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Victoria council endorses fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty

Councillors Geoff Young and Stephen Andrew opposed council's move
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Coun. Geoff Young noted the goal of the treaty is to limit the supply of fossil fuels rather than trying to limit demand. SUBMITTED

Victoria is the latest city to endorse the creation of a fossil-fuel non-proliferation treaty, but councillors admit the move will do little more than offer a glimmer of hope to younger generations that decision-makers acknowledge there’s a climate crisis.

Council voted this week to endorse creating a treaty that would put an end to new fossil-fuel exploration and expansion while phasing out existing production, but it wasn’t a unanimous vote.

Though both acknowledged the climate crisis, councillors Geoff Young and Stephen Andrew voted against the motion, arguing it was unlikely to have the desired effect.

Young noted the goal of the treaty is to limit the supply of fossil fuels rather than trying to limit demand.

“As an economist, limit on supply means we’re going to drive up the price — that’s what you do when you limit supply,” he said, noting the result is that supply gets turned off in co-operative countries, only to have others refuse to sign on. Those countries end up reaping the benefit of having a commodity that is now considerably more valuable.

Young said if Canada were to sign on to such a treaty and slow or stop its fossil-fuel production, residents would face higher prices. However, he argued the country could instead focus on limiting demand and reap the benefit of demand-side consumption taxes such as fuel taxes and carbon taxes that are designed to spur people into looking at alternative fuels.

Andrew agreed, adding it’s not the way to create a sustainable community. “We need to understand the economic effect of what we’re doing,” he said.

Coun. Jeremy Loveday backed the motion, however, noting the treaty initiative lays out a vision that transitions away from fossil fuels and into renewable energy that aligns with the city’s goals.

“It isn’t actually just saying turn off the taps — it’s providing a vision for what a path forward could look like, and the fact is science tells us that we need a new path forward,” he said.

Victoria is the seventh B.C. municipality to endorse the initiative. Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, North Vancouver, West Vancouver and Richmond have already done so.

The Fossil Fuel Non- Proliferation Treaty Initiative is a global movement that aims to phase out the development of fossil fuels while developing plans to support workers, communities and countries dependent on fossil fuels.

The initiative draws on lessons from global efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and ban ozone-depleting chemicals, landmines and other threats to humanity.

“Our provincial and federal governments are still … approving expansion of oil and gas, even though the science is clear that to fight climate change we need to stop expansion and wind down emissions and production,” said Tzeporah Berman, initiative chair.

“Cities combined their power and influence to call for nuclear non-proliferation decades ago, and today Victoria joins many other cities in Canada and around the world calling on our governments to stop expansion of dirty fossil-fuel energy and put our money and efforts into building cleaner and safer solutions.”

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