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Climate-change warning labels pumped for gas stations

The idea of forcing gas station owners to put climate-change warning labels on gas-pump nozzles is primed to take off in B.C.

The idea of forcing gas station owners to put climate-change warning labels on gas-pump nozzles is primed to take off in B.C.

The City of North Vancouver last year became the first municipality in the country to pass a bylaw mandating the warning labels.

Now, Tofino staff have been directed to consider including the requirement of gas-nozzle warning labels as part of an update of the municipality’s business bylaw.

“It’s directly analogous to the warning labels on cigarette packs,” said Tofino Coun. Greg Blanchette, who proposed the idea promoted by the environmental group Our Horizon.

The plastic “nozzle toppers” fit over the gas nozzles and have space for a three-by-three card, he said.

The exact wording of the labels is yet to be determined, but they could be warning labels or information labels, Blanchette said.

“There’s a couple of different thoughts. One is the scary message with [something like] bleached pictures of coral reefs, reminding you that that’s one of the consequences of climate change and sea-level rise,” Blanchette said.

“The other approach — and we haven’t decided which one we’ll take yet — is information labels. Telling people that making sure their tires are properly inflated will save a good amount of fuel or just general information like climate change contributes to sea-level rise.”

Blanchette, who uses a bicycle to get around and doesn’t own a car, believes the real value will come from making climate change more top-of-mind.

“We change it incrementally, little by little. The system is so huge and so interlinked we cannot change the whole system, but we change it little by little,” he said. “This is one of those small efforts that will start to bring about that change.

Tofino is well placed to take the action, he said.

“We get an estimated 800,000 visitors a year. Most of them arrive by car, of course. So they’ll be fuelling up here for the trip back. So the climate-change message will really get spread far and wide just by being displayed in Tofino.”

Blanchette doesn’t know when Tofino staff will report back on the business licensing bylaw, but expects it won’t be until the fall.

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt thinks it’s something the city should consider.

“Anything we can do to transition away from fossil fuels is worth pursuing. So I think a multi-pronged approach makes sense,” Isitt said.

Victoria Coun. Chris Coleman said the issue might come up at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“We put labels up with respect to the economics of oil and taxes … We put up warnings for what our foodstuffs are made of. So I don’t think from the consumer’s perspective it’s any different.”

In January last year, the District of West Vancouver council unanimously passed a resolution calling for vendors of retail petroleum products in Canada to be legislated to provide warning labels on all pump handles.

In September, local government representatives from across the province voted at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention to support and implement “where possible” climate-change labels on gas pumps.

Then in November last year, the City of North Vancouver became the first jurisdiction in Canada, and possibly in the world, to pass a law requiring climate-change labels on pumps at gasoline retailers.