By PETER LAMB
There should be no doubt that the climate crisis is real and that the Gulf Islands are already seeing the impact. The devastating windstorm on Dec. 20 is surely a wake-up call for priority attention to be given by all levels of government and local community groups to the rapidly changing weather patterns in our region.
The Climate Action Group on Salt Spring Island has expressed its concerns to the Islands Trust in recent years about the need to take more urgent action to lower the carbon footprint in the Trust Area, including the allocation of budget and staff resources to address this issue. Indeed, it has been one of the objectives in their 2014-18 Strategic Plan but was never implemented in practice.
The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates the urgent need to limit average global temperature increases to 1.5°C. The world is currently on track for more than 3°C of warming based on policies in place. Unprecedented weather patterns have resulted in major, costly emergency responses by all levels of government. The British Columbia government declared a provincial state of emergency in 2017 and again in 2018 over record-setting wildfires. Extreme weather events are expected to continue until atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are reduced to well below current levels.
In response, a growing list of over 40 cities and local communities around the world, including Vancouver and Halifax in Canada and B.C.’s Capital Regional District, have joined an international movement in declaring a climate emergency in their jurisdictions to focus attention and resources on resolving the climate crisis, while pressing senior governments for increased local power and resources.
Typically, a climate emergency plan includes reversing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, which is challenging but not impossible if all levels of government take the necessary actions.
In 2009, the Salt Spring Official Community Plan established targets for reducing GHG emissions. A Climate Action Plan for Salt Spring was prepared in 2011, which identified two sectors that were primarily responsible for GHG emissions on our island: on-road transportation and food (production and delivery); the plan now needs a major updating to reflect the community initiatives that have been accomplished since that time and filling gaps that have been identified in the plan.
In this context, we have submitted a request to the Islands Trust Council to join with the Capital Regional District in declaring a climate emergency in the Trust area for consideration by Trust Council at its upcoming meeting on Gabriola Island from March 12 to 14. Also, that Trust Council take a leadership role toward achieving carbon neutrality in the Islands Trust Area by 2030 and consider specific measures that the Trust can take to achieve this target.
If you would like to support this initiative, please read and sign a petition to that effect at: www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/975/183/497/
The writer is a member of Transition Salt Spring’s Climate Action Group.