British Columbia

Terrace, B.C. joins North Vancouver in putting climate change warnings on gas pumps

Gas stations in Terrace, B.C., now display stickers sharing fuel-saving tips, but the man who originally proposed the idea says they don't do enough to warn about the consequences of climate change.

New labels fuel debate about how to talk about carbon emissions

Two of the proposed labels proposed by environmental group Our Horizon. Terrace city council ultimately rejected the labels in favour of fuel-reducing tips from an industry organization. (Our Horizons)

Gas stations in Terrace, B.C. now display stickers sharing fuel-saving tips for drivers, but the man who originally proposed the idea says the decals don't do enough to warn about the consequences of climate change.

"It's kind of like putting lipstick on a pig," Matt Hulse told CBC Daybreak North host Robert Doane.

Hulse is the B.C. campaigner for Our Horizon, a national not-for-profit who lobbies governments to put warning labels about climate change on gas pumps.

He visited Terrace in 2015 to propose the idea and won the support of council, but the final results don't go as far as he'd like.

Fuel-saving tips versus environmental warnings

In 2015, North Vancouver voted to become the first municipality in Canada to display climate change warnings after hearing from Our Horizon, but ultimately the city went with stickers from Smart Fueling, an industry organization that provides tips on reducing emissions.

Terrace also chose to allow gas stations to voluntarily display Smart Fueling stickers rather than mandatory ones from Our Horizon. 

Seven out of Terrace's nine gas stations have voluntarily decided to display stickers with fuel-saving tips from industry group Smart Fuelling on their gas pumps. (Smart Fuelling)

"The use of transportation fuels is necessary for most Canadians," Smart Fueling says on their website

"However, there are many ways in which we can use fuels more responsibly and efficiently to curb emissions, and work toward a better, cleaner tomorrow."

Their stickers offer advice like avoiding idling, driving strategically and removing unnecessary cargo in order to reduce the amount of fuel being consumed.

"It actually minimizes the problem of climate change," said Hulse.

"It makes you think that by pumping your tires up or taking your roof rack off your car, you can fight climate change."

Our Horizon's preference is to create unique warnings and images for different parts of the country.

"So it might be dry rivers, pine beetles, forest fires, for a place like Terrace," he explained. "And the text would state that the use of fossil fuels contributes to climate change."

Warning labels had too much 'shock value': councillor

Acting Terrace Mayor Stacy Tyers said the Our Horizon warnings were considered but ultimately rejected for being too blunt.

"They were quite aggressive and there was a lot of shock value," she said. "So even if you're hearing the message you're probably not taking it in in quite the same way."

Terrace is the first municipality in northern B.C. to adopt gas station stickers related to fuel consumption. North Vancouver made them mandatory in 2015. (Nick Bains)

Of the current campaign she said, "It's a baby step. It's all these little steps just to help in educating and to inform people."

Hulse believes Terrace isn't giving people enough credit.

"Our labels simply provide a disclosure of risk," he said. "If we can't put a simple label on the problem itself, identify it for what it is, I don't think we're going to have much success."

Several other B.C. municipalities are considering adopting climate change stickers, including Parksville, Port Moody and Tofino. Hulse said he's hopeful they will choose a more straightforward warning label.

With files from George Baker

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To hear the full interview, click on the audio labeled "Matt Hulse says new gas station stickers in Terrace minimizes the problem of climate change"