New Westminster wants to help its citizens find ways to respond to extreme climate-related events.
On Monday, council passed a motion asking staff to report back on city readiness for extreme climate-related events this summer, including, but not limited to heat waves and flooding. The report will include communications and engagement considerations, such as opportunities for dialogue and for planning of a community-based response to climate emergencies.
“We all know that there is going to be more climate crises coming; it’s just a matter of when. I don’t want us to be taken by surprise when in the summer if we have another heat wave and I don’t want any members of our community to be hurt or to die in it,” said Coun. Nadine Nakagawa, who put forward the motion. “I think that this seems like a really good time to report back to council, but also to the community, about where we are at with our planning.”
Nakagawa said the part of the motion relating to communications and engagement is really about trying to mobilize the community. She said governments at all levels can be doing more to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports and to prepare for mitigation of the impacts of climate crisis, but residents also need to do their part.
“At the end of the day the community also needs to jump in and we need to take care of each other,” she said. “I think the city can play a key role in facilitating that community mobilization. This isn’t looking for a task force or a committee, it’s looking for an opportunity for the community to come together and find solutions for ourselves.”
Nakagawa said she’d like to know how the city can facilitate opportunities for community members to get to know each other, to check in on each other, and to let their neighbours know where cooling centres are located.
“This resolution is quite timely,” said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr. “We need to put unique things in place that we haven’t had before."
Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said he recently met with two groups of seniors at different events, with both groups voicing concerns about the heat wave and the need for advice and information about handle the next heat event. He said he’s requested that staff provide council with data about last summer’s heat wave so it has that information when considering future city responses.
The preamble to the motion approved by council on Monday night states that the 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report outlines a dire state of climate crisis that anticipates severe and escalating impacts. It goes on to say that last year’s climate-related events were extreme and resulted in intensely negative impacts for the community and the city can expect to experience ongoing extreme climate-related events in future years, including this summer.
Coun. Mary Trentadue said summer will soon be here, and she’d like the city to be prepared.
“We certainly need to be talking about this particular issue often, and often in advance of when it happens,” she said. “I guess what I really like about this particular motion is, in previous years we have talked about what the city can do, how can the city fix this. The city cannot fix this. The city cannot solve this for everyone. The city needs to help mobilize our city and our community and our residents to help each other. I think that’s really what really speaks to me in this motion – that we need to help our community figure out a way to help each other so that we can actually cover off way more ground than we can as a city on our own.”