Duncan City council has declared a climate change emergency. (Submitted)

Duncan city council declares climate change emergency

“I think sometimes it’s important to start with identifying the fact that something’s real.”

Mayor Michelle Staples and City of Duncan council have declared a local climate emergency.

The move, made at their council meeting on July 15, makes Duncan the first local government in the Cowichan region to join hundreds of others across Canada in recognizing the threats climate change poses in this way.

“I think sometimes it’s important to start with identifying the fact that something’s real,” Staples said. “We are past the point — long past the point of knowing that climate change is here, it is not something coming one day, it is something deeply impacting the world around us.”

A similar motion was passed by the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities recently.

“They as well are asking the province to declare a province-wide climate emergency so we are also at the local level hoping to acknowledge that and get to work as well,” said Councillor Jenni Capps during the council meeting.

The easy part was declaring the emergency: council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the declaration. The hard part is what to do next. Part of the motion was to give staff 90 days to get back to council about what the City has done in the past, what it’s presently doing and what it’ll do in the future to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the crisis of the changing climate. Staff must also identify at least one action from the city’s integrated Community Sustainability Plan to be initiated in 2019, as well as identify additional short, medium and long-term actions to be undertaken.

“I certainly appreciate that not only do we on this motion have the recognition, the declaration of the climate emergency but as well some actual action we can take and sort of giving us some tools to immediately prioritize our response so that we can respond appropriately and intelligently to this,” Capps said.

It’s a lot of work but many within the community are behind them.

“It was a very timely letter we received on July 3 signed by dozens of local groups and organizations actually calling for this to be brought to council so I certainly appreciate all the dozens of organizations and groups that added their voice to this,” Capps said. “I really appreciate that and we do recognize how urgent the need is to step up action as soon as possible.”

According to One Cowichan, it was 49 local organizations (unions, churches, non-profit groups and special interest groups) that sent a letter to Duncan, and the rest of the region’s local governments asking them to step up and declare a climate emergency.

All told, there are 1,015 signatures under One Cowichan’s climate emergency petition thus far and teams of volunteers are continuing to collect signatures and organize events.

“Now, it’s time for the Town of Ladysmith, the Town of Lake Cowichan, the District of North Cowichan and the CVRD to follow the City of Duncan’s lead,” said One Cowichan director Jane.

Staples agreed, hoping her council has set the example.

“I do hope others follow and I do still have a thread of hope that by us doing so, leaders who have more power to implement policy changes and invest in the technologies and industries available for us to make the shifts required to do so.”

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