Is It Easy Being Green?
– Esquimalt council urged to go greener than provincial targets
Like all municipalities across British Columbia, Esquimalt is now required by the provincial government to have a strict plan for local Green House Gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, policies, and actions included in our Official Community Plan (OCP) by May 31, 2010.
At a recent Council meeting, our local politicians weighed in on a staff recommendation that Esquimalt adopt the Province’s GHG emissions target of a 33% reduction below 2007 levels by 2020.
Councillor Randall Garrison, however, countered that we are way off the mark when it comes to setting GHG reduction targets. He argues that the staff recommendation of simply adopting the provincial target of -33% by 2020 is far too weak. According to his research on the matter, Garrison sees the 33% figure as a meaningless arbitrary target based on politics rather than science.
“The 2005 Report by the Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute called the Case for Deep Reductions, which was endorsed by the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, set real targets based on science which are now widely accepted as what is necessary,” said Councillor Garrison. “That report calls for reductions of 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 and 25% from 1990 by 2020.”
“So, since BC GHGs increased 27.5% according to environment Canada from 1990 to 2006, we need a target of -50% by 2020 in Esquimalt to achieve the necessary science based reduction levels,” added Garrison. “I accept that that is an ‘aggressive target’, but I believe it is what is necessary.”
Garrison pointed out that his calculations come from the most reputable authorities on the matter. In urging Council to adopt his recommendation, he stated that these “science based” targets are based on what is necessary to hold the rise in global temperatures at +2 degrees and warned that “anything above that will have catastrophic effects.”
“For us as a municipality it means direct costs in terms of things like responding to increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events, shoreline erosion, possible flooding as sea levels rise, and all the rest,” predicted Garrison.
Garrison strongly believes that the more aggressive and effective targets can be accomplished.
“If we put an aggressive target in the plan, it will guide our action Plan. If we are too modest in our target we will perhaps be able to pat ourselves on the back when we reach that target, but we will still suffer the consequences of climate change,” stated Garrison. “Delay both increases costs and the magnitude of the changes you have to make in short periods of time.”
“We in Esquimalt have a chance to be leaders and demonstrate that tough targets are both needed and achievable…but, we have to get started,” concluded Garrison. “I respect my Council colleagues’ concerns about how we measure reductions accurately, but with respect we will have to work out any problems that arise in measuring as we go.”
In the end, Council opted to proceed with beginning the process of setting an overall target for the community to be placed in the OCP and to begin developing an Esquimalt-designed climate change action plan. It is yet to be determined whether or not the community heeds Garrison’s plea.
Although very supportive of progressive environmental policies and practices, Councillor Lynda Hundleby voted against the motion to proceed, stating that Council “needs more information.” She is especially concerned that there is no clear measurement of being green.
Indeed, Esquimalt’s Sustainability Coordinator Marlene Lagoa admitted that “there are still a lot more questions than answers.”
The ease and extend of Esquimalt being green remains to be seen.