Councillors split on expanded climate plan

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Councillors on the city's environment committee reached a stalemate Thursday, disagreeing on whether to allocate money to help develop a climate adaptation and resiliency strategy.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/01/2020 (990 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Councillors on the city’s environment committee reached a stalemate Thursday, disagreeing on whether to allocate money to help develop a climate adaptation and resiliency strategy.

Lindsay Mierau, manager of the city’s three-person office of sustainability, presented an annual Winnipeg Climate Action Plan update to the water and waste, riverbank management and environment committee. She also explained four recommendations for next steps laid out by the public service.

Her advice included hiring one more full-time staff member for the sustainability office, and referring a $200,000 ask to the 2020 city budget process. The funding would help her office “undertake detailed financial, energy and emissions mapping and modeling to understand the costs and benefits of implementing the (Winnipeg climate action) plan,” a move similar to what most other major Canadian cities have already done, she said.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Winnipeg City Hall.

“We know that cities are facing significant risks in adapting to climate change, from storm water management and heat waves, to invasive species, major extreme storm events — like we’ve experienced (in 2019) — and flooding. The purpose of hiring a climate change adaptation specialist would be to initiate, research, plan, implement and monitor and review the adaptation strategy,” Mierau said.

An adaptation and resiliency strategy would complement the city’s existing climate action plan, she said.

“In my opinion, this is one of the most important recommendations of our plan — to do this other half of the work. But we do need additional staff resources, to do a good job of implementing it and developing that work.”

Mierau cited research from organizations such as the Insurance Bureau of Canada and Public Safety Canada, which showed every dollar invested in disaster mitigation now will save $3 to $5 in recovery costs.

The public service also recommended a minimum of $500,000 be set aside for a Climate Action Reserve Fund.

Two of four councillors on the committee voted in favour of the recommendations (Couns. Markus Chambers and Cindy Gilroy); two others (Couns. Kevin Klein and Jason Schreyer) voted against.

The tie means the report will proceed on to executive policy committee without any further recommendations.

Klein said he couldn’t vote in favour of allocating money to a climate study while the Winnipeg contemplates many cutbacks in its 2020 budget process.

“We’re proposing service cuts to an awful lot of residents right now, (such as) making them responsible for their own garbage pickup. And then to turn around and say, ‘We’re going to give you another $200,000 to be spent to do some research to put together some plans.’ I don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said.

Klein countered the office of sustainability should seek external funding. Mierau said it had, from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, but with no luck yet.

Gilroy, who chairs the committee, agreed in principle.

“I think we should always be looking for external funding, but we can’t stop the work that we have to do in terms of climate change mitigation,” she said.

In its update, the sustainability office reported of the 77 short-term actions laid out in the city’s climate action plan (to be undertaken 2018-22), only 40 per cent are currently “green-lighted” (meaning accomplished or underway) with existing funding. Another 30 per cent were partially funded and 25 per cent were “red-lighted,” meaning they require more money to get off the ground.

The red-lighted actions include conducting an energy audit of all city facilities and developing an electric vehicle strategy for Winnipeg.

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

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