Candace Spilsbury, chairwoman of the Cowichan Valley school district, said students are very concerned about climate change as the board declared a climate change emergency on Feb. 4. (File photo)

Cowichan Valley school district declares climate change emergency

Cowichan Valley sixth school district in province to do so

The Cowichan Valley school district has declared a climate emergency at its board meeting on Feb 4.

The motion to declare a climate emergency passed unanimously, and the district will now establish plans and initiatives in an effort to deal with climate change and environmental sustainability.


“Youth in our community have been striking and lobbying for action and we’re pleased SD79 has now acknowledged this emergency,” said Ellie Barnhart, a student from Cowichan Secondary School and member of the Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians who appeared in a delegation to the board asking for the motion.

“We look forward to hearing about specific next steps to make this declaration meaningful.”

Nik Richardson, a member of the BC Teacher Federation’s social justice committee, also appeared in the delegation, along with Matt Price, a parent of a student in the district and coordinator of the national network of parents and grandparents concerned about climate change called For Our Kids.

Climate emergency declarations have been passed by various levels of government, including in Ottawa and at the local level at the Cowichan Valley Regional District, City of Duncan, and North Cowichan.


Five other school boards in the province have already declared a climate emergency, including Victoria, Vancouver, North Vancouver, Gulf Islands, and Qualicum.

“Being a parent in 2020 means being aware of how we’re preparing our kids for climate change,” Price said.

“Our schools have a key role to play teaching them what to expect and giving them the necessary skills. We hope SD79 will become a leader in this regard.”

School board chairwoman Candace Spilsbury said the board has had discussions about climate change before, but Tuesday’s meeting was the first time they decided to move forward with a course of action for the district to try and help deal with it.

She said the board made another motion at the meeting asking that school superintendent Robyn Gray prepare a report outlining a range of options that the district could implement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, as well as a range of options for climate education for the district.

“We’ll wait for the superintendent to present her report, which is expected within 90 days, before we commence with any actions,” Spilsbury said.

“Climate change and environmental sustainability are important for our students and many of them have attended climate strikes. Our students are very involved in watching how this issue will be dealt with.”

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