Checklist For Municipal Climate Emergency Action

One Cowichan Releases Climate Emergency Checklist for Local Governments

(Duncan, BC; August 19, 2019) Today the citizens group One Cowichan released a checklist to measure local governments’ progress towards climate emergency action. The 10-point list covers issues from land use and sprawl to transportation and energy efficiency.

“The purpose of this checklist is to give the public a way to measure whether local governments are actually making progress on reducing emissions and adapting to the climate crisis,” said Jane Kilthei with One Cowichan. “A critical first step is for local governments to stop approving sprawling housing and commercial developments, since they’re one of the biggest drivers of our increasing emissions.”

A May 2018 CVRD report says that transportation generates 72% of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, compared to 58% provincially, and this is because 90% of our travel is done in personal vehicles due to our spread-out urban form. It also projects another 25,000 people in the region by 2050, raising the question of whether those people will live in ever more car-dependant sprawl, or in denser communities close to work and amenities.

“Ending sprawl and moving to denser walkable communities can not only reduce emissions, but also save our local governments money and facilitate the building of affordable housing,” said Veronica Haits, a One Cowichan team member. “But we need to rapidly move beyond studies and plans and dramatically ramp up implementation to make big changes, or else our local emissions will just continue to go up.”

One Cowichan will score each of the five local municipal governments – Duncan, North Cowichan, Ladysmith, Lake Cowichan, and the CVRD – at the end of this year, and then again in six months. Here is the checklist:

The context of this checklist is the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations in its October 2018 report to reduce carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050 in order to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C. The report states that this will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land use, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities”. Local governments need to rapidly implement climate actions based on comprehensive plans that includes these tests: 

  1. There are bylaws and other legally binding mechanisms in place to end approvals of car-dependent housing and commercial developments.
  2. There are clear bylaws and incentives in place to foster walkable, bike-able communities with readily accessible commercial and other amenities.
  3. There are clear targets and budgets in place to increase safe and interconnected walkways and bike-ways, public transit, and public EV charging stations.
  4. There are bylaws and programs in place to assess and manage local forests, trees, soils and wetlands for increased carbon storage and biodiversity.
  5. There are risk assessments, emergency response plans and programs in place to manage the increased droughts, floods, fires and risks to fresh water brought about by the climate emergency.
  6. There are supportive bylaws and incentives in place to protect agricultural land and enhance local food production and the sale of locally grown food.
  7. There are bylaws in place requiring new buildings to meet the highest building efficiency standards of the BC Energy Step Code and keep pace with the Code’s increasing energy-efficiency standards as they move to net-zero energy. 
  8. There are clear targets and programs in place for reducing household and business waste, including food and plastic waste.
  9. Municipal buildings and fleets are retrofitted and replaced to be zero carbon by 2030.
  10. There is an ongoing active program of public engagement and education to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, as well as ongoing active collaboration among local governments and with First Nations to closely coordinate emissions reductions and climate adaption work.