The City of Summerside should immediately create a special task force dedicated to readying the city for the incoming climate emergency, a new report recommends.
The document is called City of Summerside: Climate Risk and Resilience Assessment and it was presented to city council during its recent committee meetings.
The report takes a hard look at how Summerside is set to handle expected environmental changes over the next 100 years.
According to Environment Canada data cited in the document, if the world does not drastically reduce its carbon output quickly, by 2080 Summerside can expect a quadrupling in the number of days above 30 C, which will lead to heat-waves, more frequent severe storms, strained infrastructure, storm surges and coastal erosion.
All of which will prove particularly damaging for the city’s waterfront and downtown.
It’s not a pretty picture, said Eddie Oldfield of Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow (QUEST), but there are things city leaders can implement now which will help the community adapt as best it can.
“There is a lot of low-hanging fruit as well, so it’s not like (cities) can’t progress, but there are some things that will require more planning,” said Oldfield.
QUEST, a non-governmental organization, prepared this report with funding entirely from the Natural Resources Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Six Canadian cities, Summerside included, were selected to receive resiliency assessments from this project. The goal being to create a template so other municipalities can do their own assessments.
Five more recommendations for Summerside from QUEST
- Develop a climate change adaptation plan
- Ensure all critical city facilities and services have stationary back-up power and multiple energy sources
- Encourage private businesses like grocers and fueling stations to have back-up power supplies, many currently do not
- Install emergency drinking water fountains for easy public access to clean water in emergencies
- Update land use plans to consider climate emergency hazards like sea level rise and storm surges
QUEST consulted mainly with Summerside city staff on the project, identified where they felt the city’s strengths and weaknesses are, then produced a list of recommendations to address any shortcomings.
The report goes into the minutia of any number of specific issues the city should address.
For example, exchanging emergency plans between local government and non-governmental organizations, and ensuring emergency warming and cooling shelters exist and are adequately supplied with backup power and supplies.
The report highlights five critical first steps, the top being the creation of a task force or committee with the responsibility of spearheading the city’s efforts and making frequent reports as to the community’s efforts on climate change.
Also on the list, was the city’s chief administrative officer task to assign specific recommendations and goals for each department head.
Recommendations also included the city regularly updating climate change projections and integrate them into all municipal plans and bylaws, as well as continue its work building a more resilient energy grid.
Finally, a community energy plan should be developed in order to clearly define the city’s long-term energy goals, taking climate change into account.
“There’s a wealth of information here. QUEST did an excellent job,” said Gerald Giroux, an electrical engineer with Summerside Electric and the city’s point-person for its collaboration with QUEST.
“It’s a very broad look at our entire city,”
As for where the city goes now that it has this assessment, Giroux said it will be up to council, the chief administrative officer and the various city departments each doing their part to start ticking some boxes on the list of recommendations. Funding partnerships with provincial and federal levels of government will also be required to do some of the larger projects.
“It really doesn’t matter what causes the flood, or the fire, of the ice storm. Notwithstanding the fact that climate change is a growing concern that will impact us. But at the end of the day, those events, when they happen, we still have to respond to them no matter what the cause was,” said Oldfield.
“Resilience is about having in place a system of understanding where you’re risks and vulnerabilities are and a plan to be able to reduce the risk before the bad things happen – regardless of whether it’s the fault of climate change or not.”