Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the Nature Champions Summit in Montreal in April.
Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Recently, The Vancouver Sun published a climate change-denying op-ed that called itself a “Reality Check” on the wave of “climate emergency” declarations that has been roaring like a tsunami through Metro Vancouver. In it, Fraser Institute fellow and author Ross McKitrick faces off against the overwhelming body of scientific data evidencing the recent rise of global mean temperatures, in an argument that would have greatly benefited from a Google search on the difference between “weather” and “climate”.Any attempt to negate the global climate crisis with a couple of hyper-local weather statistics doesn’t merit much of a response, but the assertion that these resolutions may amount to “meaningless symbolic declarations” is more interesting to unpack.It’s a fair point that there is not one standard definition on the meaning of a climate emergency. People can attribute to it whatever meaning they want, and in some cases, that’s not a lot. Take, for instance, Justin Trudeau’s climate emergency declaration, which amounted to little more than an attempt to soften the blow of approving the mega-polluting Trans Mountain Pipeline project less than a day later, resulting in much eye-rolling from environmentalists everywhere.But what’s happening here in Metro Vancouver is far more exciting, and the magic lies in the fine print. So far, the climate emergency resolutions in the Lower Mainland have included steps toward adopting the IPCC-recommended emission reduction targets, and that’s really where the rubber starts hitting the road. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made it clear that these are the targets we need to hit in order to avert the worst impacts of catastrophic climate change, and by committing to new targets, cities are setting the wheels in motion for real climate action over the critical decades to come.As with declaring a climate emergency, establishing IPCC targets alone won’t get us very far without sustained, committed action not only on the part of municipal governments, but also from a wide range of stakeholders including businesses, institutions, utilities, and other levels of government. It’s of no small concern that many B.C. municipalities have had climate targets in place since 2007; most are not reaching their targets, and a substantial portion of them even stopped bothering to measure their emissions a long time ago.So what’s different this time round? In 2007, much of the impetus for the establishment of municipal climate targets came from government itself; this time it’s coming from community. In almost every major city across Metro Vancouver, people are rising up together to make sure their community takes a real stand for climate justice, and it’s their passion and commitment that gives hope for real climate action over the impending make-or-break decade.Climate emergency declarations and adopting the IPCC emission reduction targets are only the first step. The next steps are getting municipalities to create draft plans in order to meet the targets that have been set, annual measuring and reporting on emissions, and high-impact, locally relevant climate solutions. Thanks to the emergency declarations this year and sustained local advocacy on the ground in the wake of them, these measures are already underway in a number of local municipalities. Communities can solve the climate crisis, and they’re placing Metro Vancouver on track to becoming the first zero-carbon metropolis in Canada.Katharine Harrison is the executive director of the Force of Nature Society, a local organization that gives people from all walks of life the ability to participate in collective action on climate change, close to where they live, in an environment that is fun, supportive and gets results. forceofnaturealliance.ca.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.