Edmonton releases climate change adaptation plan

A city plan for adapting to climate change was released Thursday, but there may not be any funds to move it forward in the upcoming four-year budget cycle.

The city’s climate change adaptation and action plan will be presented to council’s executive committee on Tuesday.

The plan identifies 18 “actions” to tackle adapting to climate change, which were identified in part by a survey that found 73 per cent of Edmontonians are concerned and want to see action on climate change.

“The citizens here recognize that climate change is something we need to pay attention to,” deputy city manager Paul Ross said Monday.

To “accelerate” the steps outlined in the plan, costs for hiring staff and contracting experts were put forward in the proposed 2019-2022 operating budget, but administration categorized those as “unfunded,” which means city council would have to either find or reallocate funds from elsewhere in the budget to make it happen.

But Ross said they understand the plan is a long-term strategy that weaves into other city initiatives and plans, and that there are other, creative means by which the city can get to work if funding doesn’t come through in the budget this time around.

“We also know that if there aren’t opportunities this time around, that there are other funding sources that we’ll continue to access,” he said.

Some of the actions identified in the plan are specific, such as developing community “resilience hubs” that will help residents cope with extreme weather, working with Epcor on plans to deal with flooding and drought, and creating a “Cool Edmonton” program to fight off an urban heat island effect if temperatures soar.

But other actions are vague, such as stating intentions for Edmonton to be a leader on climate change adaptation and to work with communities, businesses and institutions on climate change resiliency.

The plan ranks changing temperatures, precipitation, extreme weather, and a changing ecosystem as the greatest risks Edmonton faces.

And the cost of doing nothing on climate change ranks into the billions of dollars, said Chandra Tomaras, the city’s program manager of environmental strategies.

If Edmonton doesn’t take any action, its GDP could be reduced by $3.2 billion annually on average by the 2050s, and an additional 22,000 “health incidents” per year could be expected by that time. Those effects were determined by working with climate scientists and experts, Tomaras said.

The plan is one of several that the city is required to create and file with the province, all of which will be presented to council prior to the deadline of 2020.

pparsons@postmedia.com 

twitter.com/paigeeparsons

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