By Herald on November 12, 2020.
As city council enters the final stages of public consultations on its new Municipal Development Plan local environmental organizations are asking planners to more fully integrate a dedication to environmental stewardship and strategic thinking for climate change adaptation into the MDP to help guide the city forward on a greener and better prepared foot.
Braum Barber of the Southern Alberta Group for the Environment (SAGE) and Kathleen Sheppard of Environment Lethbridge were invited to comment on the draft of the proposed “Environment” section of the new MDP during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting.
The proposed section includes objectives such as recognizing an holistic approach to discussions around the environment and positioning the community to more greatly resilient to climate change, promoting biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, guaranteeing protections of natural, culturally sensitive lands, and the natural watershed, encouraging community-wide water and resource conservation, safeguarding clean air for Lethbridge, building community understanding of local environmental issues, and advancing relationships and partnerships to build positive environmental outcomes by making reporting and data on these issues more accessible.
Barber praised the document as an example of positive local environmental leadership, but stressed the importance of creating broad partnerships and taking collective actions outside of the City in co-ordination with other regional partners– as seen, he said, with the recent letter of concern drafted by city council toward the proposed Grassy Mountain coalmine in collaboration with the Oldman River Watershed Council and others who share the same environmental living space. He also hoped council would further pursue an “airshed agreement” with other local communities which recognized the common breathing environment we all share in the immediate vicinity.
Sheppard felt the MDP Environment objectives in terms of creating a community climate change adaptation plan were good in principle, but must be followed by specific administrative actions and policies which outline what that means in terms of future decision making at a corporate level.
“Climate adaptation as many people know is a big issue facing all our communities into the future,” she said after her presentation to council, “and it is one of those things that cuts across environment, economy, health, and lots of other different issues. We think it’s quite important for it to be a bit of a lens for the Municipal Development Plan going forward. I think it is an important factor to include in the decision making; so when we look at some of the impacts we are going to see, whether it’s severe storms, water, or things like that, those have big picture impacts for things like insurance, emergency planning, and all of those kinds of things.”
Sheppard stressed the importance of council thinking about these potential impacts even as it comes under pressure to reduce City expenditures in a fiscal environment of greater scarcity.
“I can’t comment on the budget deliberations specifically,” she said, “but I think this council and the City of Lethbridge have done some good work on the environment over the past four years. I would really like to see that continue. They have put some good baseline steps into place, and so hopefully we can build on that into the future.”
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