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Saanich falls short of climate goals

Under current projections, Saanich will have cut its emissions by seven per cent in 2020
Under a business-as-usual scenario, Saanich will reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions responsible for sea-level raising climate change by nine per cent in 2050 — well short of its stated goal of 80 per cent. Saanich will also fall short of its corporate emission goals. (Black Press File)

Current figures from Saanich’s draft budget show that municipality will not meet its own goals to cut corporate greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions.

According to the draft budget, the District of Saanich is on pace to reduce its own emissions of climate-change-causing CO2 by seven per cent from 2007 — short of goals articulated in 2010, when the municipality approved the Climate Action Plan. It commits the municipality to reducing its corporate emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) by 50 per cent by 2020 from 2007 figures.

Teale Phelps Bondaroff, a former councillor candidate, said the municipality needs to do more. “Saanich is nowhere near this target and even including projected projects, does not come close to approaching it,” he said.

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Saanich officials did not directly answer why the municipality failed to reach its own goals, while promising improvement. “We are working towards the 50 [per cent] emissions reduction target by 2020,” said Ting Pan, Saanich’s manager of sustainability. “Currently, planned initiatives are projected to get us to 40 [per cent] emissions reduction by 2020-2021, and [with] additional measures under investigation, [it] may be possible to get us the rest of the way.”

Future planned projects include renewable energy upgrades at Saanich Commonwealth Place, phased in between 2019 and 2022; heat recovery upgrades at Pearkes arena; an upgrade to the boiler at Municipal Hall Annex; and ongoing replacement of municipal vehicles using internal combustion engine with electric vehicles.

These projects build on 2017 energy efficiency upgrades that reduced GHGs emissions from Municipal Hall by 40 per cent, efficiency and heat pump upgrades reducing GHGs emissions from Gordon Head Recreation by 38 per cent, and the addition of six new electric vehicle charging stations in preparation for further fleet electrification added in 2018.

A report released last year found community-wide GHGs will have dropped by nine per cent under a business-as-usual scenario in 2050 — the deadline for cutting community-wide GHGs by 80 per cent and using 100 per cent renewable sources of energy.

In other words, Saanich at-large will fall short of its ambitions when it comes fighting climate change.

The municipality is currently updating its climate change plan and McLeod acknowledged that this future plan will “need to be a departure from business as usual” to meet community goals.

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McLeod said the first phase of public input shows Saanich residents are wanting to see “urgent and effective climate action,” adding that it shows “support for regulation and incentives to help the community meet the 2050 targets.”

Saanich’s biggest community emissions come from transportation followed by buildings, she said.

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“Reaching our targets will require electrification of personal vehicles, support for active and public transportation, and renewable and efficient building upgrades, such as adoption of heat pumps,” she said.

Draft actions will be shared with the public for feedback this spring during open houses and surveys.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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