A letter from 55 churches, unions, businesses and organizations in the Cowichan Valley has been sent to all five of the region’s local governments asking them to follow through on plans to deal with climate change.
The letter asks the local governments to provide a written update to the public on specific actions being taken to reduce local emissions to net zero by 2050, and claims that the Municipality of North Cowichan is, so far, the only local government doing a more comprehensive analysis of its climate impacts and plans with an update to its Climate and Energy Action Plan.
The letter said that last year, three out of the five local governments, including the City of Duncan, Municipality of North Cowichan and the Cowichan Valley Regional District, declared or acknowledged an ongoing climate emergency, while the other two, the towns of Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith, also made statements of support.
It said local governments in other jurisdictions, including Kamloops and Halifax, have done good work reducing emissions in their operations and on adapting to climate impacts.
“But the bulk of the problem remains unsolved,” said Jane Kilthei of One Cowichan, one of the groups that signed the letter.
“They keep approving sprawling developments far from services when we need compact walkable and bikeable neighbourhoods to bring emissions down. Local government has the jurisdiction and they need to act.”
One Cowichan released a 10-point checklist last year that covered issues from land use and urban sprawl to transportation and energy efficiency to measure the progress of local governments towards climate emergency action.
The letter sent this week acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented action on climate change in the past six months, but action can wait no longer.
“We cannot let the climate crises continue to worsen at its current rate,” said Katia Bannister of the Cowichan Valley Earth Guardians, another one of the signatories to the letter.
“We need government action now.”
The letter said that so far, 2020 has seen devastating fires in Australia, massive flooding in China, India, and Bangladesh, record-high temperatures and ice loss in the Arctic, and a stronger-than-average hurricane season emerging on the U.S. and Canada’s Atlantic coast.
The letter went on to say that locally, while the Cowichan River has remained higher this summer than the past few years, the Koksilah River is running low, putting irrigation at risk for dairy farmers in the area.
“Unfortunately, the climate crisis hasn’t taken a break due to COVID-19,” said Sandy McPherson of Transition Cowichan, which also signed the letter.
“We thank our local governments for their good work on the virus and now ask that they extend that same urgency to reducing local emissions.”
Aaron Stone is the mayor of Ladysmith and the chairman of the CVRD, in which all the local governments have representation.
He said work by the CVRD dealing with climate change is ongoing, and the letter from the groups will likely be part of the discussion at the CVRD board’s next meeting in September.
Stone said he will refrain from commenting on the letter until the board has had that discussion.
“I appreciate desire for a report on the issue by the groups who signed the letter, but there is work going on through our climate adaption plan and we’ll hear about that when our board meetings resume in September,” he said.
“The issue will also be on the agenda in the first council meeting in September in Ladysmith as well.”