New report puts the spotlight on Regina’s climate policy
‘Big moves’ ahead for our little city on the prairies
In January 2022, Regina joined many cities worldwide with their release of an action plan to make the city “a one-hundred per cent renewable energy community by 2050.” The Energy and Sustainability Framework was first voted on by city council in 2018. However, it has been a long and rocky road to finally publishing Regina’s action plan. According to Sask Dispatch, in January 2020 the city invited a climate denier to be a keynote speaker at their climate conference. Shortly after, the pandemic hit Canada just as the report’s analysis was being completed. Through all the hurdles, the monstrous 100+ page framework was published.
As a recent report reflecting on the Energy and Sustainability Framework emphasizes, the work isn’t over; it is just beginning. The report, titled Implementing Equity, was published by University of Regina professor Emily Eaton and Director of the Saskatchewan Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Simon Enoch. The report praises Regina for putting an emphasis on equity in their framework. Compared to other cities, the report states that in 2020, out of 267 cities analyzed with a plan to transition to net-zero, only four had mentioned equity. They concluded that “a startling number still fail to include equity in any meaningful way, often relegating equity concerns to secondary or tertiary goals”
Regina’s plan sets out seven ‘big moves’ as the key areas to be targeted, which include goals such as new construction hitting net-zero and powering indoor heating with renewable sources. As a part of the equity commitment Regina is being lauded for, each ‘big move’ also includes equity co-benefits. On top of the ‘big moves,’ there are also 31 additional moves Regina has committed to taking, 23 of which are supposed to be planned or started by the end of 2023. I contacted the City of Regina to ask about what actions they’ve already taken, but there was no reply as of publishing this article.
In the report by Eaton and Enoch, each ‘big move’ was given some recommendations for how to implement it in an equitable way. For example, they recommended creating an electric vehicle (EV) car-share program to meet the low-emission vehicle target. Eaton and Enoch also had recommendations for how to fund Regina’s ‘big moves.’
One idea that other municipalities have come up with is charging additional stormwater fees to properties with large amounts of paved area. The reasoning being that pavement prevents stormwater from absorbing into the soil, which means that more of it ends up in stormwater drains. This would have the double benefit of raising funds while also encouraging more greenspace within the city. Other ideas include taxing programs like Uber who currently use public infrastructure paid for by Regina, like roads, without paying back the community.
The primary recommendation made by Eaton and Enoch is for a sustainable equity commission to be set up by the City of Regina to ensure equitable implementation over time. Implementing Equity states “continued community engagement is the best way to ensure that those concerns are implemented.”
I also reached out to CUPE Local 21, a local union whose member Tyler Hutchinson advised on the city’s Energy and Sustainability Framework. When asked about the framework’s impacts on workers, Hutchinson said “how the city implements the program will dictate what kinds of impacts it will have on members, […] though Local 21 is generally in favour of renewable.”
Having a committee is thought to be important not just for equity, but also for keeping the city’s plan on track. In several other municipalities, sustainability goals have been derailed by not considering the needs of the community. When interviewed by the Regina Leader-Post, Eaton said “The fear is if climate policies are perceived as unfair or unjust that they will invite opposition and backlash.”