Editorial: Traction and action

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This week the world rallies for the planet with climate action events initiated by youth leaders such as Greta Thunberg.

Salt Spring Island is among communities mobilizing to address the climate crisis, with a Climate Strike Rally set for Centennial Park this Saturday. Organizers hope that participants will come away from the event both inspired and with information they need about how to effect positive change.

In the meantime, the Salt Spring Community Energy group, School District 64 and others are working towards making a tangible difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Last Friday SSCE delivered its Electric School Bus Feasibility Study at a public event, outlining infrastructure needs, initial costs and health benefits of ditching diesel school buses in favour of cutting-edge electric ones.

As SD64’s director of transportation and plant services Richard Frost indicated, the days of making decisions solely based on capital outlay considerations are over. If the world is to have any hope of reaching GHG-reduction targets, transitioning from diesel to electric buses, for school and public transit systems, is a no-brainer.

The district’s 12 buses consume 40,213 litres of diesel fuel per year with mileage of about 3.5 kilometres per litre or 10 miles per gallon. Annual maintenance costs are factored in at 18 cents per kilometre.

While a specific provincial government program to fund electric school-bus purchases has not yet been revealed, the SSCE report indicates the Ministry of Education is expected to start funding some electric school buses in the 2020-21 school year. The government’s much-touted Clean BC program has embraced zero-emission public transit buses, and will hopefully give specific targets for school buses as well.

Provincial government subsidies are possible under the Specialty Use Vehicle Incentive Program, but a corresponding program does not exist at the federal level — yet it should.

Even if governments have not yet announced major funding commitments for electric school buses, SD64 may well make the leap for its first bus purchase. It would likely find strong community support in the form of donations, which receive charitable tax receipts through its Gulf Islands Educational Trust. Supporting the concept and pressing for government subsidies to purchase electric school buses is one action with a lot of impact islanders can take following a week of focus on climate change.

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