A Nelson city councillor has started a national organization of municipal government elected officials to advance climate action in Canada.
Rik Logtenberg started the Climate Leadership Caucus (CLC) in January and says it has grown to 57 members from municipalities and regional governments across the country.
“Most of the action to deal with climate change has to happen at the municipal level,” Logtenberg told the Star. “This means hardening our infrastructure: we have to set the building standards to make buildings more efficient, set the traffic patterns that encourage people to walk or bike, and develop the emergency management plan.”
But much of the funding to do these kinds of things has to come from the provincial or federal governments, so the caucus will serve as a lobby group, he said, and well as a networking body.
“We can network together and know what is working and not working and get ideas from each other, make it quicker and more efficient.”
Mayor Lisa Helps of Victoria, one of seven mayors in the CLC, told the Star that 70 per cent of global emissions come from cities, and within cities, 50 per cent of emissions come from buildings, 40 per cent from transportation, and 10 per cent from waste.
Buildings, transportation and waste are all under the jurisdiction of cities, she said, but she echoes Logtenberg in saying that cities don’t have the funding to deal properly with them.
There are other areas where cities’ jurisdiction is not so clear-cut, Helps said, and she hopes the caucus can help clarify this.
“Plastic bags is a perfect example,” she said. “Ten per cent of our greenhouse gases in the City of Victoria come from waste, and [we are] fighting with the plastic bag association in court as to whether we have the authority to regulate businesses to not have plastic bags, straws, cups or packaging.
“Another example: do local governments have the authority to ban oil tanks? If buildings removed oil tanks, that would reduce emissions by 16 per cent. But do we have that authority? We don’t know.
“A third example is congestion pricing,” Helps said. “People drive into the city, drive around the region. But there is a real cost to polluting, and right now it is free.”
Richard Zurawski, a councillor for the Halifax Regional Municipality and a CLC member, has little time for people who say Canada contributes such a small percentage of greenhouse gases worldwide that action here is pointless.
“Historically Canada and the western world have put about 90 per cent of all the excess CO2 into the atmosphere.” he told the Star. “We have built our civilization on the backs of fossil fuels … so there is a moral obligation for us to deal with what we have done.
“It is a bit rich for Canadians to say it is a drop in the bucket, because we finance the activities that go on in China, we are the consumers that demand this stuff, so is naive and a bit duplicitous to say we do not have an effect.”
Regional District of Central Kootenay directors Leah Main and Ramona Faust are also members of the CLC, as are Rossland mayor Kathy Moore and Nelson councillors Jesse Woodward, Keith Page, and Brittny Anderson.