Sidney is moving towards joining other municipalities in hiring a climate action coordinator, but only on a temporary basis, at least for the time being, and well after the municipality first considered the idea.
Andrew Hicik, Sidney’s director of corporate services and chief financial officer, said the proposed position of climate action coordinator would be expected to “kick start” multiple climate change action and adaptation initiatives, starting on April 1, 2021, for two years with total funding of $90,000.
Hicik said the position would initially be a term position in anticipation of the completion of Sidney’s Official Community Plan review. Current staff may be free to carry on the work of the coordinator at that time, he said.
“However, if the early returns from the term position are positive, and [council] decides at the time to keep the momentum going, it may potentially be extended to supplement the work done by other [municipal] staff,” he said.
Sidney’s move comes after council declared a climate emergency last year. Sidney’s new strategic plan approved late last year also include multiple goals around climate change. Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble said last October that Sidney’s adaptation planning in the face of rising sea levels caused by climate change is in “its relative infancy,” but also promised additional steps.
Sidney, in its 2010 climate action plan, plans to reduce community-wide emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 30 per cent below 2007 levels by 2030 and 80 per cent below 2007 levels by 2050.
Hicik said in a report received by councillors last week that it “simply is not possible to make any meaningful progress on these goals” without additional, specialized resources. “While some members of current staff have strong environmental principles and knowledge, everyone is already fully immersed in their own work, and cannot leave it behind to change focus to new environmental initiatives,” he said.
Hicik’s report also said Sidney’s 2010 climate action plan called on the municipality to “investigate the potential for establishing” for such a position.
“Unfortunately, this was not pursued at the time, as it was believed to be premature and too costly to have a dedicated position for this function,” he said. “We will continue to monitor the availability of grant programs to partially or fully fund this position; however, at this time, no such program exists.”
The same report also lists some of the initiatives that a future climate action coordinator could undertake. They include reviewing Sidney’s climate action plan and tree inventory, research issues around electric vehicles, coordinate multimodal infrastructure planning, help with shoreline climate adaptation and investigate solutions around storm water management among other initiatives. An international report prepared by more than 100 scientists from more than 30 countries and released late last year says the global sea level is currently rising more than twice as fast — 3.6 mm per year — than it did during the 20th century, during which the global sea level rose 15 centimetres, with the rate of rise accelerating.
While the report does not directly address the impacts of rising seal levels on the Saanich Peninsula, it notes with “very high confidence” that “[risk] related to sea level rise (including erosion, flooding and salinization) is expected to significantly increase by the end of this century along all low-lying coasts in the absence of major additional adaptation efforts.”
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