BARB DESJARDINS: Esquimalt hard at work reducing GHGs

Municipality has a number of programs designed to reduce its carbon footprint

The Township of Esquimalt was recently recognized for taking action on climate change and awarded Level 3 recognition: “Climate Leader – Accelerating Progress on Charter Commitments.”

This is the fifth straight year the Township has been recognized by the joint Provincial-Union of BC Municipalities Green Communities Committee.

We signed on to the Climate Action Charter in 2008, committing to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our municipal operations and in the wider community. Through the Charter, we are working to develop our community in a way that supports economic and social needs while minimizing environmental impact.

We are proud to be recognized in this way, but we need to push even harder to meet our goal of reducing GHG emissions by at least 38 per cent by 2020 compared to 2007 levels. Later this year, council will discuss how we can accelerate progress towards meeting our climate action goals.

Being a compact community surrounded by water and other municipal boundaries, it is very important that we work hard to grow in smart ways. For instance, we plan to update our Official Community Plan to include Development Permit Areas that address climate action through water conservation, energy conservation, and GHG emissions reduction.

We are also taking incremental steps that will pay off over the long term, like installing LED streetlights to reduce energy use/consumption. We are on a program to replace all streetlights in the Township over time, and recently completed Admirals Road, Esquimalt Road and the majority of Lampson Road. To reduce fossil fuel dependence, Council has also been encouraging developers to install electric vehicle charging stations in all new Township developments.

We are also encouraging the use of non-motorized travel by creating new bike lanes, and by adding new sidewalks and improving existing sidewalks. According to a recent age-friendly assessment, 33 per cent of all trips taken within Esquimalt are by foot, compared to the average in the core area of seven per cent. Walking and cycling have both environmental and health benefits.

The Township currently participates in the Oil to Heat Pump Incentive Program offering incentives for homeowners to make the conversion from oil furnaces to heat pumps. Heat pumps lower the carbon footprint of households, and help protect our local creeks and shorelines from accidental oil spills.

Like other communities in the CRD, we also have drop off facilities for yard and garden waste and a residential household organics collection program, which diverted 526 tonnes of compostable material from our regional landfill in 2016.

Environmental education initiatives are critical to community-wide environmental stewardship. One such initiative is the Esquimalt Neighbourhood Watersheds Map, which shows where water runs off in all of our neighbourhoods to illustrate the potential consequences to our marine environment of local small spills. Resource binders were distributed to local schools as part of the initiative. Given the recent findings of contaminants in Gorge Creek, educational efforts such as this are more important than ever.

Many of these steps may seem small, but the effect is cumulative, especially when we work in partnership with other municipalities and jurisdictions on environmental action. As a community and a region, we are heading in the right direction and I am filled with optimism for the future.

Visit esquimalt.ca/sustainability.

Barb Desjardins is Esquimalt mayor.