A 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.
Saanich will fall 71 per cent short of its GHG emission targets under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario described in a report council received this week. The report provides an update on Saanich’s climate plan. It includes the target of reducing all GHGs in Saanich by 80 per cent by 2050 using 2007 levels as a comparison point.
“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. But municipal GHGs — emissions produced by municipal operations — account for just one per cent of all Saanich’s emissions. In short, the municipality driving the plan is doing its bit in reducing its GHGs, but this contribution represents a small share of the overall community-wide emissions. In other words, Saanich residents and businesses along with other spheres of government whose actions impact local emissions are currently not doing enough in meeting common goals.
Tara Zajec, a spokesperson for the District of Saanich, confirmed the current reduction figure, but also asked for perspective, adding the the number can increase as new policies, legislation and funding come into effect.
“For example the Active Transportation Plan has been approved by Saanich [council], but the BAU scenario only considers what is funded and committed to from that plan,” she said. “The BC Energy Step Code has been introduced by the province, but has not been adopted by Saanich [council] and so has not been incorporated within the BAU scenario. The provincial just made a commitment to achieve 100 per cent zero emission vehicle sales by 2040, but this is not yet introduced in legislation.”
So the figure represents a current assessment liable to change if said changes move ahead, she said. “[And] this is one key objective of the updated climate plan and engagement with stakeholders and public; utilizing the GHG model to determine what actions need to happen to turn that nine per cent into 80 per cent GHG emission reductions by 2050.”
Coun. Ned Taylor, the only council member, who has so far responded to the Saanich News for comment, did not directly comment on the pace of Saanich’s response to climate change. This said, he called climate change a “serious issues” that requires a responses from all spheres of government, including municipalities.
“Transportation for example is a key area where municipalities can have a positive impact on emission reductions,” he said. “I believe we need to be improving public transit and active transportation options so that people can get out of their cars and rely on other modes of transport. Additionally, adequate infrastructure needs to be in place to support electric vehicles.”
Looking at specific sources of emissions, buildings account for approximately 30 per cent of Saanich’s GHGs, with transportation accounting for 58 per cent, waste and others being 11 per cent.
The available scholarship warns of several drastic consequences across the region because of GHG-induced climate change, including drier summers.
“While temperature can be expected to increase year round, the greatest increases will occur in the summer months,” reads a 2017 report from the Capital Regional District (CRD). “By the 2050s, daytime high temperatures will be substantially warmer (an increase of 3.3°C) in summer … By the 2080s, we can expect summer daytime highs to increase by more than 5°C.”