As indicators of progress on the way to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, five “Big Moves” have been identified through the draft Climate Action Strategy. (Township screengrab)

Plan to fight climate change gets nod from Langley Township council

The plan looks ahead to 2050 and plans for a zero-carbon future

Langley Township council unanimously approved a plan to tackle the climate crisis and deal with local carbon dioxide emissions at Monday’s meeting.

The plan calls for the Township to slash 45 per cent of carbon emissions across the board – from municipal, business, and household sources – by 2030, just nine years from now. The goal is to get to zero in 29 years.

Community emissions will need to drop by 850,000 tons over the next 10 years to hit the 2030 goal.

“The goal is to get to zero carbon by 2050,” said Ryan Schmidt, the Township’s manager of sustainability.

A public survey of Township residents received 1,649 responses, a high rate of response for a survey in the municipality. It found a high level of support for the Climate Action Strategy (CAS) with:

• 72 per cent in support of the strategy,

• 15 per cent were neutral, and

• 13 per cent were unsupportive

Schmidt said the project will lead to significant, and positive changes for the Township.

“We’ll notice clean air and abundant drinking water, healthy, inclusive and connected communities where residents can walk, bike, or roll to everything they need in their neighbourhoods,” said Schmidt.

It should also lead to healthy populations of local wildlife and prosperity for local farmers, Schmidt said.

Although the Township can’t fix climate change on its own, climate action manager Tess Rouse noted the potential costs of global inaction are local.

More extreme weather is an expected consequence of climate change.

That would mean more storms like the one in January 2020, which swept away culverts, caused mudslides, and damaged roads across the Township.

The repairs needed after that storm cost the Township about $1.2 million so far.

“Therefore the cost of inaction, in terms of recovery, is expected to be more than four times the cost of taking action today,” Rouse said.

The plan is broken down into more than 100 individual actions and five “big moves” laid out in the plan.

The plan contains more than 140 specific actions the Township could take, with many of the measures broken down into five “big moves,” according to a report the mayor and council heard from staff on June 29.

The big moves are:

1 – Safe and sustainable transportation, which would see more than half of passenger trips taken by bus, bike, foot, or electric vehicle, rather than a majority by internal combustion vehicles.

2 – Transition to all new buildings constructed to create zero emissions by 2030. That would mean no new building would depend on fossil fuels for heating, hot water, or cooking.

3 – Zero emission existing buildings – That would see more than half of existing homes, shops, and industrial sites retrofitted to eliminate natural gas and fuel-oil furnaces and water heating systems.

4 – Zero emission operations – The Township is to hit zero emissions by 2040, 10 years ahead of the rest of the community. That means zero emissions from buildings and replacing much of the Township’s vehicle fleet.

5 – Resilient natural systems – This section focuses on creating an increased tree canopy and rainwater capture, to create a more resilient natural environment.

The cost of all of this would be around $130 annually for a representative household over the next 10 years. The cost in 2021 per household is expected to be lower, around $30 to $42 going towards the various projects. Not all of those costs would be new money.

Although council has approved the plan, they have not yet approved any of the spending that will go into budgets in future years. It’s expected that the first Climate Action Plan items will go into the 2022 municipal budget.

Council was broadly supportive of the project.

“This is a living document,” said Mayor Jack Froese, who noted that as time goes on there will be new things that will be incorporated into the strategy.

He also pointed out that the strategy brings together a number of actions in one document, including some policies that are already in place.

Coun. Bob Long noted that the birth of the document was some years ago, and was supported by former Coun. Mel Kositsky.

Climate crisisEnvironmentLangley Townshipmunicipal politics