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What has Coquitlam done to address climate change? The city believes its current plan is working

A strategic plan was adopted in late 2020, and initiatives since have included updating sewer drain criteria, preparing clean air spaces and engaging in FireSmart programs.
Coquitlam Skytrain
Coquitlam claims its made strides in addressing climate change since the city adopted its climate adaptation strategic plan in late 2020. | File photo

The impacts of the climate change became more transparent this past year.

For the Tri-Cities, this included atmospheric river events that resulted in localized flooding in neighbourhoods and watersheds, as well as the extreme summer heatwaves that saw temperatures soar above 40 C.

In late 2020, Coquitlam adopted its first climate adaptation strategic plan (CASP) that evaluates potential risks to residents, civic services and infrastructure.

And recently, staff told city council that the plan has made "significant headway" in address climate change events and believe the progress will continue well into 2022.

In addition to the flooding, fires and heatwaves, environment manager Caresse Selk says drought and water shortages are other great projected risks to Coquitlam.

"The [CASP] work aligns with the City’s new Environmental Sustainability Plan, which will help guide city decision-making with consideration to climate action, the built environment, waste management, water management, and natural areas, wildlife and habitat," she says in a news release today (May 3).

"The activities will also be integrated into a new Climate Action Plan, a priority from the Environmental Sustainability Plan that is currently in development."

So, what's been implemented since CASP was brought to the table?

According to the city, climate change events of 2021 led to actions and improvements in the following areas:

  • Updating storm sewer design criteria to accommodate extreme weather
  • Developing an enhanced water conservation strategy
  • Starting to implement measures to ensure new developments manage rainwater in a way that protects watersheds
  • Taking steps to monitor the health of natural ecosystems
  • Preparing multiple civic facilities to be activated as cleaner air spaces when air quality is poor
  • Progress on addressing wildfire risk including updating the community wildfire resiliency plan and participating in the Northeast Sector FireSmart Program to reduce wildfire risk in homes and neighbourhoods adjacent to forests and natural areas

Selk explains during these implementations, a team was put together to conduct research to eventually develop, what are called, key perofmance indictaors (KPIs) in analyzing the city's efforts.

Moving forward, KPIs will look to measure any success of Coquitlam climate strategic plan based on the number of visitors to cooling centres and cleaner air spaces, as well as the ability to maintain water pressure at critical locations.

On the whole, the city lists the following as work it plans to complete for the rest of the year:

  • Ongoing flood preparation work, including advancing the Lower Mainland Flood Management Strategy in collaboration with the Fraser Basin Council and other municipalities
  • Developing a process to systematically monitor the urban tree canopy (made up of all trees in Coquitlam on private and public land)
  • Improving the city’s wildfire preparations and response capacity through the updated Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan
  • Protecting more vulnerable residents from extreme heat and poor air quality by improving access to cooling centres and cleaner air spaces, through City preparations and collaboration with partners
  • Beginning to implement the Enhanced Water Conservation Strategy, including a pilot statistical water metering program and identifying locations to use groundwater for irrigation
  • Exploring backup power options for civic facilities for when power failures occur

"Coquitlam is committed to taking action on climate change by promoting practices that reduce greenhouse gases, conserve energy and improve resilience both at the City and within the community," the release further states. 

For more information, you can visit the City of Coquitlam's website.

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