Can you present yourself for those who do not know you?
Nanaimo Climate Action Hub is a non-profit, grassroots, membership driven organization with the goal of advancing climate action in Nanaimo and the surrounding areas through advocacy, local initiatives, and collaboration with other organizations. We are a non-partisan organization, working with elected officials, community leaders and local citizens in the interest of fighting the climate emergency. We have approximately 90 members and over 400 people on our mailing list. https://www.nanaimoclimateaction.org/
Can you explain what is the Zero Carbon Step Code and why it is an important initiative to reduce energy use and carbon emissions?
The Zero Carbon Step Code is a new provincial building code regulation implemented in BC earlier this year (https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023ENV0030-000653) which allows cities to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from new residences. The provincial regulation works to ramp up the reductions in four steps to a zero-carbon level by 2030. The city of Nanaimo, following the lead of other municipalities here on Vancouver Island and throughout the province, were voting to fast forward when the maximum reductions would be implemented from the provincially set date of 2030 to July of 2024.
You have been working hard to implement the Zero Carbon Step Code and your local council passed it. Congratulations!! What can you tell us about the relationships you have built with municipality staff and your local council and what has been done to push for the implementation of the Zero Carbon Step Code?
Since our founding in 2020, one of the goals of the Nanaimo Climate Action Hub has been to develop and maintain positive relationships with city staff, councilors and citizens. We meet regularly with government officials at the city, provincial and federal levels to discuss our priorities and the direction of the plans. We were able to participate in development and feedback of the city plan last year and encouraged our membership and mailing list to do so as well. Many times, the elected officials have told us that the many letters and emails they have received at the encouragement of the Nanaimo Climate Action Hub have allowed them to confidently vote in favor of climate positive policies. Often city councils receive mostly negative feedback and correspondence, often from a very small segment of the voting populace, so having positive, encouraging feedback is refreshing and helpful. The councilors do their best to vote for the best interests of the citizens but need to see what the voters want as well in order to make decisions.
Most of our campaigning has been through messaging our mailing list and social media as well as print media to encourage people to communicate their support of this regulation to their elected officials at every step of the process. So far, this has included the initial committee that made the recommendation to council and at the council meeting in which this was voted upon in August. We encouraged our members and people who receive our newsletters to send communications as well as attend the council and committee meetings and speak in support as a delegation at the meetings.
What are the difficulties you have faced and your most significant successes while trying to implement the Zero Carbon Step Code in Nanaimo?
Many times, most of the difficulties are related to misinformation or simply a lack of information. When pushing for climate positive changes, the oil and gas industry pushes hard to slow down the changes and encourages dissent wherever it can. In this case, many builders were encouraged to express concern due to financial concerns which were mostly unfounded since most buildings being built in Nanaimo would already meet the highest level of regulation.
At the council meeting in which the Zero Carbon Step Code was passed, of the 25 delegations, most were in favor of passing the policy and council voted to implement this code in July of 2024, six years earlier than the province was going to require it.
The implementation of the Zero Carbon Step Code is a great example of how municipalities can play a crucial role in addressing climate change. What are the next local policy solutions for the municipality of Nanaimo? What will be the next initiative of the Nanaimo Climate Action Hub to push for more climate action at the local level?
The bylaw will enter its first of four readings at the City Council meeting on September 25. Provided it does not get amended during that meeting or at further readings, this will become bylaw in our city. After that there are a number of policy solutions being worked on in the city and region. I believe our region is on the forefront of Climate Advocacy. The city plan is a great example of weaving climate solutions into the guiding documents for the staff. There are many ongoing changes being made to include active transportation into city infrastructure (Metral, Beban, etc), very forward-thinking waste management plans and many more initiatives. The Nanaimo Climate Action Hub specifically is working at making heat pump installation and retrofitting much more affordable (https://www.nanaimoclimateaction.org/heat-pumps.html).