OPINION: Uphill battle ahead for the Climate Leadership Team

During the recent federal election campaign, climate change emerged as a top-tier issue on the hustings. That designation hasn’t changed now that the ballots have been cast. Two weeks ago, teen activist Greta Thunberg led a massive climate rally in Vancouver. 

She shared the spotlight with 15 youth who are suing the federal government, claiming Ottawa has violated their fundamental rights by failing to address the perils of a warming planet.                                                                              

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Here in Squamish, the members of the newly appointed Climate Leadership Team are ready to hit the ground running. According to the District, their mandate is “to develop an inventory of community energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, and identify bold actions to reduce these emissions.” 

Good luck to them, but even with the best intentions, they will be up to their armpits in climate mitigation gremlins.         

From the outset, a priority will be to tackle the environmental challenge posed by thousands of additional vehicles linked to a burgeoning inventory of local housing and commercial developments. 

Some may argue some relief from our fossil fuel affliction is already in progress, as manufacturers of every stripe expand their production of electric vehicles.

But, while we’re awaiting that potential surge of net-zero carbon emission vehicles, we need to deal with the here and now. In Maple Ridge, Coun. Ahmed Yousef is floating a proposal for electric-powered passenger ferries on the Fraser River to connect Metro Vancouver’s eastern communities. 

In his estimation, the operation would “massively” decrease the region’s carbon footprint by utilizing what he calls “this pristine highway that we have right here in our backyards.”

How much traction that idea will get has yet to be determined. But the possibility is there. BC Ferries is in the process of lowering total emissions by transitioning some of its fleet from diesel to liquefied natural gas and eventually to electric power. And the concept certainly merits consideration in our neck of the woods.  

A ferry service between Squamish and the Lower Mainland would go a long way toward reducing traffic on the Sea to Sky Highway.

Another frequently discussed option is renewed passenger rail service in the Sea to Sky Corridor and beyond. For the foreseeable future, that alternative remains a pipe dream due to sizable projected start-up and operating costs. 

Consequently, regional bus transit has become the main alternative. The BC Transit Sea to Sky Regional Transit Study proposed six round trips on weekdays and four weekend round trips between Whistler, Squamish and Metro Vancouver. 

Regrettably, as much as residents in the corridor are clamouring for a regularly scheduled bus service, that plan continues to be mired in funding uncertainties and protracted procedural wrangling.                                                         

Everything considered, the stage is set for the Squamish Climate Leadership Team to help smooth the regional transit implementation process by getting all the stakeholders on the same page and offering solutions to cut through the red tape.

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