Vancouver city Coun. Christine Boyle at city hall on Dec. 19.
Nick Procaylo / PNG
The federal government should name climate change for the emergency that it is.Canada’s federal government is debating whether to declare a climate emergency. Meanwhile, people across the country are experiencing climate impacts up close. It matters that our governments recognize the urgency of climate change by naming it for the emergency it is. It matters even more that they act in line with that urgency.There’s no credible doubt that we’re facing a global climate emergency. That was the take home from the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the implications of not holding temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. And that was the premise of Vancouver council’s unanimous vote in January, to respond to the climate crisis at the speed and scale the science requires, in a manner that prioritizes equity. It’s why, 90 days later, council unanimously adopted a climate emergency response plan, including “Six Big Moves” targeted at how we move, live and grow in order to ramp-up the city’s current efforts to fight climate change. Described as “technically feasible but pushing the limits,” it’s as bold and ambitious as we need to be.Numerous other municipalities are making similar moves, using all the tools at their disposal to help reduce our carbon emissions and fight climate change. By tackling climate and affordability concerns together, we can build a more stable future for current and future residents.For municipal governments, this means putting a climate and equity lens on land-use decisions, encouraging higher-density affordable housing along transit corridors, to create livable mixed-income communities with lower resource consumption. It means building even more rapid transit, so people can shift from private-car use to public transit and active transportation, cutting costs and carbon. It means further strengthening building codes, to regulate energy efficiency, the materials used in new developments, and the energy supplied to them.It all adds up to more affordability, livability and better health, for a wider range of people.Cities are important actors in climate action, and shouldn’t be underestimated. But cities can’t do this alone. We need other orders of government to act in line with the emergency.Supporting local climate leadership requires a long-term investment in public transit and affordable housing around transit stations. It requires setting hard sunset dates on specific fossil fuels, and making public investment in job training and transition to a renewable future.Taking the climate emergency seriously requires ambition at every step beyond the Harper-era climate targets, and even beyond lacklustre Paris Agreement targets. It requires governing in line with the science, and getting us to zero-emission by 2050. It requires wartime level mobilization and a plan on the scale of a Canadian Green New Deal.Vancouver is committed to doing our part. We didn’t just declare an emergency, we acted quickly in response to it. The city’s climate response is a necessary and ambitious plan and is complemented by an actionable policy agenda that will create a more sustainable, more livable, more affordable future.The federal government should name climate change for the emergency it is. And then act at the scale and speed necessary to truly tackle the emergency. Local governments have important climate policy tools, and are already stepping up to do their part. If we respond with urgency and innovation together, we can avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.Christine Boyle is a Vancouver councillor with OneCity Vancouver. She brought forward the motion for Vancouver to declare a climate emergency and ramp-up its climate action in response.Letters to the editor should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at email@example.com.CLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.