Salt Spring trailing in climate fight More political action required
By SEAN MCINTYRE
D R I F TWO O D S T A F F
More local government action is needed if Salt Spring is to make up lost ground in the fight to mitigate climate change.
“Local government — CRD and Islands Trust — need to step up and take responsibility for strategic planning,” said Elizabeth White, a founder of Transition Salt Spring and a retired home energy advisor.
“Salt Spring Island at one point held a leadership role in the region, but has fallen behind in the last few years.”
White said talks by leaders from North Cowichan and Colwood during an April 5 conference on renewable energy at Gulf Islands Secondary School showed how many neighbouring communities have surpassed Salt Spring on the climate change front in recent years.
“We have nothing like that level of support on Salt Spring,” she said. On Thursday, Local Trust Committee members took a small step towards reversing that trend. Trustees moved
GHG emissions and climate change mitigation to their “project number one” list, alongside issues like the National Marine Conservation Area and agriculture in drinking watersheds.
The list includes priorities in waiting, topics in line for the LTC’s top-five priorities when space becomes available.
“Project number one status doesn’t mean it’s one of our top five priorities,” trustee George Grams said after Thursday’s meeting. “That place is already filled by current projects such as watershed protection, RAR, Ganges village planning, the work of the Industrial Advisory Planning Commission and secondary suites.”
The decision comes after the release of the latest United Nations IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] Fifth Assessment Report. The findings reinforce information about human caused climate change and show that the current path of inaction will result in more than a two degree Celsius rise in global temperatures before the end of the century.
White said two-degrees Celsius is the internationally agreed upper limit for maintaining civilization as we know it.
She suggested that local government could restore the SSI Climate Action Council to what it was originally intended to be — an advisory body to local government overseeing the implementation of the Climate Action Plan.
Adopted in 2011 by Salt Spring LTC members, the official community plan’s GHGreduction targets call for a 15 per cent reduction in 2007 greenhouse gas levels by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020.
White said it’s too early to tell where the island stands regarding these targets. Data released on Feb. 20, 2014, however, shows little change in household and transportation emissions between 2007 and 2010.
“This suggests that we may have a hard time meeting the 2015 target,” she said.
But given the massive strides in local food production and the increasing prevalence of electric and low-emissions vehicles on the island, White said, there’s still plenty of room for optimism as 2015approaches.
“The island is in the process of shifting to become more resilient to the effects of climate change and to where islanders and the local economy can flourish with a reduced reliance on fossil fuels,” she said. “This is not something that happens quickly, but it is happening. In the 10 years since we started to track these things, I would say the greatest success has been the increase in local food production —commercial production and backyard gardens. “This is very encouraging.”
During the April 5 sustainability conference, Trust Council chair Sheila Malcolmson took a moment to commend islanders on their efforts to reduce GHG emissions, be they on the road or in the garden. She said large-scale proposals like oil tanker expansion and expansion of coal exports, which the Islands Trust continues to advocate against, can seem daunting.
“The more positive models citizens here today can get in operation, the more you can telegraph the results, the more local conservation renovations and renewable installation jobs we can applaud, thissurely will change hearts and minds,” she added.
Speaking during Thursday’s town hall session, trustee Peter
Grove said the April 5 conference offered him a vision of what can and must be done to slow climate change. “My dream is for our island to become an example of what could happen and lead our province in the direction I think we should go towards becoming more sustainable,” he said.