Climate action

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In 2017, Kelowna experienced one of its most extreme weather years on record.  Record levels of spring precipitation led to historic flooding of Okanagan Lake, Mission Creek and Mill Creek, impacting approximately 3,200 residents in the community.  This was followed by a hot, dry July and August, factors contributing to a devastating wildfire season and the community blanketed in smoke.  As summarized in the 2017 Community Trends Report: A Changing Climate, these types of extreme weather events are expected to occur more regularly as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to grow.

The most recent data (2012) shows Kelowna's community GHG emissions are over 642,000 tonnes with the bulk of emissions coming from vehicles (55%), followed by buildings (36%) and waste (9%).  While our community experienced a  3.5 per cent decrease in emissions between 2007 and 2012, preliminary data shows that this trend is not continuing and emissions are rising.

Reducing GHG Emissions

The City is leading the change by example. We signed the Provincial Climate Action Charter, demonstrating our commitment to reduce corporate GHG emissions and create efficient compact communities.  We are in the process of updating our Corporate Energy and GHG Emissions Reduction Plan to examine new opportunities to reduce City emissions.  Each year, we report to the Province on the numerous initiatives we are doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a corporation (e.g. energy efficient upgrades and changes to fleet) as well as what we are doing to help reduce community GHG emissions (e.g. expansion of sidewalks and bikelanes, planting trees and waste reduction programs). 

Community Climate Action Plan Update

We are also in the process of updating Kelowna's Community Climate Action Plan to examine actions and initiatives that can be undertaken to further reduce energy and GHG emissions in our community.  Through Imagine Kelowna, we heard that residents want a community that shifts away from our car centric culture, builds healthy neighbourhoods, stops facilitating urban sprawl and strengthens the protection of our land, water and resources.  Taking action to achieve these goals will reduce energy and GHG emissions and create a community that is vibrant, sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change.

Council was recently presented a variety of draft actions where the City can show leadership and provide opportunites for the community to take action.  Based on input from staff, stakeholders and the Imagine Kelowna consultation, the draft actions encourage energy conservation, a shift in transportation choices and focussing growth in urban areas, all of which will help reduce emissions and reduce residents' personal energy costs.  In some instances, difficult choices will have be made to ensure that our daily behaviours match with our long term desires for our community.  Have your say on the actions that have been drafted for each of the following categories by visiting Get involved, Kelowna by February 22, 2018.

The Way We Get Around

The biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Kelowna comes from vehicles.  During Imagine Kelowna consultation, we heard that residents want a connected community that empraces diverse transportation options in order to shift away from our car-centric culture. 

The Community Climate Action Plan draft recommendations including continuing to implement infrastructure and policy recommendations from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, and continuing to improve public transit, and piloting a community bike share to help provide residents options to reduce reliance on vehicles. 

Other draft recommended actions to reduce emissions from on-road transportation include:

  • Develop a community wide electric vehicle strategy
  • Update the Zoning Bylaw to restrict drive throughs
  • Enhance travel demand management programs (encouraging the use of other modes of travel through programs such as Bike to Work, smartTrips, etc.)
  • Implement an anti-idling bylaw as outlined in the Regional Clean Air Strategy
  • Work towards pricing parking so that the cost of parking for one hour at a municipal facility exceeds the price of a single transit trip
  • Investigate options to integrate alternative fuels into the City fleet, city contracted services and/or BC Transit
  • Investigate options for a regional fuel tax to support the expansion and improvement of the regional transit system
  • Support car sharing
  • Support ride sharing
The Energy We Use in Our Buildings

In Kelowna, 36 per cent of GHG emissions come from buildings.  Based on most recent numbers available (2012), residents spend nearly $1,400 per capita on electricity and natural gas to heat and light homes and businesses.

The Community Climate Action Plan draft recommendations are aimed at making homes more energy efficient (e.g. adding insulation, or upgrading space heating).  Draft actions include:

  1. Partner with FortisBC on delivery of programs to encourage more energy efficient construction and retrofits
  2. Develop a community energy retrofit strategy including regulaton and incentive options to encourage existing buildings to become more energy efficient
  3. Develop a strategy for implementing the new BC Energy Step Code using a combination of education, incentives and regulation to create more energy efficient new buildings
  4. Investigate updating the OCP Development Permit Guidelines to include recommendations for building energy efficiencies.
The Waste We Create

Waste accounts for nine per cent of community GHG emissions in Kelowna.  Reducing the amount of waste that goes to the landfill will help reduce these emissions as suggested in the draft recommendation:

Planning Our Community

How a community grows can affect emissions and energy use. Through Imagine Kelowna we heard that residents want a community with vibrant urban centres and stops facilitating urban sprawl.  To do this the City is investigating more compact growth strategies as part of the 2040 Official Community Plan (OCP) update.  Further, the land use and transportation planning are being coordinated through the OCP and Transportation Master Plan updates to make it easier for people to choose sustainable travel. 

Other recommended actions to reduce GHG emissions include:

  • Update parking minimums and maximums in the Zoning Bylaw to discourage more parking than is required
  • Assess infrastructure costs for major developments to understand both both upfront and maintenance costs
  • Focus growth in urban areas by reinforcing the Official Community Plan's Permanent Growth Boundary
  • Investigate options for shared parking faciliites in new and existing developments to maximize land use in urban areas
  • Investigate options to sell parking spots separately from units in new developments
  • Investigate amending existing regulations to promote more pedestrian connectivity
Other Actions

The City is in the process of implementing a variety of plans that will help reduce emissions.  The Urban Forestry Strategy will help expand Kelowna's urban forest.  The Agriculture Plan will help protect agricultural lands and promote the local food supply.  The Regional Clean Air Strategy recommends a variety of initiatives that will reduce emissions and improve air quality in our community. 

There are a variety of other actions that are recommended that will have an impact on reducing emissions in our community including:

  • Amend regulations to include tree replacement requirements
  • Investigate opportunities to increase the supply and use of Renewable Natural Gas
  • Investigate developing a Climate Adaptation Plan to prepare for anticipated changes in local climate
  • Investigate options of how to imbed energy and GHG emission objectives into City operations, programs, business services and infrastructure
  • Investigate doing a Green Economy Study on how Kelowna could attract more clean tech jobs
  • Investigate adopting a private tree protection bylaw
  • Investigate using treated effluent from the Waste Water Treatment Facility for irrigation
  • Investigate education campaigns on eco-driving, residential solar, water conservation and energy reduction initiatives
Ambitious Actions

The decisions made today have long term impacts on Kelowna's GHG emissions.  Policy and decisions that support the car culture and sprawl sets Kelowna on a path for continual increases in GHG emissions for decades to come.  However, choosing to take progressive and bold actions, such as those below,  will provide long term benefits for the community.

  • Adopt the advanced Energy Step Code steps early to take advantage of efficiency measures which will have lasting benefits.
  • Invest more in and prioritize alternative transportation.
  • Investigate the use of transportation pricing strategies.