North Cowichan and SSG win 2013 Climate & Energy Action Award

The Municipality of North Cowichan was awarded the Community Energy Association’s Community Planning and Development Award at this week’s UBCM conference. Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG) performed North Cowichan’s unique and innovative Climate Action and Energy Plan, launched earlier this year. The plan, with funding support from BC Hydro, inventoried the community’s existing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and identified future trends in energy and GHG emissions based on population, land use, technology and other factors.

SSG was chosen to lead this project because of the team’s strong commitment to community empowerment and non-traditional, holistic approaches to climate change and emissions planning. North Cowichan’s Council and SSG worked in partnership with support from the community.

North Cowichan Councillor Kate Marsh, Chair of the Climate Change Action Committee of Council, was pleased with the outcome “We knew that in order to get a platinum plan, we needed an innovative community planning consultant. We engaged Sustainability Solutions Group who are strong in both technological innovation and community engagement. We used a variety of amazing in-person and online engagement tools with over 400 people participating.“

Using GHGProof, an open source model from SSG used by over twenty communities in BC, the analysis went beyond the provincial government inventory data by including solid and liquid waste emissions, agricultural production and forests to establish a more comprehensive picture of North Cowichan emissions, giving the municipality more options for energy and emissions actions.

Councillor Marsh was impressed with SSG’s toolkit. “We used GHGProof, we considered the social cost of carbon in our decision making, and we were perhaps the first municipality to use what we affectionately call the ‘MAC’ – the marginal abatement curve – that allows us to make land use and policy decisions based on the emissions savings and monetary costs/savings of any action. We estimated that under the plan each North Cowichan household would save $4,000 a year based on transportation and energy savings by 2050. That’s not chump change.”

SSG Director Jeremy Murphy led the project. “It was important to us to see the project through a benefit to the community lens. Starting with the question “how will addressing energy and emissions benefit residents?” led to increased ‘green jobs’, more abundant and vibrant communities and more money kept in people’s pockets – all while meaningfully reducing energy use and emissions production.”

North Cowichan has already begun to implement the plan, passing one of Canada’s first municipal tax levies to seed a revolving loan fund that will support energy efficiency projects, and creating a Revitalization Tax by-law – a tax holiday to qualifying developments and green businesses.

Speaking about the plan at the UBCM conference, Councillor Marsh concluded: “The task may feel daunting, yet each one doing our part will make all the difference. As Goethe said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”


About the North Cowichan Climate Action and Energy Plan

North Cowichan, with the funding support of BC Hydro, developed a Climate Action and Energy Plan (CAEP) that inventoried the community’s existing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and identified future trends in energy and GHG emissions based on population, land use, technology and other factors. For further information, please see here

In the model, a collective (community and municipal) investment of $25 million per year by 2050 was required to achieve the emissions targets. However, based on the suite of recommendations, the North Cowichan community will save an estimated $130 million in energy costs when it achieves the targeted 80% reduction of carbon emissions (a savings of $4,000 per household in today’s dollars) in 2050. The CAEP estimates 613 new jobs will be created through implementation of recommended actions. So far, actions have been tax relief for qualifying developments and green businesses under the Revitalisation Tax; Community for Climate Fair to share best practice; increased local food production and forest cover – all of which are self funded.

“The beauty of this plan, and perhaps its unique contribution to the field, is that even those who are not committed to mitigating climate change can support the plan for solid economic reasons.” – Mayor Jon Lefebure

About the Climate & Energy Action Awards

The Climate & Energy Action Awards reward communities that have displayed strong leadership in energy planning, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy. They are selected based on the applicants creativity in innovative energy plans, how they have made a significant impact with

limited resources, supported long term capacity building, developed illustrated guides, practiced adaptive learning, worked with developers to support district energy, recovered waste heat and reduced corporate emissions.

About North Cowichan

North Cowichan is a community of communities. Located on Vancouver Island, the Municipality of North Cowichan is the largest municipality in the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD). It is situated immediately north of and adjacent to the City of Duncan, south of Ladysmith, and extends east to North Cowichan’s extensive coastline. The community centres of North Cowichan are Chemainus, Crofton, Maple Bay and the South End including University Village. The area expands to 195 squared kilometres with 31,000 people, a working municipal forest and ALR land. The Council recognises that 45% of local carbon emissions are at the hand of municipal operations from land use, transportation, building standard and waste management, hence their responsibility for responding to the climate changing.

About Sustainability Solutions Group

SSG is a pioneering, federally-incorporated workers cooperative created specifically to develop solutions to societal issues using a holistic sustainability lens. SSG understands sustainability as a process, rather than a static outcome. With this view, our projects entail elements of adaptive management to allow an organization to continuously increase performance on major societal challenges including climate change, economic and social inequities, human health, ecosystem decline, and sustainable community development. SSG is at the forefront of sustainability in Canada working with leading projects in all sectors.