A draft report that outlines priority actions for the Regional District of Nanaimo to tackle climate change has been approved by the board of directors.
The motions passed on Sept. 7 will see three priorities for climate change adaptation and mitigation as well as continuation of existing programs incorporated into the 2022 draft budget.
The top three priorities recommended by the climate action technical advisory committee are water supply resilience including through natural asset management, updating RDN policies and bylaws “to remove barriers to climate mitigation and adaptation and ensure RDN policies support climate-appropriate development and operations” and increasing support for home energy and adaptation retrofits.
Total 2022 budget estimates for these three priorities are $152,000 plus 1.6 full-time equivalent in staff time.
The board vote also supported continued funding for 11 existing plans and programs including the drinking water and watershed protection plan and wildfire preparedness as well as additional budget funding for corporate carbon neutral plan implementation ($60,000), sustainable procurement ($75,000) and net zero building and renewable energy generation strategy development ($30,000).
“We really tried to focus on what we can do as a regional district,” Electoral Area B Director Vanessa Craig, who sits on the committee, said before the vote. “The costs of not doing it … it’s just going to get more expensive and difficult in the long run.”
Some directors suggested there should be broader public input before moving forward with the three priorities given the potential tax implications. But there was a public engagement component via the seven representatives on the climate action technical advisory committee, Kim Fowler, manager of long range planning, energy and sustainability, noted, who along with the three RDN directors determined the highest priority issues based on technical terms of reference criteria approved by the board, which included recommending immediate actions to take.
“This is a unique report in comparison to many others from local government who come up with 50, I’ve seen up to 200 recommendations,” Fowler said. “Everyone is happy, everybody’s priorities are on there, and it takes forever to get anything done.”
Fowler added the committee noted “the business as usual that we’re used to, we have two, maybe five years before local governments spend a lot of time responding and recovering from climatic events and that takes a lot of time and money.
“It doesn’t mean other things can’t be added and considered, but we need to get going.”
Development of the final report, due in December, will also include creating a tracking and reporting structure for monitoring progress on plan implementation and emission reductions.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder