Saanich is looking for public input at two open houses May 30 and June 1 on efforts to climate change. (Black Press File).

Saanich seeks public input on ways to fight climate change

Two open houses scheduled for May 30 and June 1

Two open houses later this month give Saanich residents a chance to help shape the District’s climate change plan.

“The signs are clear: early wildfires, flooding, and climate science reports about the consequences of continuing business as usual — we know that it’s time to act,” said Mayor Fred Haynes, in announcing the two open houses May 30 and June 1. “Saanich [council] has committed to taking action to protect our community, and we’re encouraging feedback from the public to help shape our approach.”

Saanich is committed to using 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050 and reducing both corporate and community-wide greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) 80 per cent by 2050 below 2007 levels.

Saanich recently joined other communities in the region and around the world to declare a climate change emergency, a decision that has already shaped recent municipal decisions as in the case of council’s decision not allow additional signage at four local gas stations. This decision in turn builds on a number of other measures including the controversial Step Code to cut GHGs.

RELATED: Saanich cites climate change emergency, denies additional signage for gas stations

Saanich said in a release announcing the two open houses, that they will focus on what the municipality can do to reduce GHGs from transportation, buildings and other areas, as well as measures to protect local ecosystems and community well-being in the face of climate change.

RELATED: Academic study gives Saanich’s climate action plan middling mark

RELATED: Saanich well off mark when it comes to meeting goals of climate plan

A 2018 report predicts Saanich will fail to reach its goals of reducing its community-wide greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) responsible for climate change by a wide margin if current practices persist.

“The results indicate that current regulations, policies and programs at all levels of government are making an impact on GHG emissions, with a reduction of approximately [nine] per cent from 2007 levels projected by 2050,” reads the report from Sharon Hvozdanski, director of planning. “However, the reductions are not sufficient to reach the adopted 2050 target.”

So what accounts for this pace? If we distinguish between emissions from the municipality and the community at large, figures show that the District will reduce its GHGs by 38 per cent by 2022, short of its own goals of reducing GHGs by 50 per cent in 2020. (Saanich officials have since projected that planned initiatives will get the municipality to 40 per cent by 2020-21).

But if Saanich is doing its bit in reducing its GHGs, its municipal emissions accounts for just one per cent of all Saanich’s emissions.

In other words, even if Saanich were to meet its own goals, it would barely make a dent in the overall balance. The figures therefore make it clear that Saanich residents and businesses along with other spheres of government are currently not doing enough in meeting common goals, a point recognized in the upcoming open houses, which invite residents to “learn more what they can do in their own lives to respond to climate change.”

The first upcoming open house runs Thursday, May 30, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Gateway Baptist Church (898 Royal Oak Avenue), the second Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Cross at 3787 Cedar Hill Road.

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