Oak Bay must be ready to adapt to the effects of climate change, according to Mayor Nils Jensen.
“We have to be realistic as to what climate change will do to our environment, our immediate environment. We can’t just hide our head in the sand and pretend it’s not going to happen,” he said. “There are significant implications financially and socially that we have to become aware of and we have to plan for.”
A request from the province for Capital Regional District input on new proposed flood hazard guidelines triggered the conversation.
“There are guidelines in effect now, but they’re going to reflect the recent science which shows a sea level rise of some significance over the next 100 to 150 years. That needs to be planned for now,” Jensen said.
A Nov. 20 CRD report in response to the request outlines the considerable infrastructure and land in the region that could become part of a flood hazard area. For Oak Bay that includes total current land and improvements valued at $740 million.
“The rise in our sea level will impact many properties throughout the coastal communities, including Oak Bay … particularly the low lying areas,” said Jensen. “We have to be ready. If the ocean is going to rise by a metre by the end of the century, what’s the impact on Oak Bay? What do we do as a result?”
In 2008 the municipality established the Oak Bay Climate Change Task Force and as a result signed on to the climate change charter pledging to be essentially greenhouse gas neutral by 2012.
Oak Bay didn’t reach the milestone and instead put money aside for a carbon trust.
With sustainability a target in the new official community plan, they’re planning how to utilize that funding for local green projects.
“One of the things in the OCP, one of the values, is for us to continue to become more energy efficient in all our municipal operations. That is the key to climate change. To reduce our energy use and dependence,” Jensen said.
“We’re also, as part of the official community plan, as part of that implementation, looking at how we can encourage our residents to become more energy efficient.”
As a local politician Jensen said he appreciates that the province is seeking input, but feels it could be even broader. He also worries now about future implementation. He said the province should reach out to a wider audience and be prepared to take the lead.
“We [the CRD] responded by saying first that we think there should be much wider public consultation than just asking regional governments,” Jensen said, noting there would be long-term economic and social impact and the whole province should be talking about it.
“Some of these policies and regulatory schemes are going to be very expensive to generate. Mapping alone will take thousands and thousands of dollars … our concern is that [cost] is going to be downloaded to local governments.”