The city took its first step Monday night toward developing a climate change action plan.
At a council committee meeting, politicians voted to join the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), appointed Mayor Steve Clarke and Renee Recoskie, the city’s manager of environmental compliance, to oversee the federation’s milestones, and committed to developing a climate change action plan.
The decision has to be ratified at next Monday night's city council meeting.
“I believe this move to create a climate change action plan is a good one and certainly a step in the right direction,” said Coun. Jay Fallis.
The rookie ward 3 councillor said he is “really excited” by the proposal.
“I am sure many … would agree climate change is a problem and it’s not 10 years away, it’s affecting our society right now,” said Fallis, referencing widespread spring flooding in nearby Muskoka and elsewhere.
“These one-in-100-year floods are fast becoming one-in-five-year floods,” said Fallis.
“We are living in a time of regular climate change emergencies and I hope the city will soon join the more than 300 Canadian municipalities that have already declared climate change emergencies,” said Fallis.
But, for now, the focus will be on developing an action plan that helps the city meet the milestones of the FCM’s Local Governments for Sustainability Partners for Climate Protection Program (PCP).
“Climate change action planning can involve two different streams of action the city can take,” Recoskie told city councillors Monday night.
She said one stream involves “mitigation factors” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an example, such an approach could involve moving to more energy-efficient technology such as LED lighting.
“Then there are adaptation actions - actions the city can take to try to adapt to changing climate,” said Recoskie. “These could involve looking into and pursuing more resilient building construction as well as road (construction) techniques.”
Coun. Ralph Cipolla questioned the financial impact.
“I can see climate change impacting all of our budgets in the future,” said Cipolla, who noted the request to council suggested there would be no financial impact to developing the plan.
“I think (the cost is) going to be substantial,” said Cipolla.
Staff did not dispute the potential financial impact down the road but said, outside of staff time, there was no cost associated with developing the strategy.
“Starting with a climate change action plan is what will help inform our budget process moving forward,” said Recoskie. “We need to identify what our baseline is, (complete an) inventory of what our emissions are currently.”
Then it will be decision time. The city will have to determine what actions to take to reduce emissions or how to become more resilient.
“(Those decisions) can help inform the budget process,” said Recoskie.
Andrew Schell, the city's director of enviornmental services and operations, said the future impact of mitigating climate change will be costly.
“From an operational standpoint, obviously, every budget season, we’re seeing more and more snow, we’re seeing more and more issues around flooding,” said Schell, who notes budgets are rising as a result.
Joining the CFM, which is free, is a key to this process, staff noted.
In return for joining, membership allows for the following resources the city would otherwise not have direct access to:
- PCP Hub and Milestone tool – an online portal connects the City with resources and guidance to track milestone status and goal. The portal links together peer municipalities to share best practices, project information and strategies.
- PCP program advisor – an advisor is assigned to the City to provide guidance and support, including: mentoring throughout milestones; assistance with, and access to, funding opportunities; and connections to peer municipalities. This support will save time and enhance the quality of the planning process.
- Access to funding opportunities for plans, studies and capital projects related to GHG-reducing projects.
- Technical project support and RFP development support.
- A robust program of peer municipalities accessible to share ideas and best practices.
According to a staff report, the PCP program guides a municipality through a five-step Milestone Framework “to help you take action on climate change by reducing emissions in your municipality.” These are the milestones:
- Milestone 1: Create a baseline emissions inventory and forecast
- Milestone 2: Set emissions reduction targets
- Milestone 3: Develop a local action plan
- Milestone 4: Implement the local action plan
- Milestone 5: Monitor progress and report results
Moving through these five milestones can help a municipality save money, improve air quality, create jobs, and improve local residents’ health, says the FCM.
The staff report also noted the newly formed Mayor’s Task Force, Sustainable Orillia, “is well aligned to help the city advance their climate change action planning efforts in coordination with the community.”
A form of public consultation on how the public feels they are impacted by climate change locally and what action they would like to see the city take will be planned to coincide with the Sustainable Orillia’s public launch event scheduled for May 25, 2019.