In a report to go to council on May 14, the Planning & Sustainability Advisory Committee are criticizing the Town for failing to follow through or act upon several initiatives. These include action on Climate Change, Corporate Energy Conservation and Community Energy Planning. They point to a lack of reports as well as the resulting economic risk. The report lists other municipalities that have been taking action on sustainability. But like all good criticism, they also suggest solutions – that is, actions that could be taken. As an advisory committee, all they can do is make recommendations to Council and in this case they want the C.A.O. to “consider and report back on the extension of staff resources to ensure integrated action on the many sustainability issues presenting challenges for the Town; and Council receive the report in time for consideration during the current Council mandate, including investigating grant applications and any necessary referrals to a new Council”.
The comprehensive and detailed report by chair Terry Stopps is attached to a motion from the committee and is available via a link below but I have summarized the highlights. (Terry also recently reported to Council on the results of the Remuneration Ad Hoc Committee’s work). The following is an edited version mostly using original wording although some detail has been omitted (see full original in the Links below).
Key Cobourg Sustainability Issues
- Climate Change;
- Public Works (including storm water management);
- Urban Forest Management;
- Comprehensive Energy Management;
- Full Implementation of the Official Plan;
and development of the
- Community Sustainability Plan.
Past and Present Impacts
Despite taking many significant actions over the past decade, the Town has also missed opportunities to complete plans, deliver and communicate. Examples include:
- Cobourg’s 2010 Climate Action Plan — a draft plan was prepared and accepted by Council and activities implemented. Yet, the plan was never registered as a ‘final plan’ and was not well communicated nor were additional actions/ongoing needs considered in an updated plan.
- Cobourg’s Corporate Energy Conservation and Demand Management Plan — was prepared by Public Works in 2014. The Plan called for the town to produce an annual report yet to date, we’ve not been able to find a single report published for Cobourg.
- Community Energy Planning — Cobourg has been a leader in community energy. Many past examples exist, perhaps starting with LED traffic lights a couple of decades ago; and more recently, renewable energy implementation at our waste water treatment plant, public, commercial and residential buildings. However, to date, Cobourg has not completed – or even started – Municipal Energy Planning, a value added activity supported by both federal and provincial governments.
Economic risks include the risk of:
- lost or reduced operational cost savings (particularly energy costs);
- inadvertent misdirection of public (and private) capital investments;
- increased potential for future stranded assets (i.e. capital investments that fail to meet the planned lifetime of the investment).
What Are Leading Sustainable Municipalities Doing?
- Activities in Larger Municipalities (Kingston and Burlington) and smaller municipalities (Halton Hills, Caledon, Collingwood) are listed (see full report).
What Staffing Needs/Options Does Cobourg Have?
- Coordinate/integrate actions across organizations (e.g. between town departments, with the County, with local utilities and other community partners);
- Seek funding (e.g. provincial and federal government. FCM, AMO, GreenOn);
- Lead communications and public reporting;
- Engage the public;
- Initiate/manage/integrate ongoing data collection, reporting and planning cycles.
- Broad issues like sustainability are commonly integrated into all staff job descriptions;
- Staff leadership/coordination — use of an organizational ‘point resource’ is also common. Such a resource could strengthen cross-department and cross-partner (e.g. County) integration activities. Options include:
- staff member (e.g. Sustainability Coordinator or Senior Sustainability Coordinator);
- mid-management (e.g. Sustainability Manager);
- Senior Management (e.g. Chief Sustainability Officer; Directo. Sustainability).
Immediate Action — adding staff resources now would entail funded from within (e.g. savings from staff vacancies). Such resourcing would enable immediate work on current issues without prejudice to a future Council. For example the Town could:
- Seek funding — for initial staffing, baseline studies and option assessment for early opportunities;
- Get a head start on current policy work — e.g. draft guidelines on sustainability references in Cobourg’s Official Plan (e.g. reference to `sustainability strategy’ and updated site design guidelines); and
- Immediately work to engage internal partners — over recent or past decisions (e.g. sustainable forest management activities; collection of existing data for Cobourg’s internal use or future reporting).
Future Decisions — any new (or temporary) staff would need to be ‘regularized’ into Town staffing and salary allocations (and passed with the Town Budget). This stage presents a new Council with an opportunity to ‘put their stamp’ on new initiatives and make decisions on funding for staff resources. Such resourcing could enable:
- Community Sustainability Planning. Climate Change Adaptation. updates to Park Planning, Integrated Delivery of Urban Forest Plans and other Sustainability Projects — that Council wants to endorse.
Salary Funding Strategies
- Mature salary justification — should be based on the value added (e.g. return on investment — ROI) from initiated projects
- Initial salary could be funded from one or more of: town resources; and/or grant-funding (e.g. Ontario Municipal Energy Plan Program; FCM Green Municipal Fund).
The overall message seems to be that planning is good but plans need to be implemented – that would include any future “Sustainability Plan”. The Committee wants a report to be generated before the election although staffing may have to wait for the new council in 2019.