Squamish council has declared a climate emergency, joining other municipalities and the federal government in calling for action on climate change.
Councillors voted unanimously 6-0 in favour of the motion on July 2. Coun. Doug Race was absent from the meeting.
“I think the students that have come forward here... have spoken loudly that we only have 11 years to make significant changes on the climate change front, and that requires all of us to act,” said Coun. Jenna Stoner.
“It’s not just symbolic. I’m really hoping that there’s enough detail in there that it shows both to council, staff and our community that we’re really serious about taking action on climate change.”
This resolution was drafted by both Stoner and Coun. Chris Pettingill after a delegation of students appeared before council at a meeting weeks ago. This development followed global student climate protests, which also saw demonstrations occurring in Squamish.
The motion calls on the District to support moving away from fossil fuels.
It asks to prioritize the transition for people most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and who are most in need of assistance in converting to renewable energy.
“It really holds our feet to the fire as leaders in this community,” said Mayor Karen Elliott.
There were other promises made in the resolution.
It gives staff until the end of 2019 to create a greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan that would set interim community-wide targets in line with limiting global warming to the 1.5-C threshold outlined by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
These would be reductions of 45 per cent by 2030; 65 per cent by 2040 and 100 per cent by 2050.
The resolution also promises to create a mechanism that would allow the District to track and publicly report on the progress of the emissions reduction plan.
It calls for community engagement, as well as for municipal budgets and financial plans “that reflect the urgency of climate change.”
The resolution also calls for bringing forward options in 2020 that would incentivize green building practices and increased public access to electric vehicle infrastructure.
Further, there’s a promise to prioritize the municipality’s economic development sector strategy with climate change in mind.
Coun. Eric Andersen also suggested changing some of the language in the resolution to make it less specific, and, therefore, more able to accommodate unforeseen future developments.
“The question arises whether we are not kind of getting ahead of ourselves, so to speak, while we don’t have that action plan or work plan for future staff... in place,” said Andersen. “So for that reason, I would be more comfortable with a less detailed resolution on certain points.”
His suggestions were reflected in the resolution, including a change to use the term “green building practices.”
The resolution also called for the climate emergency declaration to be “clearly at the heart of all future staff reports and operations.”
Andersen wondered what that last point would entail for future District communications. District CAO Linda Glenday said staff hasn’t yet decided what that would look like.