The City of Nanaimo won’t meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets in a climate emergency unless it can change its course, councillors were told this week.
The city council of the day in 2010 put in place emission-reduction targets, but those targets were missed, and more aggressive targets agreed upon in 2019 are out of reach with current policies and plans, according to a consultant.
Councillors, at a governance and priorities committee meeting Monday, received a climate action plan update from staff and Duncan Cavens, principal at C2MP Consulting Ltd.
The City of Nanaimo, in 2010, aimed for a 33 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020. Cavens pointed to 2017 figures that showed emissions had actually risen 18 per cent, though he noted that part of that is attributable to population growth.
“These are absolute targets, they’re not per-capita targets, so as you add new people and new households, they are going to be consuming more energy in their households and in their workplaces and in their transportation,” Cavens said.
Council declared a climate emergency last spring, committing the city to reduce emissions by 50-57 per cent by 2030 and 94-107 per cent by 2050. Cavens said business-as-usual modelling projects a 32 per cent reduction by 2050. He noted that Nanaimo has committed to bettering provincial targets, though it has fewer powers than the province.
He added that Nanaimo has already implemented several first-step actions on emissions reduction.
“All the things I would recommend to a community starting out, you guys have already done and in some cases, moved beyond, in particular around energy step code and re-zoning policy,” he said.
Cavens said more than 95 per cent of Nanaimo’s emissions come from burning gasoline and diesel in vehicles and natural gas and oil for heating and hot water.
“The push that we’ve always had on increasing efficiency by upgrading homes and getting better vehicles is not going to get us to these targets that you and the province and the federal government have set,” he said. “We’re going to have to find a way to switch to zero-carbon energy sources.”
He suggested that while “sexy” renewables such as solar don’t offer significant emissions reductions compared with hydro right now, further electrification would make it easier to envision those types of projects becoming more important in the future.
Some of the options the consultant mentioned to reduce greenhouse gas emissions include increasing incentives for energy retrofits, increasing options for developers to pursue ‘alternative pathways’ to energy efficiency in buildings, expanding public and private charging infrastructure, improving organic waste diversion, investing in active transportation and focusing development in walkable urban nodes.
Cavens acknowledged that the city is already taking these courses of action.
“In order to achieve these targets that you’ve set and that the world has set, we really need to start turning everything up and we need to decide where is it best to place our investment of time and money,” he said.
Coun. Ben Geselbracht said categorizing the city’s emissions as coming from buildings, transportation and waste discounts some of the emissions that come from producing, packaging and transporting goods that residents consume.
“Material goods represent a very large proportion of the greenhouse gas emissions and when we look at it systematically, studies … are showing that up to 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to goods packaging, food production and industrial systems,” he said.
Geselbracht added that the city, in its master planning, should look at the benefits of a circular economy that localizes and shortens supply chains and emphasizes waste reduction, recycling and re-use.