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Powell River receives federal funds to fund climate mitigation staffer

POWELL RIVER, B.C – Powell River has secured federal cash to work on climate change mitigation.

According to a news release from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Powell
River is one of 58 communities that have received funding from Ottawa, which is meant to supplement the salary of a new or existing municipal employee.

That employee is meant to work on initiatives that will improve adaptation to local climate change impacts, or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“These grants, which are allocated over two years, help municipalities address climate change by training staff on ways to reduce pollution and improve energy efficiency in the operation and maintenance of their public infrastructure,” read the release.

Powell River is getting $120,000 out of the grant program for a full-time sustainability employee for a period of two years.

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The new sustainable planner will work on specific municipal initiatives focused on greenhouse gas emission reductions, help initiate energy-efficiency upgrades to civic facilities, and work with the city on preparing for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

City councillor and chair of the Sustainability Committee CaroleAnn Leishman said this FCM grant is exciting.

“I am thrilled that we are one of only two communities in B.C. to be awarded this grant,” she said.

“The City has a number of plans and assessments we have been working through to try and lower our carbon emissions for our corporate operations and these initiatives will also lower our operating and utility costs in a lot of cases. We need staff resources to accomplish this work.”

Powell River Mayor Dave Formosa said the city is “very pleased” to have won this grant from the FCM.

Formosa spoke about process of finding the right candidate: “(The city) will now have a professional, once we interview and find the right person, to work with our sustainability committee.”

Powell River can use the funding to assign dedicated staff to activities such as developing strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or developing infrastructure plans that aim to adapt to or mitigate the intensifying effects of climate change.

Formosa said these kinds of professionals have the ability to find and create projects that will save the city money.

“For instance, reclaiming heat from our boilers and then heating our pool, or looking at our lighting, or maybe solar energy will help in this particular area, or things that we are doing with our vehicles,” Formosa continued. “What we can foresee-ably see using an electric vehicle for, that will work all year round… not with a dump truck or a backhoe but maybe in another usage.”

Leishman said that having this staffer is key to shifting our culture into looking at all our operations and tasks with a “sustainability lens,” and start making some real progress.

“As a local government it is our duty to take the threat of climate change seriously and to step up and begin to make serious reductions in the amount of carbon we are putting into the atmosphere,” she said.

“We also have a lot of work to do in preparing for potential extreme climate impacts. We are on the hook when our infrastructure becomes damaged with extreme weather events so the more prepared, we can be to try and mitigate some of the damage, the better.”

Leishman said we have the ability to be bold and innovative in our approach to facing climate change, which can boost the economy and create new job sectors while we tackle the impacts.

“We need to start looking at our 100-year plan for the community and where we want to go, so we leave this a better place for the next generations.”

Other communities will be the beneficiaries of Powell River’s knowledge gained through the FCM grant process.

Leishman said communities pay attention to what each other are doing.

“We share stories when we meet at conferences and conventions, so the more exciting projects we all do will benefit the rest to take a leap,” she said.

The City of Powell River has allocated $30,000 for its portion of the funding of the new two-year staff position from the Community Works (Gas Tax) Fund. The job posting for the sustainability planner will be found on the city’s website under ‘employment opportunities’ in the coming weeks.

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