Saturday, December 2, 2023
December 2, 2023

Climate Report Card 2023: Can we handle the impending challenges?

By TRANSITION SALT SPRING

Amid a wild year with extreme droughts and massive wildfires, B.C. has faced some unusual and disturbing climate situations.

Even though Salt Spring Island finally got a break from all that smoky air that took over in August, things aren’t exactly normal. North Salt Spring Waterworks District is still at Stage 3 restrictions, and the Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue department says our Fire Hazard Rating is back at an Extreme level (as of Sept. 18). July 2023 went down in history as one of the driest months ever on Salt Spring, showing us just how severe this climate crisis is.

Now, the big question on our minds is: Are we on Salt Spring Island ready to handle the climate challenges coming our way?

Transition Salt Spring has just wrapped up the Climate Report Card 2023, an update on how we’re doing with the Salt Spring Island Climate Action Plan 2.0 that came out in 2021. The plan’s goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030 in line with Canada’s commitments at the United Nations and also to get our island and all its humans and non-humans ready for the climate changes heading our way.

Since the plan came out, we’ve been making progress in many areas. Electric transportation has increased, taking care of our forests, improving food security and making our buildings resilient against severe weather impacts. All of this shows we’re committed to keeping our community safe.

Some great work worth noting so far:

• The community bought several important land parcels, helping us protect our forests and trap carbon. 

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• There’s now a Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Plan. 

• The Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust launched The Root Food Hub.

• The Capital Regional District (CRD), the Farmland Trust, Salt Spring Island Abattoir, and Island Community Services announced a new composting facility.

• Electric vehicles (EVs) are catching on, with a 40 per cent increase from 2020 to 2021. Also, the CRD has supported more EV charging spots, and we have our first two electric school buses. 

• Island Pathways received federal dollars to push the Salish Sea Trail Network forward.

• Transition Salt Spring’s Climate Adaptation Research Lab (CARL) is working on projects that make our wetlands healthier and cut forest fire risk on Mount Maxwell.

But here’s the hard part: even with all these wins, the Climate Report Card tells us we are far from hitting the mark to meet the goals of the Climate Action Plan. We must recognize that we’re not ready for the unusual weather here now and the more extreme weather that’s coming. To tackle these issues, we’ve got to change how we build things, plan our community and take care of our natural areas to cut the risk of things like fires, droughts and storms. It’s not just about cutting emissions; it’s about getting tougher in the face of wild weather.

As we gear up for more weather extremes, we must remember that we also need affordable places for folks to live and smart solutions for managing water to enable more housing on the island. The report card reminds us about a crucial issue: climate change hits people differently based on where they live, how much money they have, their gender and their ethnicity. Our actions should ensure everyone on Salt Spring, human and not, becomes more resilient as climate problems worsen.

Transition Salt Spring has begun the process of engaging with our local elected officials with an invitation to determine which priorities get integrated into their planning, supported by discussions with island organizations and the community.  

Keep an eye on the Driftwood; Transition Salt Spring will soon roll out the main ideas from the Climate Report Card. If you’d like to learn more about the report, please join us for the next ASK Salt Spring event on Friday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. at the Salt Spring Island Multi Space. We look forward to seeing you there!

Funding from the Salt Spring Island Foundation and the Capital Regional District made the Climate Report Card possible. We thank our dedicated board and staff, particularly climate researcher Kacia Tolsma, for bringing this report together.

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