All three North Shore municipal governments have now declared a climate emergency and directed staff to begin drawing up action plans to stave off environmental disaster.
The District of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver are the latest among hundreds of governments to formally acknowledge the threat.
Introducing his motion Monday night, West Van Coun. Craig Cameron said he’d already faced accusations that his motion was empty “virtue signaling,” but he said the declaration will demonstrate the district is willing to create policies that confront climate change, even if it means disrupting the lives of people today.
“The status quo is not an option and this is an urgent situation. By the time the full effects of climate change become apparent, it will be too late,” he said. “From now on, after this declaration … we have to view every decision we make through the lens of climate change. While this may seem logical and uncontroversial, it’s proven to be anything but in practice today.
“Public debate on new initiatives in the district, whether it’s transportation or housing or other things, has been dominated by discussion of the needs of existing residents, I think, more so than the future plans we need to make for the community.”
The motion directs staff to report back within 90 days on the district’s current efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including performance metrics, and draw up a climate adaptation strategy that meets the present Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s targets.
Cameron’s motion passed after almost an hour of public input, urging council to go ahead. Much of that came from Force of Nature, a group of young people demanding governments act to save their future. While some expressed dread for their future, others saw opportunity.
“In order to effectively address the roots of this problem, we have to create a society that sees ourselves as one – with each other, and the planet,” said Emily Kelsall. “People will radically change their thinking when their environment radically changes.”
Although Coun. Sharon Thompson showed some trepidation that the motion’s language might scare some West Vancouver residents, and she expressed a desire to find a “balanced” approach. Cameron’s motion passed unanimously.
Disaster also united District of North Vancouver council Monday night as the oft-divided government unanimously declared a climate emergency.
“We can’t continue to live the way that we have,” Coun. Megan Curren said. “Individual actions are no match for the global crisis that we face.”
Curren’s motion calls on district staff to “incorporate more urgent climate action and ecological protection” into financial planning and to establish an annual carbon budget by 2020. The motion also requires council to meet carbon pollution targets established earlier this year and to form a committee focused on climate and biodiversity.
Discussing the onslaught of irreversible environmental change, Coun. Mathew Bond reminded his colleagues that council took three years to approve a coach house policy.
“The changes we’re going to need to make are way larger and way more transformative.”
Rather than advocating for polluters to cease polluting, council’s focus should be on mitigation and adaptation measures like shoring up creeks, managing rainwater, and protecting utilities, advised Mayor Mike Little.
“I don’t believe the major polluters in the world are going to do what is necessary,” he said. “I’m only left with the option that I need to focus my efforts on adaptation and mitigation.”
– with files from Jeremy Shepherd