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Municipalities commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2012

Province outlines plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

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More than 200 different resolutions were considered at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities conference, covering everything from taxes to land use planning. However, the big issue on the agenda this year was climate change, and the new Climate Action Charter.

Some 62 local governments, including municipalities and regional districts, signed onto the charter, committing to making local government operations carbon neutral by 2012. That includes municipal fleets, buildings, public transit, and other operations.

A handful of municipal governments and regional districts did not sign on, including the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District. In most cases the decision not to sign was made so local governments would have an opportunity to study the charter more closely.

In the SLRD’s case, the board is waiting to see what municipal governments in Pemberton, Squamish, Whistler and Lillooet are planning in order to plan a unified approach for the corridor.

Whistler, which was presented with an award at the UBCM as one of B.C.’s greenest communities, has signed onto the Charter. Although the municipality is already taking steps to monitor and address greenhouse gas emissions, Mayor Ken Melamed says council recognized the Charter as a welcome addition to their plans.

“I thought and the council thought… 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.”

The Climate Action Charter was tabled just months after 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. To accomplish this, the signatories to the Western Climate Initiative agreed to implement a cap and trade system that would nudge governments towards the goal, as well as universally adopting California’s tailpipe standards.

That target is in keeping with the provincial government’s previous commitment to be carbon neutral by 2010, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the province by 33 per cent by 2020.

Most environmental groups are in favour of the initiative in principle, but have criticized the initiative as being too lenient compared to more aggressive plans such as the Kyoto Protocol.

However, they have also praised the fact that the plan actually has teeth — including market-based mechanisms for capping and trading emissions. The details will be announced in the coming weeks.

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