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Coordinated effort needed for Sidney to reach ambitious climate change goals

New report highlights Sidney’s high risk of severe coastal storm surges and heatwaves
The draft of Sidney’s new climate action plans points to the municipality’s southeast near the municipal boundary with North Saanich as an area with high flooding risk through severe coastal storm surges caused by climate change. (Black Press Media file photo)

Sidney faces a high risk of severe coastal storm surges and heatwaves thanks to climate change.

These findings appear in the draft of Sidney’s Climate Action Plan appearing before Sidney’s committee-of-the-whole Monday, March 21.

“With sea levels projected to rise 0.5 metres by the 2050s, a severe coastal storm surge could lead to localized flooding in the town, unless mitigated in some way,” it reads, pointing to a flood mapping study prepared in 2015. It identifies Sidney’s southeast area near the municipal boundary with North Saanich and Tsehum Harbour as areas with high flooding risk. “Some flooding has already been seen in the past decade during storm surges at high tide.”

As for heatwaves, the reports points to the heatwave that hit British Columbia in June 2021. According to the report, that event revealed higher than normal temperatures in localized areas have significant impacts such as hospitalization and mortality, without adequate preparation.

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“It also revealed that risk was disproportionately higher in some age classes, such as seniors,” it reads. “Given the high proportion of seniors in Sidney’s population, this is considered a high risk for the town.”

The report also identifies what it calls moderate risks. They include seasonal water shortages, poor air quality due to severe wildfire seasons elsewhere, and moderate flooding in non-coastal areas – like in November 2021, when heavy rains caused flooding in the Reay Creek Park. “This risk is listed as moderate as even though some infrastructure upgrades are needed, the existing system has been capable of handling significant rain events to date,” the report reads.

The report identifies two broad categories of responses: adaptation, or actions that manage the impacts of climate change like improving infrastructure resilience, and mitigation, or actions that reduce emissions causing climate change.

“The two main risks faced by Sidney’s infrastructure are more frequent and higher intensity rainstorms and sea level rise. While the former is the more immediate risk, as demonstrated by the intense rainstorms of November 2021, improving resilience to both of these risk factors can take time; so it’s important to start early.”

As for emission reduction measures, the report points to Sidney’s new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), especially emissions from transportation and buildings, the two biggest sources. Sidney plans to reduce emissions 50 per cent below 2007 levels and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

RELATED: A lot of work ahead for Sidney to meet its climate change emissions goals, says CAO

“This is consistent with the targets set by the (International Panel on Climate Change) to limit warming to 1.5 (degrees Celsius),” it reads. “While ambitious, the IPCC found that this is still possible with coordinated action across all levels of government and within our communities.”

The report says costs will be the most common barrier when it comes to tackling Sidney’s two main emissions sources, transportation and buildings, and acknowledges that reduction goals remain at least partially outside the municipality’s control.

“Realistically, to reach net-zero community emissions in Sidney by 2050, there will need to be changes made by higher levels of government in sectors where the (municipality) has little to no influence or regulatory authority.”

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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