The Cowichan Valley Regional District has acknowledged that climate change is an emergency.
The board voted on the issue at its meeting on Nov. 13 after a delegation led by the local citizen’s group One Cowichan presented a petition to the CVRD’s regional services committee on Oct. 23 with more than 1,800 signatures asking that the district acknowledge a climate emergency and direct staff to identify options for accelerated climate action.
Staff were also tasked with writing a report outlining what more the CVRD can do to deal with the climate emergency.
There was no discussion on the issue at the meeting, but Cobble Hill’s Mike Wilson, Lynne Smith representing Saltair/Gulf Island, Klaus Kuhn representing Youbou/Meade Creek, and North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring voted against it.
One Cowichan released a 10-point checklist in August to measure the progress of local governments towards climate emergency action.
The 10-point list covers issues from land use and urban sprawl to transportation and energy efficiency, and staff were encouraged to consider the list when writing the report.
Both the City of Duncan and the Municipality of North Cowichan have already either declared or acknowledged there is a climate emergency after One Cowichan, along with 48 other local organizations, sent letters to all local governments earlier this year asking them to step up and declare a climate emergency.
Hundreds of other municipalities across Canada have already made similar statements.
One Cowichan’s Jane Kilthei said she is pleased the CVRD acknowledged a climate emergency, but what that means for climate action in the Cowichan Valley remains unclear.
She said the CVRD’s ongoing strategies have no timelines and no clear sense of outcomes.
“This is unlike other local governments that have given staff a specific time period, most often 90 days of less, to come back to council with specific options for accelerated climate action,” Kilthei said.
“Other local governments are moving more quickly to update emissions reductions targets and bolder measures to meet them. As climate impacts accelerate, we risk falling behind.”
Kilthei said the CVRD is a recognized leader in modelling climate adaptation and in achieving carbon neutral status for its corporate operations, but the district has yet to tackle emissions reductions Valley-wide, 72 per cent of which are estimated by the CVRD to come from transportation, driven by local government development decisions.
“The CVRD does not yet have a regional growth strategy,” Kilthei said.
“Without ending approvals of sprawling car-dependant housing developments, our emissions in the Valley will continue to rise.”
Aaron Stone, the new chairman of the CVRD, said the board, which has already done significant work to reduce the district’s carbon footprint, wants to develop a comprehensive plan that has “merit and teeth” to further deal with the climate challenges.
“But it will take time and we can’t expected to accomplish that after just one meeting,” he said.
“We have varying viewpoints on the board, but there is no lack of enthusiasm to move forward. We are currently working through our budget process for next year, and when we continue with our strategic planning process, we intend to take action on the climate that’s meaningful. But it will take some time.”