The City of Campbell River has adopted its climate adaptation plan, but council wants to make sure it prioritizes items on the list, rather than letting staff move forward without consulting them.
Last fall was when council first heard about the plan. They then asked staff to go out and consult with the community before reporting back to them for more discussion. Over the winter the city sent out a survey, asking for feedback on the plan. The survey asked people about their climate change priorities, how the city is doing on climate change as well as which items outlined by the city were most important.
Just over 120 people responded to the survey. The top five action items identified by the respondents were to increase the use of green infrastructure on public and private property, to integrate climate change adaptation into decision making at the city, to build a framework to monitor and evaluate ecosystem health, to study the storm water system’s vulnerability to climate change and to establish an integrated watershed management plan.
Of the 121 total responses, 115 agreed climate change is an issue and expressed concern. Four said they were unsure about it and two did not believe in climate change.
“However, the top themes to emerge illustrate that citizens want the city to make decisions based on science, to share information openly, and to protect the environment. Other common topics include the idea of investing in clean technology and green initiatives, focusing on climate change mitigating actions, and mandating or incentivising climate conscious changes in corporate or personal actions.” reads the staff report.
The city also had a survey for youth, where 47 people responded. The top five action items were more focused on informing people of climate change and how it would affect the community.
“Many youth who participated in the survey indicated that they felt uninformed about climate change and what specifically would happen to the environment and the impacts to their community,” reads the report. “Comments from open-ended questions indicated that youth are interested in climate-related educational opportunities, but feel they are not receiving them.”
At council, Coun. Charlie Cornfield felt that the amount of respondents was quite low, but he reminded councillors that the adaptation plan is not a legally-binding document and that it is more of a policy statement rather than a decree. However, some councillors felt that adopting it without going through the entire 122 page document and setting priorities would be premature.
Of special concern was the cost associated with some of items in the plan, and that staff could potentially move forward with some costly endeavours without council’s approval.
“When I take a look at the dollar numbers attached to some of the action items, it is staggering,” said Mayor Andy Adams.
“It says ‘current work plans,’ which means the plans that (staff are) working on tomorrow,” added Coun. Colleen Evans. “This is giving them the opportunity to start on some of these projects.”
However, staff clarified that the document allowed staff to “look at projects through a climate adaptation lens,” and any new projects would have to come back to council.
“When we did Highway 19 upgrades, we were looking at sea level rise as part of that capital project planning,” said sustainability manager Amber Zirnhelt.
Council did vote to adopt the plan, but will be taking it to a future Committee of the Whole meeting to suss out priorities in the next few months.