Opinion » Editorial

No pain, no gain



Green Party leader Elizabeth May is right when she says thinking about the big picture of climate change is paralyzing.

No doubt that is why, when she addressed a standing-room only crowd last week at Rainbow Theatre, she advised everyone to focus on what they can do, and on making governments at every level adopt polices that create change.

You only have to think about the fires that raged for months in Indonesia last year — and the fires that will no doubt start up again at the end of the rainy season in March to pursue the production of palm oil for multinationals — to feel powerless in the face of this global threat.

These fires, which have been going on for 20 years are almost certainly one of the greatest environmental disasters of the 21st century — they produced more carbon dioxide than the U.S. industrial output last year.

The Indonesian government has stated that the situation will be different in 2016 — we will have to wait and see.

But here at home we can take action now.

Not only is the Resort Municipality of Whistler in the midst of updating its community energy and climate action plan, the government of B.C. government is as well.

Temperatures in Whistler and the surrounding area are projected to increase by three degrees in the next 50 years.

May reminded us that only five degrees in temperature separates Canada's history as a land covered with ice and today's reality.

Whistler's Official Community Plan (OCP) commits Whistler to community-level greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions of 33 per cent by 2020, 80 per cent by 2050 and 90 per cent by 2060, as compared to 2007 levels.

However, the resort is no longer on track to meet those levels due mostly to emissions from passenger vehicles — that's hardly surprising news given the traffic woes we see as traffic snakes in and out of town.

And 2014 was the first in the seven years of the commitment that saw an increase in total emissions rather than a reduction.

According to the RMOW's annual Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Performance Trends report last year, "it is unlikely that community emissions will remain on target to achieve the adopted 2020 target levels included in Whistler's Official Community Plan."

Natural gas consumption represents 33 per cent of emissions, while passenger vehicles represent the largest share of emissions at 57 per cent.

"The three years from 2010 to 2012 have been the three highest years of energy consumption ever recorded in Whistler," the report says.

The estimated annual collective energy expenditure in Whistler has increased by more than $33 million since 2000, from $49 million to $83 million.

Energy expenditures for passenger vehicles have increased to an estimated $35 million per year — up $7.7 million per year over 2007 levels.

The RMOW is taking steps and working aggressively to fight climate change (go to www.whistler.ca/services/environmental-stewardship/climate-action-and-energy/energy-initiatives-whistler to find out more) but there is no getting away from the fact that most people get here by car — and that's a problem.

Canada did play a role in the COP21 meeting in Paris last December — a meeting that left the world with a more positive vibe about the fight against the global threat from temperature increases. But as provincial ministers get ready to meet in early March on the issue it is unclear if the will is there to create policy that will make a difference.

Do governments have the determination to put in place the tools needed to change behaviour at an industrial level? We can recycle our plastic bags as much as we like and take the bus, but if big business — read the oil industry — is not at the table staying ,then a global temperature rise of less than two degrees C seems unattainable.

The change is going to hurt — Canada can take all sorts of steps to control emissions, but if the cost is passed to industry it will just pick up shop and move somewhere cheaper.

The provinces can't even agree on a carbon pricing plan. B.C. started out well but then Premier Christy Clark froze the carbon tax at $30 a tonne, rather than allowing the scheduled increases. The provincial Liberals wants to see other jurisdictions catch up before B.C. goes further.

A provincially appointed climate panel recommended last fall that B.C. should raise its carbon tax by $10 increments to $150 a tonne by 2030, while dropping the provincial sales tax and providing some help for the industrial sector. It also urged complementary regulations that would cut emissions in transportation and buildings.

B.C. is looking for input right now from the public on its Climate Leadership plans. Go to www.engage.gov.bc.ca/climateleadership to have your say.

What is clear is that from the personal decisions we make every day to the decisions made at a national and international level it is too late to keep arguing about it.

I'll let May have the last words: "No one level of government, no one sector of society is going to avert the climate crisis.

"It has been a very discouraging number of decades watching procrastination and delay of all kinds, and we have run out of time. We have completely run out of time."


Add a comment