Red Deer on board with national climate change plan

The City of Red Deer is participating in a climate change plan involving 13 other communities nationwide.

The City of Red Deer is participating in a climate change plan involving 13 other communities nationwide.

Since early January, the city has been working on the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Plan with the help of the Canadian branch of International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, or ICLEI.

This international association, made up of local governments and their associations, is committed to sustainable development and that includes ways to improve the environment.

ICLEI sought 14 communities for its pilot program. Its aim: develop a concrete plan for climate change by early 2013.

During that time, ICLEI provides training, webinars, and networking with fellow participants and municipal climate change experts.

Red Deer is one of only two Prairie region communities participating — the other being Calgary.

The other 12 communities include Iqaluit, Vancouver, Windsor and New Glasgow, N.S.

On Monday, city council approved a key step in the process, this being the five milestones for the plan to go forward.

The milestones are: initiate an adaptation effort; research climate change impacts; create an adaptation plan; develop an implementation strategy for the plan; and commit to monitor and review the plan.

Councillor Paul Harris was enthused with the plan because he said it’s important that Red Deer do its part.

“I don’t think most people understand what is going on,” Harris said. “Maybe this will raise awareness in our own communities.”

He’s particularly troubled with the vast numbers of environmental refugees, or those displaced as a result of environmental problems such as drought, soil erosion, desertification and deforestation.

The international body known as Climate Institute reports that 3.3 million people will be displaced by 2070 from flooding and inundation of settlements in low-lying areas in Indonesia. Jakarta, where excessive pumping of ground water has caused the land to subside alarmingly, is at particular risk, with the prospect of more than a one-metre sea level rise by 2070.

One thing the Red Deer project will do is help the city collect data about the manner in which people and ecosystems will cope and adjust to predicted changes, although the full impacts of climate change remain uncertain.

This climate change plan of Red Deer’s is part of the Environmental Master Plan, which was approved earlier this year as a way for the city to develop specific actions over the next 25 years in areas like water and air.

Nancy Hackett, environmental initiatives supervisor with the city, said the fee for joining the ICLEI initiative runs about $10,000, which has been paid by the city in 2011. The cost includes research and training provided by ICLEI.

Development Services director Paul Goranson said this climate change plan will help the city address worldwide climate change and how it’s going to impact Red Deer.

“It could affect the things that we plant in our parks,” Goranson said. “If our climate substantially changes, it may change how we do a lot of things as far as programs and what we provide.”

And since air quality and other issues don’t have municipal borders, Mayor Morris Flewwelling suggested that Red Deer share what it’s learning with other communities in Central Alberta.

— copyright Red Deer Advocate