The City of Port Alberni will be looking at the impacts of climate change in all of its future strategic plans.
Port Alberni city council agreed to declare a state of climate emergency during a meeting on Oct. 25 and also agreed to use a 2020 report on climate change as a reference in future planning.
The decision came after a presentation on Sept. 27 from Alberni Climate Action. The locally-based community group conducted a survey earlier this year, with results showing that many Alberni Valley residents are “very” concerned about the local impacts of climate change.
Port Alberni city council took a moment on Oct. 25 to review the 2020 “Together for Climate” report, which was initiated by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. The city started the project in 2018, with community engagement through a working group, and the report was completed in 2020. The report identifies local climate impacts and includes a community risk and vulnerability assessment.
“The report focuses on adaptation, rather than mitigation,” explained manager of engineering Rob Dickinson. “We recognize climate change is going to happen, and what can we do to prepare for that rather than trying to avoid it.”
Major risks identified for Port Alberni include sea level rise, wildfires, flooding, landslides and water scarcity. The report asks for the city to consider 50 action items, following three overarching themes: protecting city infrastructure, protecting the environment and protecting the health and well-being of residents.
One action item recommends establishing stormwater management requirements for new developments, while another recommends offering more cooling and hydration stations in public spaces during hot summer months.
“We’re already experiencing some of the climate changes that they talked about in the report,” said Councillor Debbie Haggard, making note of the extreme heat wave the city experienced last summer, followed by extreme rainstorms in the fall. “We really have to think about not what we’re going to do today, but how this is going to affect our community five years, 10 years, 20 years down the road.”
Councillor Ron Paulson acknowledged some of the things the city has already done—for example, retrofitting heating and cooling systems in city-owned buildings, replacing lights with more efficient LED lighting and replacing city-owned vehicles with electric vehicles.
“It’s a large project,” he said. “It’s an ongoing project. It will change as technology changes.”
Council voted unanimously on Oct. 25 to declare a state of climate emergency and also agreed to use the “Together for Climate” report as a reference in the upcoming review of the Official Community Plan, as well as future strategic plans.
“Making a declaration like this is important, but the more important piece is the follow-up that happens after it,” said Mayor Sharie Minions.