The Cowichan Valley Regional District is one step closer to declaring or acknowledging that there is a climate emergency.
The CVRD’s regional services committee decided at its meeting on Oct. 23 to recommend to the board to recognize that there is a climate emergency after a delegation, led by the local citizen’s group One Cowichan, presented a petition with more than 1,800 signatures asking that the district acknowledge it and direct staff to identify options for accelerated climate action.
Both the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan have either declared or acknowledged there is a climate emergency after One Cowichan, along with 48 other local organizations, sent letters to all local governments earlier this year asking them to step up and declare a climate emergency.
The regional services committee also asked staff to write a report outlining what the CVRD has already done in its ongoing efforts to deal with climate change and determine what more can be done.
One Cowichan released a 10-point checklist in August to measure the progress of local governments towards climate emergency action.
The 10-point list covers issues from land use and urban sprawl to transportation and energy efficiency, and staff were directed to consider the list when writing the report.
One Cowichan Jane Kilthei said hundreds of local governments have already declared climate emergencies and the community is asking the CVRD to be climate leaders as well.
“As a local government, you can decide if we should have more urban sprawl or more environmentally friendly compact communities,” she said to the committee.
“You also make decisions regarding public transportation, emissions and how droughts and fires are dealt with so we’re urging you to follow other municipalities and recognize the emergency and determine what steps should be taken to deal with it.”
Katia Bannister, from the Cowichan chapter of the youth-group Earth Guardians, told the committee that the decisions the members make will be their legacy, and her inheritance.
“We need people like you with the power to be models in climate justice to stand with us,” she said.
Director Michelle Staples, who is also the mayor of Duncan, said the CVRD has already been a leader in actions to deal with climate change.
“But it’s still not enough,” she said. “I’d like for us to focus the rest of our term (in office) ensuring that what we’re doing is enough. We may meet a lot of opposition, but this is important to the future and to the present.”
Klaus Kuhn, the director for Youbou/Meade Creek, said the CVRD has done an excellent job dealing with climate change issues so far.
“I don’t like outside groups coming here and pressuring us to support what they want,” he said.
“If you want to get involved in politics, then stand for election. I don’t mind taking advice, but I don’t like this pressure.”
Director Debra Toporowski, representing the Municipality of North Cowichan, said climate change is not only a One Cowichan or a First Nations’ issue.
“This is a community issue that affects us where we all live,” she said.
“Don’t shoot the messenger.”
Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls and the chairman of the CVRD, had expressed disappointment in the past that One Cowichan is not recognizing the work the CVRD has already done to deal with climate change.
But he said at Wednesday’s meeting that he’ll support the motion to have staff write a report.
“We need as much information as we can to make good decisions,” he said.“That’s good governance.”