Climate change front and centre at UBCM 

Mayors and councillors from across B.C. are meeting in Vancouver this week at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference to discuss dozens of issues relating to local government. However, the overriding theme this year is climate change.

Earlier this year the provincial government signed onto an agreement with six western U.S. state government and the province of Manitoba to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, agreeing to implement a cap and trade system to nudge governments towards the goal. That target is in keeping with the provincial government’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2010, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the province by 33 per cent by 2020.

The B.C. government is asking municipalities to help the province reach that goal by signing onto a Climate Action Charter, with local governments agreeing to nine resolutions that will allow them to reach certain targets within their own jurisdictions.

Whistler is already taking steps to monitor and address greenhouse gas emissions through the Whistler 2020 strategy, but Mayor Ken Melamed says the Climate Action Charter is a welcome addition to their plans.

“I thought and the council thought on Monday night that it was worth signing on to the charter,” said Melamed. “It’s absolutely a step in the right direction because it sets goals and targets and asks municipalities to first acknowledge climate change, and then make commitments to reducing greenhouse gases.

“For Whistler it was easy to agree, because we’re actually well down that road, but anytime we can recommit to those targets and showcase what we’re doing to help inspire others is a good thing.”

Whistler’s greenhouse gas emissions are actually increasing, according to the latest monitoring reports, largely because of the continued growth of the resort community and increasing number of vehicles on the road. Strategies to address the issue include burning off the gas produced by the landfill, switching fleet vehicles to natural gas, increasing transit, implementing efficient building standards, and phasing in programs to discourage vehicle use on the highway and within the resort. Plans to offset greenhouse gases are also being looked into.

The nine recommendations in the charter include officially acknowledging a common definition of climate change; acknowledging that local governments have an important role in addressing climate change; accepting the charter as the common template for addressing climate change; recognizing a series of shared goals between municipalities and other jurisdictions of government; committing to reducing emissions by accepting goals and targets; agreeing to back their commitments by supporting the creation of a Green Communities Committee and working groups; adopting common approaches to reductions that come out of the Green Communities Committee; to monitor their own actions and commitments to achieving reduction goals. The ninth recommendation is that the charter will not be legally binding, or constitute a legal obligation.

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