Halifax regional council has reinforced its plan to tackle climate change in the first council meeting of the year.
On Tuesday, council passed a motion on a new ecological lens. It directs the chief administrative officer (CAO) to bring in guidelines for the environmental implications section of future reports.
It also suggests the CAO develop mandatory training for staff around those new guidelines, as well as additional resources and requirements for environmental decision-making. The council passed the motion without a discussion.
Although there was no discussion on the motion, the topic of climate change was brought up several times during the special budget committee meeting, just before the regular council meeting.
Councillors weigh in on climate change priorities
Coun. Sam Austin voiced his concern on the issue in the meeting.
“COVID will pass. We have an economic impact of that to linger for years here. But the biggest crisis of them all is the one that threatens our civilization on this planet is climate change,” he said.
The municipality’s long-term climate change plan is to cut total CO2 emissions by 75 per cent by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
In the budget meeting, CAO Jacques Dubé presented the 2021-2025 Strategic Initiatives towards Net-Zero Emissions plan, which includes: energy retrofits of municipal buildings, net-zero new constructions, community retrofits, renewable programs, and decarbonizing transportation and public transit.
Climate plan projects thousands of new jobs
The overall climate change plan states that not only will tackling climate change promote sustainable development and protect the environment, but it also improves the economy.
A projected $22 billion will be saved in energy expenditures in Halifax between 2020 and 2050. New and existing industries will also promise to generate approximately 170,000 new jobs over a span of 30 years.
A lot of work still needs to be done to achieve net-zero emissions. For instance, it was acknowledged in the budget meeting that buildings were one of the largest generators of greenhouse gas emissions, and replacing them would require a big investment.
“I do believe we need to be very aggressive in our green plan. I think we can still achieve net-zero. It just means we have to work harder in other places to offset pollution in others,” said Coun. Patty Cuttell.
The mandatory training for staff has not yet been developed. In an email, HRM spokesperson Klara Needler said the municipality will provide staff with resources such as training webinars.
The training for ecological lens would be mandatory for all new and current staff.
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