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  • Gayle Baker

Just Another Plan? What is Unique About our Climate Action Plan?

January 29

Seventeen gathered via Zoom, welcoming some of the many authors of our soon-to-be-released Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2.0. We celebrated the completion of this audacious plan, taking thousand of hours of volunteer work researching and writing as well as outreach to over 2,000 members of our community, government officials, and a wide variety of local nonprofits. Darryl Martin (Chair) joined us as well as authors Simon Wheeler, Peter Lamb, and Jim Standen. We learned that the very best way to get a copy as soon as it is available (estimated to be within the next few weeks) is to sign up on the Transition Salt Spring (TSS) mailing list: https://transitionsaltspring.com.

We also learned that it is a long document - over 100 pages - but that segments are downloadable separately. This will allow readers to begin by selecting only, for example, the Executive Summary (a mere five pages) and then proceeding to download chapters of most interest to them. Even this segmenting strategy may not work for all as one participant said, I will not read the entire report: Just give me the 10 things that I need to do!

The conversation began with transportation, and we learned that the focus was upon active transportation, such as walking and cycling, as well as the electrification of all vehicles. Salt Spring leads North America in its number of electric passenger vehicles per capita, currently approximately 300. Free chargers are available in Portlock Park and a variety of public spots as well as five bed and breakfasts, thanks, in part, to funding support from CRD Director, Gary Holman, who also joined us for this ASK Salt Spring gathering.

Despite the availability of these car chargers, TSS Electric Vehicle (EV) Group lead, Jim, warned us that some are getting old, often in need of repair. He also reported the discouraging news of too-frequent vandalism, especially to the Artspring charger. While he said that his hardworking Electric Vehicle Group has so far been able to fix these ailing chargers, there is concern over their ongoing repair needs.

The EV Group provides support for electric vehicle owners as well as those considering a purchase. They provide regular training sessions, EV 101 in the Library when gathering is permitted and, recently, Zoom gatherings, Ask an Expert. For more information, check out: https://www.ssiev.ca. The move toward electric vehicles is building locally, provincially, federally, and even internationally: We learned that General Motors just announced that by 2025, 25% of their cars will be electric and that, by 2035, they will no longer make cars with tailpipes.

While electric passenger vehicles are central to Salt Spring’s climate initiatives, Jim told us that a focus of the EV Group is also on our higher use vehicles, such as delivery vehicles and taxis. They produce the greatest emissions and would provide the greatest benefit by going electric. Challenges concerning their electrification include installing high-speed Level 3 charging facilities.

Neighbourhood electric vehicles are also in the sights of the EV Group. While these local vehicles, somewhat along the lines of golf carts, are not yet legal on our streets, the Motor Vehicles Department is currently working with communities, like Victoria, to pilot their use. It is hoped that, after the results of this pilot have been analyzed, laws prohibiting them will be changed.

Reduced speed limits are central to the legalization of these neighbourhood elective vehicles. Reducing speed limits is also important in lowering emissions and increasing active transportation safety. As a result, there is a great deal of interest in reducing speed limits, especially in Ganges. Exploration of this has preliminary support from elected officials as well as staff. The Motor Vehicles Department is currently developing another pilot study in response to requests from many BC communities for reduced speed limits. It is expected that a Request for Proposals for this pilot study will be released this spring, and Salt Spring may consider submitting an application.

Enhancing active transportation (often pedestrian and cycling) options is crucial to reducing our emissions. Efforts to increase active transportation are top priorities for the Transportation Commission, celebrating the long-awaited completion pf the North Ganges Transportation Project and hoping to also celebrate the completion of the Booth Canal to Central pathway this spring. Despite these successes, repaving of Ganges Hill (from the village to Cranberry Road) - with the addition of bike lanes and, hopefully, a pedestrian pathway on the west side - is facing both delays as well as challenges. Smaller pathway projects are also underway, such as Island Pathways’ Merchant Mews project as well as the acquisition of a pathway at Whims Road built by concerned parents decades ago.

One central CAP 2.0 goal is to reduce Salt Spring’s emissions by over 50% by 2030. That raised the question: What is our emission baseline? It was noted that it had been extremely difficult to get emissions data from the province. While updates were promised, these updates ceased in 2010 and did not begin again until 2018. In 2018, Salt Springers produced 31,700 tonnes of Co2-equivalent. This statistic was determined by comparing multiple sources, especially the statistics derived from a CRD-commissioned study.

When asked whether we could count upon large reductions each year until 2030, we were told that significant reductions could take a while and that big initiatives to reduce our emissions are unlikely to begin this year. The reasons for this are the unavailability of electric cargo vans, one of our big polluters, as well as delays(for at least several years) electrifying School District and BC Transit buses. When these big fleets are electrified, it is expected that our emissions will decrease dramatically.

One participant voiced his weariness with plans, plans, and more plans with little result. What is different about this climate action plan? Won’t it sit on the shelf like the previous one without any significant implementation? The response was that , while this is always a possibility, three factors are promising:

  1. The urgent need for climate action has finally come to the top of political priorities with funding to support a wide variety of initiatives.

  2. Unlike the previous CAP plan, TSS is newly-reorganized, energetic, and committed to take the lead developing the partnerships needed to make a significant impact.

  3. With improved technology, many of these climate action recommendations are now simply good business. For example, electrification is proving to be a fiscally profitable option, and green approaches to local food supply as well as waste also have significant economic benefits.

One participant questioned why TSS was asking the community for money to implement CAP 2.0 when a clear strategic plan for implementation has not yet been shared. This participant queried: You must know what you need the money for if you are asking for it, yes? In response, we learned that TSS is currently seeking core funding to develop partnerships as well as identifying funding for specific projects to address the many recommendations in CAP 2.0. While activities in all sectors will be pursued, the critical importance of implementing initiatives that protect our forests and water are very high priorities.

TSS can only be a catalyst, real change will require work by all levels of government as well as individuals to - together - address CAP 2.0 recommendations and achieve significant emission reductions. Gary Holman was acknowledged for his active support from the beginning, both in supporting the development of CAP 2.0 as well as funding a number of climate action initiatives through Community Works Funds (commonly known as gas tax,) and Grants-in-Aid.

One difference between the first CAP plan in 2011 and CAP 2.0 is that the 2011 plan focused on the actions of individuals. CAP 2.0 recognizes the centrality of all levels of governments in achieving success. It also addresses the reality that certain climate changes will impact Salt Spring no matter how successful our efforts. As a result of this conclusion, CAP 2.0 also offers recommended adaptions needed to thrive in our changed world.

While skepticism about any significant climate action change is reasonable, it was noted that the world is changing. Finally, green approaches are often the most fiscally-responsible ones. With rebates and grants added to the equation, the time is perfect for making many more decision through a green lens. Businesses required to make fiscally-sound decisions, like BC Transit and Harbour Air, are recognizing that, over the long-term, electrification is simply good business.

While goals increasing local food production from its current 10% have challenges, we have made some significant progress, unique in such a small community. These include: an abattoir; allotment farms at both Burgoyne farm and Rainbow Road Pool; ROOT, a community storage and processing facility soon to open; and vibrant Farmers’ markets twice a week throughout our growing seasons.

While developing a complete local waste cycle system is fraught with challenges, Gary assured us that he is confident that we will have a composting facility this year. Predicted to be located in the Burgoyne Valley, it is expected to be managed through a partnership with the Farmland Trust, the abattoir, and Community Services, but specific roles are still being negotiated. A determined groups of citizens are working hard to overcome challenges. It currently appears that a Temporary Use permit may be needed while zoning changes are in process. The abattoir has already secured funding for this composting facility, and additional grants are being sought from Clean BC as well as other funding sources.

Designed, at least initially, to address the needs of the abattoir and large producers of green waste like Country Grocer and Thrifty’s, there is hope that this composing facility could eventually also serve individual users, like the many residents of multi-family housing that are not permitted to compost.

There is also interest in developing chipping service(s), but it does not appear that there is a group organized to establish such a service. It was noted that TSS’s Native Plant Society partnered with the Fire Department to offer chipping services last year. It is hoped that a mobile service will soon be available on a permanent basis.

It was noted by a participant that, while chipping is ecologically-better than burning, (the most destructive to our environment of all options), biochar (https://regenerationinternational.org/2018/05/16/what-is-biochar/),holds great potential to recycle green waste. We all agreed that more education is needed to fully-utilize this promising option.

We also learned that Salt Springers pay over $300,000 each year to truck all of our effluent off-island (to be treated and used for agriculture in Chemainus) - an ecologically damaging practice on so many levels. Progress getting a local facility for our effluent at the Burgoyne facility is slow, but progress is being made.

Before any changes to the treatment and disposition of liquid waste at the Burgoyne site can be pursued, the old sewage lagoons abandoned in the 90’s need to be decommissioned. Shallow wells are being dug to make sure there are no remaining contaminants in the lagoons. If the results are clear, the lagoons will finally be decommissioned. As 95% of the effluent trucked off-island is liquid, an initial plan may be to try to dewater it using simple technology. This liquid effluent would be treated locally, immediately reducing the amount trucked off-island dramatically.(Note: For more information about our composting and effluent, you may want to see the October 30 ASK Salt Spring report with Mary Richardson as our special guest: asksaltspring.com.)

When a participant asked where she could find a list of our local nonprofits and what each of them are doing, she was told that, currently, no such a comprehensive listing exists. (Note: The most complete listing can be found in the Lions Directory.) But, United Way’s bc211 has the potential to fill this niche. The advantages of this service are:

  • The on-line listing is easily-searchable,

  • Messaged responses to questions are available 24/7,

  • Professionally trained phone operators also answer questions 24/7, and

  • Funding is available for annual updates.

Unfortunately, Salt Spring nonprofits were not well-represented when bc211 was analyzed last year. ASK Salt Spring volunteers identified over 200 Salt Spring nonprofits that were not listed. Due to outreach and bc211 efforts, that list has been reduced to approximately 70 yet-unlisted local nonprofits. Work to encourage these remaining nonprofits to register (it is free) is on-going. Help is always welcome: ask@asksaltspring.com :)

CAP 2.0 authors reminded us that our forests are our biggest hope for reducing emissions. While we always mourn the loss of forests and want to protect more, we learned that Salt Sporing has done remarkably-well protecting large expanses of forests, totaling thousands of acres. One current victory is the widespread community support for the Watershed Protection Society’s (WPS) recent purchase of 20-acres on Beddis Road to protect it from ever being logged. A member of the WPS spoke, also, about negotiations to purchase conservation covenants on the forested sections of several additional properties. While many have been discouraged about Salt Spring’s inability to mandate better forrest management, this WPS victory was acknowledged as a very positive outcome.

We were reminded that the method of disposing of trees is really important to our emission-reduction efforts. The easiest way - slash and burn - is the worst for our environment. While chipping is not perfect, it is better than burning. Leaving fallen trees to rot is a good option environmentally when practical. And, while biochar may not be as practical on a large scale, it is among the very best ways to sequester carbon.

As 1:00 approached, we thanked our guests for their hard work producing CAP 2.0 as well as for their visit to ASK Salt Spring to help us to learn about this plan. ASK Salt Spring volunteers were also acknowledged, with one participant saying, Fridays are now my favourite day of the week!

Please join us Friday, February 5 from 11-1 to welcome our MLA Adam Olsen back for his first 2021 visit! Bring your questions, eagerness to learn from him and others, and enthusiasm to participate in what is likely to be another of our spirited and enlightening ASK Salt Spring gatherings with Adam

To join:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83173679715?pwd=QnU0dFBJbkEwMkY5T2VYUXFiSmxuZz09

Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

asksaltspring.com

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We would love your receipts! Remember: #15


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