Lily Nurse, three, was one of the youngest protesters at a Climate Strike event at the Township Civic Facility last year. The Township is now moving ahead with a climate action plan. (Langley Advance Times files)

Township council mulls climate action costs

Public consultation begins later this year on a 20-year plan to cut carbon emissions

Langley Township aims to slash greenhouse gas emissions by almost half over the next decade, and to zero over 20 years, with its climate action strategy.

A reduction of 45 per cent in carbon emissions across the board for government, business, and homes in the Township is envisioned by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2040.

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

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.

In fact, close to 70 per cent of the actions in the plan will initiatives that are already going on, or look at programs through a climate change lens, said Tess Rouse, the Township’s manager of climate action.

The Township has already been working towards multiple green initiatives going back years, noted Harb Chohan, the Township’s director of facilities and sustainability. But it hasn’t stopped the increase in carbon emissions in a growing Township.

“In fact, our community emissions have increased by 13 per cent over the last decade,” Chohan said.

The council would eventually vote unanimously to move forward to the next phase of the plan, which is to spend the late summer and fall gathering public feedback and comments. Work on the big moves is anticipated to begin in 2021, pending council’s approval of specific projects.

But cost was a concern for several councillors, including the fact that there is not yet a detailed budget.

“Big moves looks to me like it’s going to be big bucks,” Richter said.

After she made a motion calling for a referral until more financial information can be gathered, staff said they will be able to provide a somewhat more detailed update for council before the August break. But numbers can’t be completely detailed for multiple projects over 20 years.

Staff also emphasized that some funding is expected from the federal and provincial governments, and from Crown corporations like BC Hydro.

Several councillors and staff emphasized that it’s expected to be more costly to start these programs later.

“I think the longer you’re going to wait, the more you’re going to pay,” Long said.

“You’re making an investment now, to save costs down the road,” said Chohan.

It was also noted during discussion that some expenditures will lead to long-term energy savings, as with a decision this year by the Township to replace all its street lights with LED lights. The upfront cost will be saved over the next few years through much lower power bills.

Several councillors noted that they knew there would be costs to any climate change strategy.

“I think every council member knew this was not just meant to be a political statement, but it was actually meant to be something that we would move forward on, and a new way of living in our community,” said Coun. Blair Whitmarsh.

The changes required will mean some line items will have to be in every budget for the next few decades, such as replacing older vehicle with electric ones, noted Coun. David Davis.

He also noted that saving energy came naturally when resources were scarce.

When he was a boy, “I went to turn up the thermostat, and grandma turned it down and put a sweater on me,” Davis said.

Climate changeLangleyLangley Townshipmunicipal politics

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