Tackling Climate Change

October 9, 2019
Council Column

Our youth are demanding action to address climate change; as evidenced by the recent mobilization of young people around the world and their articulate and passionate challenges to world leaders. More and more citizens are demanding action as well; as evidenced by the global climate action rallies a few weeks ago and the current protests that are interrupting normal traffic patterns in major cities all over the world. 

The evidence that we’re entering a period of destabilizing climate is self-evident and becoming more alarming each year. The most recent United Nations climate report effectively states that we’ve run out of time for all but the most dramatic changes in our economy and in our relationship with the Earth’s ecosystems.

All of this should come as no surprise to the people living in the Quesnel area: we’ve been on the forefront of climate change for the past 15 years as an unprecedented Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic ravaged our lodgepole pine forests and increasingly catastrophic fires have further devastated the land base in the North Cariboo.

This summer’s meltdown in BC’s forest sector is in large part a result of a climate ravaged forest that can no longer sustain the number of operating sawmills in BC. Quesnel’s loss of 200 direct jobs in the sawmilling sector is a direct result of a changing climate and, if we don’t take immediate steps to change the way we manage our forests and start producing different products from our forest resources, we could potentially lose even more jobs.

The time for dithering on climate change is long gone, our young people are right to demand immediate and concerted action to address this global crisis.

But what, exactly, can we do to turn the tide and enable people to live more sustainably? How do we wean ourselves off the fossil fuels that are pumping billions of tons of additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?

These are the fundamental questions all levels of government (local, First Nations, provincial, federal, and global) must wrestle with, as we all have a role to play in finding solutions and enabling sustainable alternates.

Quesnel City Council was successful in obtaining a grant to hire a staff person to assist us to document our carbon footprint both as a corporation and as a community. This “Carbon Review Coordinator” is now assisting Council to develop targets and strategies so we can do our part to reduce the City’s (corporate GHG emissions) and the community’s overall emissions.

At last week’s Council meeting, Council adopted GHG emission reduction targets for the community as a whole that match those of the Province of BC: reduce emissions from 2007 levels 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040, and 80% by 2050. Council also adopted a GHG emission reduction target for the City’s corporate emissions of 3.5% annually for the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 with new targets to be set in 2022 for future years. 

With these targets established, our Coordinator will now work with Council to develop clear and actionable strategies to ensure we can achieve these targets; strategies that, after some up-front capital investment, most likely will lead to operational cost savings for the City on a number of fronts.

Council also ratified its intention to join other communities across the globe that are declaring a climate emergency. However, we don’t simply want to declare an emergency without our own plan to reduce our GHG emissions and without a clear agenda outlining where we’ll need immediate help from higher levels of government. 

So, stay tuned and please engage with us as we struggle to do our part to enable systemic change and reduce our GHG emissions as quickly as possible.

Mayor Bob Simpson


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