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First quarterly climate update presented

Council eyes 'aggressive implementation' of climate plan

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As Whistler's request to oil companies to pay for some of the frontline costs of climate change made national headlines, what better time to check in on the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) very own Community Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP)?

The CECAP returned to council on Dec. 18 for its first quarterly update since council moved to require them in August.

The report to council summarized implementation progress on CECAP initiatives between September and December 2018.

Some of the quarterly highlights listed by staff included council giving first readings of the Official Community Plan (which contains a number of climate-related policies itself), work on regional transit, increased transit service hours, expanded electric vehicle infrastructure at the Meadow Park Sports Centre and implementation of the Energy Step Code (set for Jan. 1, 2019 in Whistler).

Other initiatives underway include developing terms of reference for a Zero Waste Select Committee of Council, ongoing wildfire fuel reduction projects and a flooding risk assessment for Whistler Valley.

The RMOW also applied to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in June (and was subsequently denied), asking for two years of funding to provide 80 per cent of a Climate Change Officer's salary.

Though the Dec. 18 CECAP update report noted that without the money, "internal staff resources will be challenged to address additional incremental actions in 2019," Crompton said in an interview with Pique that he expects the position will be included in the 2019 budget.

While Whistler made great gains in reducing its GHG emissions from 2008 to 2012 (averaging reductions of about 3.8 per cent annually), the reductions were largely due to "one-off" projects, such as converting from piped propane to natural gas and the landfill cap and capture project.

The resort has averaged a 4.7 per cent increase in total emissions each year since 2014.

In 2017, total community emissions rose by four per cent over 2016.

As such, Whistler's GHG reduction goal of 33 per cent by 2020 (compared to 2007 levels) is all but out of reach.

Private vehicle transportation and natural gas make up more than 50 per cent of Whistler's annual GHG emissions.

During the Q&A portion of the meeting, Randi Kruse took to the podium to follow up on a letter she wrote to council lamenting its lack of urgency regarding the CECAP.

"What will you do now to enable staff to deliver meaningful progress on the CECAP, within the next three months, so that the next time we have an update we can expect it to demonstrate measurable improvements towards our goals?" Kruse asked.

The plan was discussed at council's inaugural retreat last week, Crompton said.

"One of the things we talked about a lot was aggressive implementation of the CECAP," he said, adding that it has yet to be "nailed down" exactly what that looks like, but the plan's recommendations will get a closer look through the 2019 budgeting process.

"I'm confident that I will be advocating for spending on implementing the recommendations of CECAP (in the 2019 budget)," Crompton said.

"Rest assured it's something that we will be taking seriously."

Councillor Arthur De Jong, who will oversee Whistler's environment portfolio for the next four years, advocated for a "champion" for the CECAP.

"I've studied many climate action reports, and this one, it's got depth, it really covers all the key areas, (and it's) very well written, it's just a question of, again, how do we move this faster?" he said.

"Ultimately, I really believe we need a champion, we need a climate change coordinator, officer, whatever it is, to help really push on so many elements of what is a very, I believe, effective plan."

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