By Kevin Damaskie
RMOW Policy and Program Development
Eleven thousand incandescent light bulbs and their low-energy replacements are helping to light the path to sustainability in Whistler as our town continues to address climate change. Small efforts such as bulb replacement can be effective at illuminating the bigger challenge that climate change presents, and last week it appeared that federal and provincial politicians saw the light as they moved climate change from the political slipstream to the mainstream. Green is the new black in politics, and hopefully it becomes more than a passing trend.
The Whistler-Blackcomb sustainability squad is actively working all over the mountains to reduce the impacts of their operations. They have changed enough light bulbs to fill 10 cars on the Excalibur Gondola and sent them to Aldergrove for recycling. As well, Whistler-Blackcomb has undergone an extensive energy audit of many of its on-mountain facilities in collaboration with Vancouver consultants Sempa Power. By swapping propane boilers and equipment in the Glacier Creek, Legends at Creekside and the Roundhouse Lodge for more efficient electrical units, 846.5 tonnes of GHG emissions have been reduced over the past two years.
Light bulbs are a bright start, but we need to examine what and how much we drive, where we live and where we fly before our individual and collective life choices are effective for massive GHG reductions. Changing a light bulb is easy, changing your lifestyle may not be. In Whistler, there is work to do as our GHG emissions are in fact increasing.
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February 16 was the second anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol becoming international law. Since then, 169 nations from the global community have signed on, with the United States and Australia as notable non-signatories.
Whistler has been stalking Kyoto targets since they were created. In 1997, the year the Kyoto Protocol was drafted, the RMOW joined the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Partners for Climate Protection program and committed to a 20 per cent reduction in GHG emissions for municipal operations from 1990 levels, and a minimum six per cent reduction for the entire community from 1990 levels. Ten years later, reducing GHG emissions is a foundation of the Whistler2020 Energy and Transportation Strategies and is embedded throughout Whistler2020.
On Feb. 12, Prime Minister Harper announced the Canada ecoTrust for clean air and climate change: $1.5 billion of new funding will be transferred to the provinces and territories to support technology development and energy efficiency projects. A quantum shift for a Prime Minister who only recently announced Canada would pull back from our original commitment to Kyoto.
British Columbia Lt.-Gov. Iona Campagnolo made it clear last week that this province intends to be one of the most proactive global jurisdictions when it comes to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"The science is clear. It leaves no room for procrastination. Global warming is real. We will act to stem its growth and minimize the impacts already released. The more timid our response is, the harsher the consequences will be," she read during B.C.’s Feb. 13 Speech from the Throne. Clear targets and actions for B.C. were highlighted. B.C. has proposed to:
• Cut current levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020.
• Eliminate all emissions from power generation by 2016.
• Continue a $2,000 sales tax exemption for new hybrid vehicle purchases.
• Phase in emissions standards on new vehicles purchased in B.C. to reduce their emissions by 30 per cent over the period from 2009 to 2016.
• Immediately swap the entire government fleet to gas/electric hybrids.
We will continue to profile more Whistler residents and businesses who are acting locally to effect global change. Stay tuned. Join the revolution’s evolution.
Thanks to everyone who is helping to make Whistler an increasingly sustainable and successful community. To KNOW MORE about other actions that are moving our community toward Whistler2020, or to find out how we’re performing visit www.whistler2020.ca. To suggest a story idea, get involved with Whistler2020, or to suggest actions for task force consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org .