As the City of Kamloops unveiled its draft Community Climate Action Plan this week — which sets out millions of dollars worth of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through net zero new builds, building retrofits, acceleration of active transportation infrastructure, adding a climate lens to future policy and more — provincial and federal budget announcements this week earmarked dollars for climate initiatives.
Asked how the city’s new plan will be different from emissions-reduction goals missed in the past, Coun. Arjun Singh told KTW: “I think now, I just notice that locally, provincially, federally, regionally, the level of understanding that we have to try and meet these goals is much, much more. I always call it safeguarding our future.”
Local impacts of climate change are seen in more extreme summer heat waves and droughts and more frequent and intense wildfires and seasonal flooding, according to the draft plan, which also notes climate scientists predict impacts will intensify as global temperatures rise. The draft plan sets out a series of actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 — 29 years from now — in a bid to help limit global warming to 1.5 C, which is in line with international efforts.
(The draft plan only identifies actions for 70 per cent emissions reduction, but states a remaining 10 per cent needed to reach that goal will be later determined.)
The draft plan indicates short-term, high-level spending on new programs would cost $2.7 million in 2022, increasing to $4.2 million by 2026. It comes in addition to programming already underway, which amounts to about $2.6 million per year.
New initiatives in 2022 would include:
• An additional $1 million for active transportation (on top of $2.4 million already spent annually);
• $500,000 to develop a strategy to increase energy efficiency in new and existing civic buildings and infrastructure;
• $250,000 to develop and implement a green fleet strategy to reduce overall vehicle use;
• $250,000 to improve infrastructure and amenities to encourage transit use;
• $240,000 to implement the city’s electric vehicle and electric bike strategy;
• $125,000 for green infrastructure pilot projects for public lands;
• $120,000 to develop incentives to promote building retrofits.
During a committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday (April 20), the city’s sustainability services supervisor, Glen Cheetham, said the most significant in a series of “big moves” to reduce emissions is a focus on energy-efficient homes that utilize low-carbon energy sources.
Zero-carbon homes and buildings account for nearly half of the city’s projected emissions reductions, with the draft plan noting buildings account for 29 per cent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.
(The greatest greenhouse gas emissions contributor is transportation, which accounts for 66 per cent of city emissions.)
Work in the province is already underway in shifting toward net zero new buildings through the BC Energy Step Code and the draft plan recommends accelerating that rollout.
But it won’t be done without a price. The city expects construction costs could increase by about three per cent due to efforts made to reduce emissions, which could further heat up a hot housing market. Asked about pushback from developers and the building industry and impacts on residents when they are looking at buying a home, Cheetham told KTW the plan addresses the need to maintain equity in order to prevent social issues worsening as a result of climate action. One action identified is freeing up municipal land for day cares or affordable housing.
Existing buildings also need retrofitting, including energy-efficiency improvements to the building envelope and switching to low-carbon energy sources.
The draft plan states that, in Kamloops, switching heating systems from natural gas to electricity or other renewable energy sources would be the “largest contributor to reducing emissions in most buildings.”
To do that in old buildings, heating systems would not only need to be upgraded, but additional costs could also be incurred for electrical panel and service upgrades — similar to what homeowners now face when upgrade their electrical panels when installing a hot tub. In addition, based on current prices, it is more expensive to heat with electricity than with natural gas.
When asked about the costliest initiative in the draft plan, Cheetham identified building retrofits as one of the most significant challenges,
“We do have a massive stock of existing buildings,” Cheetham told KTW. “To achieve the rapid retrofits that are needed, and to achieve a pretty high performance — to reduce their GHGs of each building retrofitted by 50 per cent, on average — it’s been estimated to cost residents collectively $32 million a year. That’s not taking into consideration incentives or other finance tools we’ve recommended be developed, or leverage of existing [incentives].”
Coun. Bill Sarai expressed concern about the city working toward implementing the draft plan’s big moves, leaving behind those who cannot purchase an electric vehicle, hop on a bike or retrofit their home. Sarai said the city should not burden residents on initiatives beyond the city’s pay scale. He suggested, rather, that the province lead the charge.
“Wouldn’t it be beneficial if the whole province was on board and pulling the rope at the same time?” Sarai asked.
However, Cheetham said the COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunity for governments by way of recovery initiatives. This week, in its budget release, the province announced transit will now be free for children across British Columbia. The budget outlined $506 million in new money for CleanBC. The federal budget included $17 billion in new spending and tax relief for green initiatives.
Singh is the city’s longest-tenured council member and, through his roles on the Union of BC Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, has experience in meeting with representatives of senior levels of government. He told council he has never seen so much opportunity for climate action funding.
“We are in a place where we can be left behind if we actually don’t do some of this work,” Singh said.
The city has not met targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions in the past. Asked what’s different this time, Cheetham said the draft plan looks to leverage opportunities provided by other levels of government. He pointed to $2.5 million in grant funding from the federal and provincial governments for energy retrofit upgrades to the Canada Games Aquatic Centre in Kamloops.
Other recommendations in the plan include accelerating the buildout of active transportation, with the goal of having half of the trips in Kamloops to be by active transportation or transit by 2050. This goal will be tackled by adding another $1 million annually to build a connected active transportation network by 2030, completing north-south and east-west corridors.
The city already spends $2.4 million per year on active transportation. Cheetham said it would build out the infrastructure 10 years sooner than identified in the city’s Transportation Master Plan.
Mayor Ken Christian noted the city is a transportation crossroads for railroads, highways and air routes. He questioned what could be influenced locally in transportation, as opposed to transportation passing through Kamloops, on highways, by rail or in the air, the emissions from which the city has no control.
Another big move outlined in the draft plan is encouraging, through infill, residents to be 10 minutes from daily amenities.
Christian noted there are established neighbourhoods without such immediate access to amenities.
In addition, the draft plan recommends the city put a climate lens on future decision-making. When building out business cases for policy, for example, Cheetham told KTW the city could include an internal carbon price as part of economic analysis.
Council unanimously approved sending the draft Community Climate Action Plan forward for public engagement and to bring the final plan for review and adoption at a future date.
The city plans to soon hold virtual engagement sessions on the plan, dates for which will be posted on the municipality’s Let’s Talk page.