District of Squamish unveils new climate plan | Squamish Chief

District of Squamish unveils new climate plan

The blueprint is intended to get the town to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

A plan is coming together.

Staff has presented the District of Squamish council with a draft of the highly-anticipated climate action plan, which is intended to put the municipality on track to having net-zero carbon emissions in 2050.

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The plan, presented to council at its meeting on March 10, has been a major point of discussion in council, which ordered its creation after declaring a climate emergency in July 2019. Elected officials gave staff until the end of that year to create a blueprint that would limit carbon emissions in line with the 1.5C threshold outlined by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC.

Earlier that year, the District also created a position for a climate change staffer, who'd be tasked with keeping the municipality's emissions down.

Some delays caused both the staffer and the plan to be pushed back.

However, the waiting was over on March 10. That day, the new municipal climate change staffer, Ian Picketts, presented several recommendations from the plan, developed by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, that would put the town on a greener path.

Picketts is a familiar face. Before this position, he was part of the District's climate leadership team. He's also been teaching at Quest University for years.

He acknowledged some of the steps in the plan will be challenging and spoke of the importance of hitting an intermediate target in 2030.

To achieve IPCC's result, greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease by approximately 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050.

"This is not a plan to fail — this is a plan that acknowledges that we have very ambitious targets that we need to hit," said Picketts.

"That we have to do more, that we need to learn more, that we have to adopt, adapt and iterate. So, we are essentially recognizing that we don't have all the levers and measures in place yet to get us there. However, we plan to continue to work and revise this report so that  we do get there for 2030."

The plan calls for six "big moves" to be implemented so the District can reach its intermediate goals for 2030.

The first calls on the municipality to make a 50% reduction in organics going to the landfill and a 75% improvement in landfill gas capture.

The second recommends that 15% of car trips be replaced with either public transit or active transportation, which generally refers to biking, running or walking.

Another, calls for 90% of passenger vehicles and 25% of commercial vehicles to use low-carbon fuels.

Decarbonizing existing buildings is also another major recommendation. The targets for this goal would be to ensure that 30% of residences and commercial or small-to-medium industrial buildings are heated with low carbon energy.

There's was also a call for zero or near-zero emission buildings. The idea is for all new

buildings to be at least one step ahead of the current B.C. Step Code, which governs environmentally-friendly structures.

Should these recommendations be fulfilled, staff expect that emissions will be reduced by 38% by 2030. That's short of the 45% reduction target, but staff say that's because the municipality is currently limited in its abilities to do more.

Future iterations of the plan will have to figure out how to close the gap, they said.

The plan will make a second appearance before council before receiving its final endorsement.

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