Today’s Poll

Controversial Climate Action Plan process comments collected over draft report: RDCK

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
February 21st, 2024

The people have spoken and the regional district has noted it.

Noted it 3,518 times, which is the number of comments the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) received on its draft Climate Action Plan during the seven-month public engagement process, which concluded in October, 2023.

The process allowed the RDCK to clear up some misinformation about the much maligned plan, one of which how some residents interpreted the Climate Action Plan as a list of mandatory changes the RDCK was requiring of them.

Residents wanted the freedom to choose what made sense for their families and lives, wrote RDCK sustainability planner Paris Marshall Smith in her comments on the process.

“They are opposed to having any changes imposed on them, such as water metering, water conservation, mandatory retrofits, etc.,” she said. “There has been some polarization around the plan, and we are pleased to see the shared values that have emerged through the engagement process.”

Those shared values include the importance of ensuring there is clean air and water in the RDCK, protecting the ability to grow food in regional district communities, being prepared for the changes to the climate that are coming and creating solutions that reflect the rural way of life.

The public engagement results highlighted concerns with the engagement process, communications and affordability, as well as desires for freedom of choice, a local perspective, and support for farmers.

Some people expressed caution around building regulations and electric vehicles, while interest in improved transit and active transportation, emergency preparedness, water stewardship, renewable energy and grid resilience was also noted.

The draft RDCK Climate Action Plan is considered a list of ways the RDCK could support the regional district community in reducing carbon pollution and its impacts.

Although many of the actions are already underway, the provincial and federal governments require the RDCK to take the lead on some of the actions. The remainder of the actions are new ideas for consideration.

Results from the RDCK public engagement process on the draft Climate Action Plan were made available and have been provided to the board of directors, and now await approval at that level.

In July 2023 the RDCK embarked on a redesigned Climate Action Plan engagement process, initiated after a public backlash and fear of possible intimidation at public meetings on the release of its climate actions plan arose earlier that year.

The redesigned process was based on feedback RDCK staff received from the community.

“The postponement of the public engagement meetings has allowed the RDCK time to reconvene and reconsider how best to work with residents to address concerns and provide information about RDCK climate actions,” a statement in July 2023 from the RDCK read.

Using dialogue circles to begin the process — including community members with “diverse view -points” — and then two months of 20 open houses across all 11 electoral areas and nine municipalities, the process culminated with the assembling of the information into a report.

 

 

 

In review

The RDCK received a total of 3,518 comments on the draft Climate Action Plan.

Engagement process – 550 comments

Residents wanted more input into the engagement process and advocated for a referendum (190), for town halls (100) and for more opportunity to be heard.

The comments include dialogue between those opposed to the engagement model along with those in support.

Transit and active transportation – 351 comments

(127 on transit, 113 on active transportation and 111 on active low carbon transportation)

Residents want to see additional transit routes, increased transit frequency, secure places to store bikes at bus stops, safer road infrastructure to allow for more biking and walking, more transit access for rural communities, and more trails.

Right to choose – 324 comments

Some residents interpreted the Climate Action Plan as a list of mandatory changes the RDCK was requiring of them.

Residents want the freedom to choose what makes sense for their families and lives. They are opposed to having any changes imposed on them, such as water metering, water conservation, mandatory retrofits, etc.

Clear and direct communication – 244 comments

Residents said the Climate Action Plan documents were too complex.

They stressed the need for simpler language, definitions and terminology within the Climate Action Plan. They wanted more notification about the Climate Action Plan and the engagement opportunities.

Affordability – 198 comments

Residents are concerned about the cost of living.

They want the RDCK to be efficient and to keep costs down. Some examples of costs they find excessive are related to home building and the cost to purchase electric vehicles.

Emergency preparedness – 191 comments

(98 on fire mitigation, 56 on emergency planning and 37 on empowering residents)

Residents want the RDCK to do more to prevent wildfires and to work with the Province to put fires out when they start rather than allowing them to grow.

Residents also want to be empowered to take action to stop wildfires from impacting their homes and communities and want the RDCK to support them with training.

Support for farmers – 189 comments

Residents expressed strong interest in supporting farmers and strengthening food systems.

For instance, they would like farmers to have access to the water they need for their crops. Residents were very clear that any support for farmers must be voluntary.

Looking for local solutions – 188 comments

Residents would like the Climate Action Plan to address the wants and needs of individual areas, while considering rural perspectives.

Participants emphasized the heightened sense of environmental consciousness and sustainability that comes with living rurally.

Residents talked about rural challenges (such as unreliable electricity and difficulty accessing public transit) and emphasized a desire to maintain their self-sufficiency.

Step code and retrofits – 177 comments

Residents are concerned about costs related to building homes, especially when those costs are due to increasing regulations.

There was strong opposition to the possibility of the RDCK implementing new Step Code regulations before being mandated by the Province to do so. Some residents misunderstood that retrofits are voluntary, not mandated.

Water protection and conservation – 170 comments

Residents expressed support for increased conservation education and incentives, although some residents want any conservation to be voluntary.

Residents are concerned about water metering (43) and misunderstood that the RDCK is not able to meter private water systems. Residents also expressed concern for protecting lakes, streams and rivers (53).

Electric vehicles – 164 comments

Residents have numerous concerns with electric vehicles.

They voiced concerns about the Province banning sales of new gas vehicles. They are concerned about EV costs, grid capacity to support them, EV battery costs and disposal, as well as usefulness/efficiency in cold, rural mountainous terrain.

Some residents misunderstood that they will still be able to drive their gas vehicles and that the Provincial regulations are specifically regarding the sale of new vehicles.

Discussion of climate science – 149 comments

While the reasons for why the climate is changing vary amongst residents, many participants acknowledged the reality of a changing climate and want the RDCK to continue its course of action, while others do not.

Renewable energy – 136 comments

Residents shared thoughts on alternative technical solutions (39).

The vast majority of their thoughts on renewable energy were captured in other topics noted, including grid resilience, affordability and having the freedom to choose.

External forces – 129 comments

Some residents are concerned that the RDCK is being unduly influenced or controlled by external forces, such as the Provincial and Federal government, the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.

The majority of these comments (78) are narratives of malevolent forces damaging the environment and harming people.

Grid resilience – 106 comments

Residents cautioned against an over-reliance on electricity.

They are concerned about the impact increased demand for electricity (such as for charging electric vehicles) will have on the reliability of their power supply, especially in rural areas.

Source: Regional District of Central Kootenay

 

Planning the plan

In February 2023 the work began to prepare a four-year climate action plan to look ahead to climate action targets to reduce carbon pollution (greenhouse gas emissions) by 50 per cent below 2018 levels by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2050.

The climate action plan focused on community and corporate low carbon resilience.

“This approach supports communities in advancing towards a strong and adaptable future by bringing together reduction of carbon pollution (climate mitigation), community resilience (climate adaptation) and other local government priorities,” said Paris Marshall Smith, RDCK sustainability planner, at the time.

What was proposed by staff was to fund the development of a guiding plan, of which it was only a small portion of the overall budget, Smith said, which is actually taking action and engaging with the communities.

The intent of the on-going climate action community engagement was twofold, Smith contended: First, to create an internally-embedded RDCK climate action culture that prioritizes low carbon and adaptive measures in all decision making.

“Second, to create an external climate action culture where residents see the RDCK as partner in climate action, a place for information, accountability and coordinated action, with the overall goal of RDCK residents, institutions, and industry having a greater motivation for climate action and commitment to 2030 science-based targets,” she said.

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