Despite declaring a climate emergency, the Capital Regional District has made little progress in reducing its overall greenhouse gas emissions and will likely miss this year’s targets by a wide margin, a new report shows.
Directors who pushed for the declaration in February 2019 called the report’s findings “shocking” and urged the the district to do more to fight climate change.
“I hope this serves as a wake-up call that what we are doing currently is not enough,” Saanich Coun. Ned Taylor said in an interview Monday. “Not only have we not reached our target, we are not even close.”
The CRD’s 2018 regional growth strategy aimed to reduce community greenhouse gas emissions to 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020.
But a report going to the CRD board on Wednesday shows the region’s emissions declined by just 1.1 per cent from 2007 to 2018 and still sit at about 1.7 million tonnes a year.
The numbers from last year have yet to be tallied, but “the capital region would have to achieve a nearly
32 per cent decrease in 2019 for the 2020 target to be achieved,” the report states.
Saanich Coun. Colin Plant, who chairs the CRD board, expressed disappointment with the overall numbers, but noted that the region’s population grew by 15 per cent over the same time period, which means emissions are actually down on a per capita basis. That’s an indication, he said, that the region is having some success.
“I am also reminded that CRD has only certain levers to ‘pull’ in order to reduce the region’s greenhouse gas emissions,” he said in an email.
“We rely on our member municipalities and other levels of government to also implement policies and programs to see us all move to a more sustainable future with lowered emissions.”
But Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who along with Taylor and Sooke Mayor Maja Tait pushed the board to declare a climate emergency, expressed alarm.
“It’s actually shocking that we set these goals … and we’re so far behind,” Helps said Monday.
She called on the district to come forward with “bold suggestions” for the board to consider as part of 2021 budget discussions.
“The pandemic has shown us what disruption looks like without question — disruption to jobs, disruption to housing, disruption to the economy, disruption all around. And the pandemic is really just a foreshadowing of the disruption that’s to come with climate change if we don’t get a handle on it.”
Taylor likewise called on the district to follow through on its commitments and put more money into fighting climate change.
“It’s been over a year since that declaration was made and we haven’t actually invested any substantial new dollars into climate action or into any kind of work to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
“I don’t know how you can declare an individual issue to be an emergency and then not do anything more to address that issue since making that declaration. That, to me, seems disingenuous.”
Plant, however, said the CRD is doing a lot to fight climate change, including implementing a green fleet
policy, using e-bikes, retrofitting buildings with energy-efficient technology, capturing methane from the landfill and putting it into the natural gas pipeline, supporting electric vehicle charging initiatives and participating in residential energy retrofit programs.
“While I would like to see us do more, I am confident of the CRD’s plans and those from a variety of government agencies,” he said.
Emma-Jane Burian, who helped organize a series of youth climate action strikes in Victoria last year, said the district needs to be clearer in its climate plan about what it’s trying to achieve so that people can hold elected officials to account.
“They have some really amazing goals in that plan, but there’s not many accountability mechanisms,” she said. “So I’m not really surprised that we’re in this place.”
Burian, 18, added that it would be unfortunate if the climate change emergency got pushed to the back burner by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have such an opportunity here in terms of COVID-19 recovery,” she said. “We have the opportunity to completely reinvent our economy and reduce the emissions.
“We can solve both crises at the same time. It’s going to require the upheaval of some existing systems and structures, and the creation of new ones. But I think that’s what we really need to do in this case. We can’t keep sweeping it under the rug.”