British Columbia

2 more Metro Van municipalities declare climate emergency

West Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver's councils passed separate motions on Monday night, joining a growing number of communities across Canada that have made similar declarations. 

Motions in West Vancouver and District of North Vancouver councils pass unanimously

Members of the public bring signs to the District of North Vancouver's council chambers ahead of a vote to declare a climate emergency on July 8, 2018. (Meera Bains/CBC)

The number of Metro Vancouver municipalities calling climate change an "emergency" has increased by two.

West Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver's councils passed separate motions on Monday night, joining a growing number of communities across Canada that have made similar declarations. 

The two motions passed unanimously.

"If our inboxes are any indication of how urgent people see this issue, it's been remarkable so people are really looking to us to take a leadership role," said North Vancouver Coun. Megan Curren, who put forward the motion in her municipality. 

"I think we have to take action to do everything we can, everywhere we can." 

Similar words were said by West Vancouver Coun. Craig Cameron, who put forward the motion in his municipality.

"I've had people email me and say this is empty virtue signally, it means nothing," he said.

"[But] this is an admission of fact, an acceptance of the science ... words matter." 

Specific actions asked for  

While each motion began by declaring climate change an emergency, both municipalities called on their staff to put forward policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

In West Vancouver, the motion asked staff to report back within 90 days on specific actions, along with a list of "actions that comparable municipalities are taking to reduce their GHG emissions."

In North Vancouver, the motion asked staff to do the following:

  • Include "more urgent climate action and ecological protection" into long-term financial planning and strategic processes.
  • Establish an annual carbon budget beginning in 2020.
  • Create a Climate & Biodiversity Committee. 

Curren said the requirements were important to ensure that North Vancouver took concrete steps to be a climate leader.  

"Declarations can certainly be seen as symbolic .But in this case we're actually following it up with some transformative actions [and] send a signal to our staff and to our community that we're committed to meaningful action."

Local governments can move quickly

Since the beginning of 2019, the municipalities of Vancouver, Richmond, New Westminster, Port Moody and the City of North Vancouver have also declared climate emergencies.

Most municipalities are awaiting reports from staff for direct policy recommendations, but Vancouver's have already come forward with proposals that have been incorporated into decisions.

Cam Fenton, an organizer with the climate advocacy group 350 Canada, said he was hopeful more municipalities would follow Vancouver's lead. 

"It really does indicate the best of what a city can do in terms of emergency action," he said.  

"It's not a question of what is scientifically or technologically possible, it's a question of how quickly can we get our politics moving. And that has been a perennial challenge with this climate action."

Curren argued that local governments are in a position to move quickly for a number of reasons.

"We're on the front lines of climate change, but we're also able to move more quickly than other levels of government," she said.

"We contribute up to half of Canada's emissions. And that's through land use planning and transportation and all sorts of things. So I think we have a real opportunity on a local level to move quickly."

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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