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Dec. 3, 2021 | Friday
Editorials and Opinions
Keeping it Green: In the face of climate change, Niagara Adapts
Dr. Jessica Blythe, Rob Andrea and Kyra Simone present to NOTL council.

NOTL councillors voted unanimously last week in favour of a draft corporate climate change adaptation plan.

Council's endorsement will allow continued planning for imminent climate change problems in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This plan was developed through Niagara Adapts, a partnership between professors from Brock University's Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and seven Niagara municipalities that began in June 2019.

"We have to be very aware of what's happening in other municipalities and partner with them, because frankly climate change is a global issue. You can't deal with it in a singular way," said chief administrator Marnie Cluckie.

Communities reached out to residents to gauge local perceptions of climate change risk. Almost 80 per cent of NOTL respondents felt climate change is affecting the community and many described personal experiences with flooding, extreme heat and severe weather.

Only 20 per cent, however, believed NOTL is prepared to adapt to climate change.

The town's environmental advisory committee was instrumental in developing the adaptation plan. Through a brainstorming workshop in March 2021, the committee compiled a comprehensive list of actions to minimize health and safety risks, support public awareness and integrate climate change considerations into town activities.

"We're very lucky to have such a talented committee working on our behalf on such a critically important subject," said Coun. Wendy Cheropita.

Dr. Jessica Blythe from Brock University, town engineering technologist Rob Andrea and myself as a representative of the environmental advisory committee presented a draft adaptation plan at the Oct. 18 committee of the whole council meeting.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said she was "thrilled" with the report and told representatives, "Your work will take us into the future in a very positive way."

Many councillors also voiced their support for climate action. "This is our number one priority for the town," said Coun. Sandra O'Connor.

Climate change considerations must "encompass everything we do," added Coun. Norm Arsenault.

Budgets for the adaptation plan are still in development. Andrea said Niagara Adapts will now determine which actions are most cost-effective and have the greatest community impact.

Cluckie mentioned a 2019 report by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which shows local governments are responsible for much of Canada's vulnerable, aging public infrastructure. It is much cheaper to implement adaptations than to rebuild after climate change causes problems for which municipalities are unprepared.

With council's endorsement, the committee will continue to work with Niagara Adapts to develop a final adaptation plan for the town.

Cluckie said the draft plan "allows us to make decisions based on impact, based on cost, based on community. They have helped set us up with this framework for success."

Kyra Simone is a green-at-heart NOTL resident with master's degrees in biology and science communication. In her spare time, she advocates for sustainable change, picks up litter, makes recycled jewelry, and transforms furniture bound for the landfill.