Viewpoint: Treat climate as priority

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The following was sent to the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee and filed with the Driftwood for publication.

By PETER LAMB

We are in a climate emergency and Trust Council has joined hundreds of other communities around the world in recognizing that urgent action is needed to reduce the level of GHG emissions and to adapt to the unprecedented climate-induced risks. Our severe windstorm last December and regular news stories are sober reminders that the climate is changing and is expected to worsen.

While every individual, community organization and business needs to respond, it is critical that local government step up to establish appropriate policies and bylaws that will responsibly manage or regulate the progress toward meeting emission targets as well as the projected impacts on our island community.

Yet, we see the Local Trust Committee wrapped up with topics that are diverting your attention and staff resources. Today, your top priorities are listed as:

• Water sustainability

• Affordable Rental Housing

• Regulate Cannabis Production

• Industrial Land Uses-update OCP and LUB

• Development Approval Information (DAI)  Bylaw

To which you are proposing to add ”Strategic Priorities – Update the OCP through incremental steps in consideration of the strategic priorities“ and you have discussed with the Advisory Planning Commission the appropriate wording to “implement the climate change mitigation plan and adaptation measures.” But neither appears to have made the “top priority” list, and protecting the Coastal Douglas-Fir ecosystem, a tangible climate action, is still considered a strategic priority.

Trustees, while the DAI Bylaw may be related, there can be no more critical or urgent issue for Salt Spring than dealing comprehensively with the climate crisis we are now facing. Your OCP (Section A6) already contains objectives and policies for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency that allow the LTC to take action now. Section A5 also provides the basis for taking action to protect the island environment. Such actions go well beyond the proposed CDF protection and DAI initiatives.

As you know, there is extensive work being undertaken now on an updated Salt Spring Climate Action Plan that will be recommending specific actions to be taken by the CRD and Islands Trust. The LTC should be ready to implement the relevant recommendations as soon as the revised plan is released, scheduled for March 31, 2020. 

You must treat the climate emergency not only as a priority but as the top priority and get staff working on the necessary bylaws to give effect to these policies. If necessary, consider additional funding in the 2020/21 budget to retain more staff or outside help. Updating the OCP, even incrementally, is a slow process that may well be necessary to deal with other climate-related actions.

At your next LTC meeting on Nov. 26, be strong and make addressing the climate emergency your top priority and direct staff to adjust its work program accordingly. 

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