Climate change should be a city budget priority: Coun. David Chernushenko

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By Joe Lofaro, Metro

Climate change is not a priority in the 2015 draft budget, but it ought to be because it is the most “urgent, pressing, and potentially expensive challenge facing the human population on the planet,” says Coun. David Chernushenko.

The Capital Ward councillor, who is also the chair the city’s environment committee, said prioritizing funds for climate change initiatives, such as taking more cars off the road and converting to energy-efficient lighting, could potentially be pricey for Ottawa, but nowhere near the costs of doing nothing.

Chernushenko said it’s a challenge to convince city council it is a priority.

“Western North America is suffering from unusually hot temperatures and severe drought and the middle to eastern North America has been under a deep freeze.”

In May 2014, city council adopted a climate change plan with five action items that were to be considered in the 2015 draft budget.

In a recent newsletter to supports, Ecology Ottawa executive director Graham Saul calls on the public to contact their councillor to make some noise about climate change ahead of more budget talks. He said it appears only one of those items, relating to city’s forest management strategy, is included in the draft budget.

City staff wrote in an email to Metro on Monday the forest management strategy is already being funded by the 2014 budget. “No new additional money required,” the email read.

In addition to the budget, city council must also consider where to direct $37.4 million to fund strategic initiatives for the 2015-2018 term.

“Right now at city hall there’s this big battle going about whose priorities are going to be funded with that $37 million,” said Saul, who would like to see the remaining four items in the climate change action plan receive funding.

Chernushenko agrees some of the funding should go to climate change actions and will push for the ones which have the greatest bang for the buck.

The five action items:

  1. Convert Ottawa’s street lighting system to LED by 2020
  2. Work with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), Electrical Safety Authority, Energy Ottawa and/or others to ensure FIT installations at City facilities can be used as a back-up energy supply.
  3. Implement Vehicle Telematics for Municipal Fleet.
  4. Identify and prioritize land for protection, acquisition, and naturalization, taking climate change into consideration.
  5. Complete the Forest Management Strategy that identifies ways to increase tree cover and maintain the health of this City asset.