Forum identifies city’s sustainability targets

Ideas on how Nanaimo is going to tackle sustainability issues to the year 2050 continue to develop through an initiative by the city's planning department, and prioritizing what initiatives need to be followed through on are next on the agenda.

Ideas on how Nanaimo is going to tackle sustainability issues to the year 2050 continue to develop through an initiative by the city’s planning department. Prioritizing what initiatives need to be followed through on are next on the agenda.

Last December, Nanaimo citizens interested in or part of sustainability solutions met to help planners identify strategies that could help the city reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

That same group met again in June to advance the discussion toward action.

“An action plan is in the Official Community Plan as one of the things we want do do,” said Rob Lawrance, the city’s environmental planner. “Sustainability is a guiding principle in the OCP, but what does it mean? What does it look like? This action plan spells out how we’re going to achieve that.”

At the December forum, barriers to taking action were identified as areas of focus.

In June, creating a clearer picture of what the priorities need to be was the task.

Stantec Consulting provided a Community Energy and emissions study to help participants identify major emission producers, the most notable being passenger cars which account for 56 per cent of the city’s 480,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Residential buildings account for 16 per cent, commercial buildings 12 per cent and commercial and other vehicles 14 per cent. Passenger cars, at 38 per cent, also top the list of energy consumers.

“Clearly the big challenge is transportation, which is no surprise,” said Lawrance. “So to address that we’re looking at our OCP, which calls for population densification in nodes and corridors and seeing how we can tie in transportation to that to reduce emissions and make getting around in Nanaimo more efficient. It’s a huge task and we’re just starting to really get a handle on it.”

Lawrance said initiating active discussion and following that up with a cohesive plan will help Nanaimo reduce carbon dioxide emissions and energy use down the road to meet provincially mandated standards.

Though the city itself is already undertaking tasks to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the challenge will be to provide the public opportunities to do the same.

“The city is already doing things, but it’s pretty small compared to what we have to do on a community level,” said Lawrance. “But there are interesting side conversations going on trying to figure out how to work together and come up with solutions. That is good to see and that was part of the intent of this process.”

Some ideas include how to make it easier and to provide incentives for people to use electric vehicles and to improve public transit. Another goal is to identify short-term solutions that will help pay off in the long run that include larger local business and organizations like the Vancouver Island Health Authority.

In the fall, the same group will meet to prioritize issues that need to be addressed so they can be presented to city council and included as initiatives in the OCP.