The skyline of Kamloops looking east at dusk toward the wildfire that forced the evacuation of Juniper Ridge in June 2021

An open letter calling on City Council to stick to the plan

UPDATE: At the Committee of the Whole meeting held in Council Chambers on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 20, Council voted to reduce the Climate Action Levy by half for 2024. Councillors Bass, Bepple and Karpuk were the only Councillors opposed to the funding cut.

Our letter calling on Council to stick to the plan on Climate Action Funding remains open to more signatures. Click here to sign.

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As City Council heads into the final stages of budget season, a surprise move to re-consider the City’s award-winning funding formula for climate action at this Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting has got hundreds of local residents upset.

“This region’s vulnerability to climate-related harm (fire, flood, and freeze-thaw cycles) to infrastructure and tourism assets (let alone the human cost, given the number of people experiencing homelessness) should make it clear that this is not the time to be backing off on investing in climate action,” says Dr. Nancy Flood, a long-time resident and President of the Kamloops Naturalist Club.

The reason the City adopted the funding formula, called the Climate Action Levy, in 2021 was to provide reliable, long-term funding that grows over time. It was designed to build up the reserves required to tackle necessary, but expensive, infrastructure projects—and allow the City to leverage those dollars to access grant funding available for climate action from higher levels of government. 

The Climate Action Levy contributes to priority actions focused not only on mitigation, but adaptation efforts as well. Says Gisela Ruckert, an organizer with Transition Kamloops (the group that spearheaded the open letter to Council), “We need both a fluid funding source for the short-term (for secure bike parking, climate action grants, municipal incentives and rebates for home energy efficiency retrofits, EV readiness, etc.), and the larger, reliable funding to plan major projects like improving the community’s active transportation network and decarbonizing civic facilities.

Several local organizations, including Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Kamloops Moms for Clean Air, Kamloops Naturalist Club, the Youth of Kamloops Climate Action Network, the Kamloops Cycling Coalition, the Kamloops Bike Riders Association, the TRU Geography Society and over 200 individual Kamloopsians had signed the letter within 24 hours, which was given as the deadline before the letter went to Council. 

“We didn’t anticipate that there would be an appetite on Council to revisit the climate action funding formula, given that our City won so much positive recognition for it and it’s being used as a model by other communities,” says Ruckert.  “So we’ve had only a day or so to do anything about it, and we are amazed at the response we’ve seen to our invitation to sign the open letter. Clearly, this news hit a nerve.”

The open letter is copied below. Signers can be viewed here. Anyone wishing to add their name can do so here.

We are calling upon Kamloops City Council to stay the course on our award-winning Climate Action Levy. 

Council is to decide whether or not to retain the funding increase as planned, reduce the funding increase by half for 2024, or forgo the 2024 increase entirely. The purpose of the levy, approved in 2022, was to facilitate longer-term planning by locking in a predictable funding formula.

The City received an award for the Community Climate Action Plan, and the funding mechanism in particular. As then-Mayor Christian pointed out at the time, “It’s all well and good to have the plan, but unless you have a way to fund the plan, not much is going to get done. So the climate action levy was again recognized as best practice.” 

As Council makes tough choices, we encourage them to factor in the long-term costs of their budget decisions. 

With respect to the return on investment, funding climate action is the most fiscally responsible expenditure that Council can make. In fact, from a numbers standpoint, there are good arguments for increasing the levy to the 0.5% annual increase that was originally proposed.

The 0.35% climate action levy amounts to an additional $8.75 for the average household in Kamloops. Modelling from the Canadian Climate Institute shows that for every $1 invested, governments can save between $13 and $15 in future damages. Since climate change is a time-sensitive issue, that impressive return on investment will be reduced if the investment is delayed. Either we pay now, or we’ll be paying much more later.

In addition to reducing future damages, spending on climate action spurs a host of desirable co-benefits: enhanced livability, improved public health, reduced air pollution, increased carbon sequestration, ecosystem preservation, economic innovation, improved water quality and enhanced resilience to future extreme weather events.

Since climate impacts disproportionately affect our most vulnerable citizens and those with the greatest economic challenges, these investments reduce inequity in our community. In particular, active transportation infrastructure and improved transit enables folks to get around more easily regardless of their age, level of mobility, or economic status. 

The City’s consultations show time and again that residents want climate action to be a top priority. We call on Council to reaffirm the City’s commitment to timely climate action by sticking to the plan on the Climate Action Levy. 

The list of signatories can be seen here. Anyone wishing to add their name can do so here.                                     

2 thoughts on “An open letter calling on City Council to stick to the plan

  1. It really seems in poor taste to have changed the funding right before the event. What an awkward situation the presenters were put in; so much of their time and effort now meaningless.

    Regardless if you believe in climate change or not, you can’t deny the increase in wild fire activity in the past few years. It’s getting worse, and something needs to be done.

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