Selkirk’s Chief Administrative Officer has been asked to join the Municipal Climate Services Collaborative technical working group, thanks in large part to the city’s success in integrating climate change into its everyday planning.
CAO Duane Nicol attended the MCSC’s first meetings, held in Ottawa March 19 and 20th, after being asked to join by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and the Canadian Centre for Climate Services (CCCS) – the groups responsible for the formation of MCSC.
For Nicol, it was an honour that he and the city were singled out to take part in such crucial, groundbreaking work.
“Being asked to participate is reflective of the fact the City of Selkirk has demonstrated leadership in climate change. It is the crisis of our age. If there is anything our citizens expect that we’d be well prepared for, it’s this. Being invited to share our insight at this level should give our residents confidence that we’re on the right track in Selkirk,” Nicol said.
The Canadian Centre for Climate Services was launched in October 2018 to provide Canadians with access to information and support they’ll need to understand and plan for the effects of climate change. CCCS is part of the federal government’s efforts to increase resilience to the impacts of a changing climate across Canada.
A letter from CCCS and FCM asking Nicol for his participation in MCSC, praised his and the city’s efforts so far on climate change. The letter says, in part: “We would very much value your input, insights and expertise as we work to enhance awareness and understanding of existing climate data, information and products and develop new climate services that increase the integration of climate considerations into municipal strategic planning, an early and critical first step municipalities must take to build their climate resiliency.”
Selkirk leaders in climate change initiatives
The city has been recognized several times for its swift acknowledgement that climate change needs to be factored into the way it does business. Selkirk is part of another FCM initiative, the Climate and Asset Management Network (CAMN), which offers peer-learning opportunities, training, and funding to help Canadian municipalities integrate climate change and sustainability goals systematically into decision-making about infrastructure assets. Selkirk is one of just 16 communities selected to participate in CAMN’s first phase, and is also the smallest.
Last year, Selkirk teamed with Prairie Climate Centre (PCC), to help staff understand the specific impacts climate change has on the city and develop an adaptation strategy to deal with those impacts. That partnership intrigued Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, enough that she stopped in Selkirk to learn more about the city’s environmental initiatives.
With PCC’s assistance the city benefits from good data that they can translate into understanding a specific action.
“We can link climate change impacts to our on-the-ground delivery of municipal services and anticipate where we’re going to have to make changes or enhancements to make sure that we can sustainably provide those services to citizens,” Nicol said.
“It allows us to prepare for some of the negative consequences we will face. In some cases we’re not providing the service today but because of climate change we’re going to have to provide the service going forward, for example extreme weather respite.”
Nicol said one of the reasons he hears for the city continuing to find itself recognized as a leader in climate change adaptation, is its ability to connect the climate change dots with strategic planning and asset management dots.
“One of the key things that keeps getting pointed out to us as being different is how we’re able to connect our climate change adaptation strategies with our actual business planning process, that is to say; our multi-year tactical plan, our asset management program, and our annual budgeting process,” Nicol said.
“Integrating climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives into our asset management program is critical. It gives council and administration tools to plan on the same time-scale on which climate change operates. We need to look 30, 50 and 100 years out, not just within one or two election cycles.”
The city has an impressive record for climate change mitigation and its understanding that what it does as a corporation contributes to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) production. The city adopted a GHG reduction plan in 2016 and pledged to reduce emissions by 20 per cent in 10 years.
Nicol said the city has been concentrating on changes to its fleet of vehicles and its facilities that will help with that reduction.
For example, the city recently purchased three mobility buses, one of them a hybrid bus. The city is also in the market for a new light equipment truck and will look for creative ways to fill the void while making a smaller carbon imprint.
“We might shuffle the fleet around, move a truck we already own into that slot, so we can buy a smaller vehicle or a vehicle that uses alternate fuels,” Nicol said.
Upgrades to facilities
The city’s new wastewater treatment plant won’t use any fossil fuels to heat the building and it’s being constructed in a way that will allow for easy integration of solar power in the future. The building will also make use of heat from the very wastewater it’s treating.
Part of the older side of the city’s water treatment plant is being converted from natural gas to geo-thermal heating and there’s limited fossil fuels used in the new fire hall expansion.
Nicol said being part of the MCSC technology-working group provides tremendous exposure for the city and an incredible chance to learn from the best.
“We’re going to be in the room with some of the best minds in terms of climate change preparation for municipalities, so we’re definitely going to have a lot of opportunity for learning and for early access to some of the tools and things that are being produced by the group,” he said.
Nicol has also been asked to participate in the Province of Manitoba’s Low Carbon Government Working Group, which will provide input and recommendations to the Environment Minister to help shape the province’s GHG reduction plan that’s part of the Manitoba Green Plan.