents: create as much waste as you want and we will come and pick it up and take it away. I believe there has got to be a new way.”