One Cowichan will begin measuring local governments’ progress in their efforts to take action to deal with climate change.
The local citizen’s group has released a 10-point checklist to measure the progress of local governments – including Duncan, North Cowichan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, and the CVRD – towards climate emergency action.
The 10-point list covers issues from land use and urban sprawl to transportation and energy efficiency.
One Cowichan will score each of the local governments at the end of this year, and then again in six months.
“The purpose of this checklist is to give the public a way to measure whether local governments are actually making progress on reducing emissions and adapting to the climate crisis,” said Jane Kilthei, a spokeswoman for One Cowichan.
“A critical first step is for local governments to stop approving sprawling housing and commercial developments, since they’re one of the biggest drivers of our increasing emissions.”
Kilthei said the context of the checklist is the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations in its report released last year to reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and to net zero by 2050 in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.
“The checklist is meant to support our local governments with their efforts, and to let them know that the community supports action be taken to deal with climate change,” she said.
One Cowichan, along with 48 local organizations, sent letters to all local governments earlier this summer asking them to step up and declare a climate emergency.
North Cowichan’s council officially acknowledged the municipality is facing a climate emergency earlier this month.
The municipality also decided that following the planned hiring of an environmental specialist, staff will be directed to report to council in 90 days with an integrated climate action strategy.
The City of Duncan also declared a local climate emergency in July.
As part of the motion, city staff was also given 90 days to get back to council about what the city has done in the past, what it’s presently doing and what it’ll do in the future to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the crisis of the changing climate.
Staff must also identify at least one action from the city’s integrated Community Sustainability Plan to be initiated in 2019, as well as identify additional short, medium and long-term actions to be undertaken.
Duncan Mayor Michelle Staples said the checklist is a great idea.
She said now that the city has declared a climate emergency, people want to know what that means.
“The measures that each local government will take will be different, and I think it’s important that they be tracked,” Staples said.
“It’s great that our citizens care and are engaged enough to do this. It’s important that local groups like One Cowichan work with local governments on this issue because it will take all of us working together to make a difference, and it needs to be documented.”
The CVRD, like several other local governments, does not issue declarations or proclamations.
But CVRD chairman Ian Morrison said in an interview in July that the district doesn’t need to be told to act on climate-change created problems, it’s already hard at work to deal with it.
“I’ve been on this job for a little over 10 years and I can say wholeheartedly that climate change and adaptation and mitigation has been the predominant theme in my decade in local government,” Morrison said at the time.
“We’re leaders in the work that we do.”
Veronica Haits, a One Cowichan team member, said a report from the CVRD, released in 2018, projects another 25,000 people will move to the region by 2050, raising the question of whether those people will live in ever more car-dependant sprawl, or in denser communities close to work and amenities.
“Ending sprawl and moving to denser walkable communities can not only reduce emissions, but also saves our local governments money and facilitate the building of affordable housing,” said Haits.
“But we need to rapidly move beyond studies and plans and dramatically ramp up implementation to make big changes, or else our local emissions will just continue to go up.”