Tag Archives: climate action

Climate adaptation collaboration

Sandy spurs Saanich, Victoria to talk sea change

Bill Cleverley , The Victoria Times Colonist November 25, 2012

Arguing recent events like hurricane Sandy can’t be ignored, Victoria, Saanich and the Capital Regional District will team up to assess, map and start to prepare to manage effects of rising sea levels brought on by climate change.

Proposals to produce a regional map of areas vulnerable to coastal flooding and to draft a model bylaw to assist in the management of flood hazard areas were endorsed this week at a joint meeting of Saanich and Victoria councils. It was the third time the municipalities have held a joint meeting.

“All of the best available science from leading experts in this region tells us we are already experiencing climate impacts here and we will continue to do so,” Roy Brooke, Victoria’s director of sustainability, told the meeting.

“Heat waves, flooding, changes to the natural environment, sea-level rise will all mean we have to change how we do our business as individuals, municipalities and communities.”

Taking action now instead of reacting to impacts later can save taxpayers dollars, he said.

“Even by the most conservative [estimates], even spending $1 now can save $4, $5, or $6 or more dollars in the future in terms of disaster impacts we don’t need to respond to, not to mention the human toll,” Brooke said.

Predictions are that local sea levels will rise by 45 centimetres by 2050. Some estimates have levels rising by as much as one metre by 2100.

“We recognize that response and recovery from hurricane Sandy has basically fallen on municipal governments,” said Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.

All the councillors praised staff for being proactive in drafting the proposals.

Some cautioned, how-ever, that making plans is one thing. Getting the public to buy-in is quite another.

“This is vital work but I think there will be a long process of public discussion about how to react,” said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, adding governments don’t have a great track record with this type of planning.

“The experience has been it’s very easy to point out someone is building their summer cottage on a sand bank that’s likely to wash away, but it’s very hard to take the next step of figuring what to do with it,” Young said.

Saanich Coun. Vic Der-man said estimates of sea level rise are conservative and greenhouse gas mitigation efforts need to be stepped up.

“It wasn’t that long ago, just a few years ago, that the estimates for sea level rise by 2100 was 38 centimetres. I remember at the time saying to a number of people this is probably really conservative because the climate change models are very conservative,” Derman said.

Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock said the collaborative effort is overdue.

“I think it’s tremendous we are moving forward. I agree with comments made earlier. Isn’t it remarkable how far we’ve moved from a discussion about ‘Is this happening,’ to recognizing the reality, particularly as a coastal community that it is happening.

“The evidence is more than just speculative. We can see it.”

The mapping initiative with the CRD as the lead agency is seen as a two-year project costing $100,000.

Natural Resources Canada is considering funding $50,000, and $20,000 has been requested from Tides Canada. In-kind resources will come from the CRD, Saanich and Victoria for the balance of the funds.

Drafting a model bylaw is expected to take one year and cost about $45,000.

The hope is Natural Resources Canada will fund half of that, with the CRD, Victoria and Saanich each contributing $3,500 cash as well as in-kind resources.

Supporting local growers avoids global food spikes

Price of food goes up with the temperature
U.S. drought caused by extreme heat a sign of things to come, expert says
By Jeff Bell, Times Colonist August 19, 2012

The high price of corn, driven up by a searing drought in the United States, could be an indicator of more problems to come, says the executive director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions.

Tom Pedersen, who is based at the University of Victoria, says high temperatures in the States have taken their toll on corn crops. As a result, corn was at its highest price ever at the end of July, which was the hottest July in the continental United States since weather statistics have been recorded.

“It’s an extreme heat wave,” Pedersen said. “I can’t claim that it’s because of human-induced global warming, but what the scientific community would claim with extreme confidence is that what we’ve done is ‘loaded the dice.’ We can anticipate increasing frequency of heat waves like this, these extreme temperature events, in the future.”

Pedersen recalled the scenario in 2008, when rising corn prices led to riots in Mexico and across West Africa. In Canada, crop failures caused food inflation to go up by as much as 7.9 per cent.

“We might see a several per cent increase in our food costs here, but if you look at a country like Kenya or Mexico or Zambia – which have a corn-dominated basis for their nutritional supply – then the implications for those countries are far more severe than it is for us.”

Saanich Coun. Dean Murdock, whose interest is linked to his chairman’s role in the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee, said the prominence of corn in many foods and its use as feed for livestock means store prices could take a real hit.

“It’s going to drive up the price of everything from cereal to meat. You can’t really avoid it at the grocery store.”

While it’s hard to say when the impact of damaged American crops could hit here, price jumps as high as four per cent were predicted for next year. Meat prices could rise even more.

“It’s a bit like earthquake-preparedness,” Murdock said. “It maybe isn’t top-of-mind until something major happens.”

Agriculture Minister Don McRae said in a statement that the diversity of B.C.’s food supply will make a difference in how any droughtrelated issues are felt.

“While B.C. consumers are affected by the laws of supply and demand, our agrifoods sector is Canada’s most diverse and produces a large variety of fresh and healthy foods.”

He said local food supply has taken on added prominence in recent years.

“The number of farmers’ markets has doubled in the last decade, and more and more artisan food producers are starting businesses in B.C. all the time,” McRae said. “With more than 200 commodities produced on land, and a further 100 from the sea, British Columbians have many locally grown options to consider for their meals, and changes in the availability of U.S. products may lead British Columbians to explore and enjoy more local foods.”

Still, climbing food costs bring international issues directly to Canadian dinner tables, Murdock said.

“From a regional perspective, it raises awareness about food security and the implications of global-commodity markets and food prices, right here on the Island.”

Thrifty Foods spokesman Ralf Mundel said the company is considering the implications for corn on two fronts: as a raw material in a range of products and as a key ingredient in locally produced baked goods.

He said the company has been told price increases are coming.

“However, as is typically the case, because we operate in an extremely competitive environment, the supply chain does try to absorb as much of the cost as possible. That being said, from a packaged-goods point of view, it’s a wait-and-see.”

Increases could show up sooner in baked goods, Mundel said. Otherwise, he said, the company is in a good position in terms of produce and other fresh foods because of its emphasis on buying from B.C.

“It really allows us to mitigate the effects of the U.S. situation,” Mundel said.

Murdock said there are lessons to be learned from the effect that outside forces have on our food supply.

“We likely will never be able to avoid [price increases] completely, but one of the ways to get around the uncertainty in the food prices is to bolster local food production.”

That has already been done to a certain extent, but what is happening in the United States “elevates the urgency,” Murdock said.

Local government can take action, he said.

“One of the ways that I think we can do that is not just deny applications to move land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve or the Urban Containment Boundary, but also try to make it more profitable for people to stay in the farming industry.

“You do that by creating a marketplace, creating locations where farmers can sell their goods locally, giving an advantage to local producers when you do your purchasing,” he said.

“Saanich is walking the talk with a local food-procurement policy that gives preference to local producers when we’re buying food for our events or at rec centres.”

Saanich Voice Online looks at green roofs

Up On The Roof
P.C. King, Citizen Journalist

In earlier times the area known as Central Saanich was considered the breadbasket for what is now the Capital Regional District (CRD).

Today, the breadbasket for our region could extend to the rooftops, according to Saanich Councillor Dean Murdock. By developing rooftop gardens, communities could begin utilizing large areas of ‘empty space’. Although rooftop gardening is relatively new to the Saanich Peninsula, green roofs are not a new idea to communities around the world.

Murdock believes that rooftops are one of the best places to grow crops in Saanich. Murdock would like Saanich Council to introduce rooftop gardens as an amenity included in part of the guidelines for large-scale developments.

“We can turn acres of asphalt into green space and vegetable gardens,” Councillor Murdock stated. “Green roofs allow urban residents to grow their own food, and help reduce our carbon footprint.”

Councillor Murdock is not alone. A sustainable, food producing rooftop garden, or greenhouse, is a concept being considered all over the world.

In Montreal one company is growing crops of vegetables and herbs in a vast greenhouse built on top of an office building. In Chicago, the City Hall grows 20,000 plants (over 150 varieties) on their 20,300 square foot rooftop. The Urban Habitat Chicago (UHC) works diligently with the City Hall Planning Department before any of their rooftop projects begin. Permits are issued only for projects that meet strict standards and reflect careful architectural planning by certified structural engineers. The screening, planning, and building process is thorough… leaky condos need not apply.

(http://www.urbanhabitatchicago.org/blog/getting-started-on-a-rooftop-agriculture-project/ )
(website of Chicago City Hall) http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/city/en/depts/doe/supp_info/city_hall_rooftopgardendesignandconstruction.html

Rooftop gardening is different from garden allotments at ground level, and is not a simple backyard vegetable patch or a weekend do-it-yourself home handyman project. However, a rooftop garden is possible for private yards and home owners and not just large development projects.

Green roofs can be installed on various types of structures, flat or sloped. Extensive green roofs require less soil (1-5 inches) where intensive roofs can be deeper and allow for more plants.

To add a rooftop garden to an existing building the support structure would need redesigning to meet the different load requirement of either an intensive or extensive rooftop garden. Local green roof expert Kevin Kersten, shares his knowledge of these issues on his website www.bcgreenroofs.ca. Kevin and Karina’s business, BC Greenroofs Consulting, was nominated for an Ecostar award in 2010 for their goal of preserving the natural environment and improving the quality of life. They assisted with the development of a small green roof on the vegetable market stand located at the Vantreight Farm.

Although installing green roofs on existing buildings may be more challenging, for new buildings the engineering and architectural aspects can easily be incorporated at the initial planning stage.

As an amenity for new developments, our municipalities are searching for ways to develop more green spaces. As suggested by Councillor Murdock, municipalities would be addressing this need by encouraging projects such as green roofs.

As Kevin Kersten points out, “It is not complicated but one must consider the things that matter—attention to detail, safety…and what it will look like in the future…with some creativity green roofs are not only for the big projects anymore. With our concept of going green, a small step at a time, you can enjoy a green roof in your own back yard.”

Rooftop gardens are not (as yet) going to displace agricultural or rural landscapes. They will not threaten the need for farmers or farming communities. The benefits include living green spaces, small scale food production, insulating properties for the building, and practical storm water management with drought-tolerant native planting.

With careful planning rooftop gardening is not far “outside the box.” Municipalities can begin working with consultants such as BC Greenroofs to initiate the future development of agricultural use of the vast empty space on your roof.

Greening Saanich rooftops

Saanich to consider encouraging green roofs for future developments
CFAX 1070 February 12, 2012

Roofs in Saanich could get a little greener, this after council supported a recommendation on considering the encouragement of including rooftop gardens on multi-family or commercial developments in the district.

Councillor Dean Murdock says the recommendation was brought forward by the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee, and was supported unanimously.

“it was, I think, a very healthy discussion about some of the outcomes, both expected and unanticipated about including green roofs, and making sure that before we move forward we have a careful look at what the options are, what the impacts are in it, both financial and social and of course having discussion with industry experts about exactly what the conditions would be for West Coast buildings to have green roofs”

Murdock says it is an opportunity to encourage food security, by creating additional green space and growing opportunities in the community. He says there are also environmental benefits to green roofs as they capture storm water, and they help to save energy by keeping hot and cool air inside buildings.

Future green space could be up on the roof

Saanich rooftops could provide local food security
Kyle Slavin, Saanich News

Saanich councillor Dean Murdock is pushing to make rooftop gardens much more commonplace in the municipality.

Murdock, who chairs the Healthy Saanich Advisory Committee, was expected on Monday to ask for support on a recommendation to have green roofs become part of the development guidelines for multi-family residential and commercial projects.

“There are a number of benefits to it. Obviously the food security aspect of providing some growing space in an urban environment … where you’ve got a lot of concrete or asphalt,” Murdock said. “Green roofs are also great for capturing and retaining stormwater and retaining hot and cold air, helping to reduce the energy consumption of the building.”

A green roof can be either intensive (a thicker layer of soil to grow plants and vegetables) or extensive (a thin layer of soil to grow grass or light vegetation). Murdock sees the most value in an intensive green roof, which is more like a garden.

He doesn’t want to see rooftop plots as a mandatory building element, he said. Rather, he’d like to see them suggested to developers as a sustainable amenity on buildings.

Saanich already has more than a handful of buildings with green rooftops: the Social Sciences and Mathematics building at UVic has eight green roofs, while Tri-Eagle Development’s Raven building on West Saanich Road also has one.

“My hope is that this will encourage the idea that this is something that would be a benefit in Saanich, and support our values of food security and environmental stewardship,” Murdock said.

Let’s avoid another tragic spill! Check your oil tank!

Have you got a household oil tank? Better check it for leaks!

Don’t know how? Check out these helpful tips: http://www.saanich.ca/living/environment/pdf/otank.pdf

Did you know that heating with oil produces more greenhouse gas emissions than natural gas or electricty? It can also be quite expensive!

Convert to a heat pump, natural gas, or hydro electricity and you could be eligible for up to $2,000 in rebates!
The provincial Livesmart and federal EcoEnergy programmes offer about $1250 to convert to natural gas and $2000 for a heat pump.

You can also get up to $1,000 from FortisBC to switch to natural gas. http://www.fortisbc.com/NaturalGas/Homes/Offers/SwitchNShrink/Pages/default.aspx

Think about making the switch today.

Saanich News: Climate Change

We asked the Saanich mayor and council candidates to provide their thoughts and strategies on climate change.

Dean Murdock, council candidate:

Our temperate climate and abundant natural beauty make Saanich a great place to live. The global climate is under threat and we must take local actions to combat climate change to preserve the remarkable climate we all enjoy. Nearly two-thirds of our emissions come from automobiles. Cutting those emissions requires investment in better public transit, sidewalks, bike lanes and trails. We have to raise our green building standards, create rebates and incentives for residential energy-saving renovations, create incentives for green residential and commercial development projects, and discourage further sprawl by encouraging development in major centres.

An independent evaluation will prove LRT benefits

We know that other cities have seen incredible economic growth as a result of rail systems in their major corridors. We know that LRT can reduce emissions significantly and can do a lot to encourage new ridership — as much as double ridership — bringing more convenience and lower car-dependence to thousands of individuals and families.

Here in our region, we need an independent review of the proposed regional LRT system to give the public and decision-makers the information we need to evaluate these extraordinary benefits and the estimated costs to build and operate the system.

For me, there are four main components that need to be evaluated before we can proceed.

The first is finding potential cost savings. Let’s have an evaluation of the selection criteria to see what was required in choosing the technology. I’m confident that a line-by-line breakdown of the costs will reveal areas where money can be saved.

The second component is evaluating the economic spinoffs. We’ve seen rail systems in cities like Vancouver, Portland, Calgary, and Montréal, generate new economic development. LRT will certainly have a positive economic impact in our region. Let’s look at the potential for economic growth to understand what we can look forward to.

The third component is an assessment of the environmental benefits. An electric rail system is more energy-efficient than diesel buses. Let’s calculate what kind of emission reductions we will see by replacing dozens of diesel buses with electric rail and by attracting new riders away from their cars and onto LRT.

The final component is ridership projections. Estimates of thousands of new commuters and doubled ridership need to be proven. Salt Lake City achieved its 10-year ridership projections on the first day of its service and the Canada Line in Vancouver has already surpassed its five-year ridership projections. Let’s look at the projections for the proposed system to see how they compare and if they’re realistic.

An independent review will ensure that we maximize the potential benefits of LRT and minimize its potential costs. It will demonstrate the true value for taxpayers and the soundness of the investment for our region.

Dean Murdock
Saanich Councillor

Regional leaders supporting LRT

Politicans join call for light rail transit in Greater Victoria
By Bill Cleverley, Times Colonist

Standing on a busy downtown sidewalk with transit buses rumbling by, politicians from three levels of government said the time has come for light rail transit in Greater Victoria.

Light rail transit “is the most cost effective form of transportation for our future in the region,” said MP Denise Savoie (NDP-Victoria).

“In public transit’s analysis — by any long shot — LRT trumps the bus rapid transit and that’s important. The economic benefits are clear: $1.4 billion in economic benefits,” she said.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission, the Capital Regional District and the B.C. Transit Board have all endorsed plans for a $950-million light rail system between Victoria and Langford, but say they need support from senior levels of government.

Savoie said LRT cannot be funded through gas taxes or property taxes alone but senior governments have funds that could be tapped.

“The fact is, the money is there. From a federal perspective, the Building Canada fund has budgeted from 2007 to 2014 $10 billion and we know that one of the sub-funds still has 90 per cent unclaimed. So there’s $1 billion in one of the sub-funds that just hasn’t been touched.”

Savoie was flanked by Randall Garrison (NDP-Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca), New Democrat MLA Rob Fleming (Victoria-Swan Lake), Saanich councillor and CRD director Judy Brownoff, Victoria councillor and Victoria Regional Transit commissioner John Luton and Saanich councillor Dean Murdock.

The group supports the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce’s call for a third party review of B.C. Transit’s LRT plan. “I don’t know how many people need to be on transit every day in order for that system to be economically viable,” said Chamber CEO Bruce Carter. “I don’t know what that assumption is and what happens if we don’t make it. Those are the types of things we need to understand as well as construction risks.”

Savoie and the others say they are confident any independent analysis would validate the benefits.

“We know other jurisdictions have seen incredible economic growth as a result of rail based systems in their major corridors. We know that it can reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably and we know it can do a lot to encourage new ridership — in fact double ridership,” said Murdock.

The chamber has endorsed the idea of holding a referendum on LRT — an idea floated by Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard for November’s municipal elections.

But the LRT backers gathered Tuesday were cool to the idea. “I think that would be premature. I don’t think there is a question,” said Fleming. “We have to have further discussions between the three levels of government and cement the partnership further and look at the financing.”

Brownoff, speaking as a CRD representative, said the Douglas Street corridor is plugging up. “Before long the commute time [from the West Shore to downtown Victoria] will be 80 minutes. That’s not sustainable or healthy for this region.”

The LRT proposal is facing opposition from the CRD Business and Residential Taxpayers’ Association. “The LRT will become a yoke around the taxpayer’s neck when costs go over budget, when ridership and revenue do not materialize, when the transit company drops bus routes and cuts service to trim costs and when infrastructure projects are delayed, becoming even more costly,” association chairman Bev Highton has said.