Jens Wieting: The future is here for the new B.C. government—with hurricane force

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      Unprecedented climate change-fuelled wildfires and hurricanes are a stark global warning that we have little time to contribute to global solutions to save nature, phase out fossil fuels, and leap to a low-carbon economy.

      In British Columbia alone, over one million hectares of forests have burned so far, the highest number since records started, and forest-fire emissions were at close to 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in August—more than three times the official emissions of this province.

      After thousands of years with a relatively stable climate, it is now in our hands, at this moment of time, as to whether or not we can stabilize the climate. It certainly means that our governments must act like they mean it, to save our world as we know it.

      B.C. has a unique opportunity and must play a crucial role in the fight against global warming. The province is outstanding due to its large size, spectacular beauty, and vast natural resources that together confer wealth on a relatively small human population. Our use of this abundance, however, has been in many cases shortsighted and unfair, trampling the rights of First Nations and taking away their lands and resources.

      A new vision is needed. It is justified by the recognition that critical change is now coming at an increasingly visible rate. We have significantly overstepped the planet’s capacity to provide what we demand, to absorb the pollution we produce, and to heal the wounds we have inflicted on its natural systems. In many parts of the world, lives and business as usual are already being disrupted by an increasingly unpredictable climate. 

      Fortunately, solutions exist that enable us to save our natural systems while offering a sustainable lifestyle. Wind and solar are now beating the price of fossil-fuel energy in a growing number of countries. Grid and battery solutions are being developed at a mind-boggling pace.

      Renewable-energy systems, improved resource and energy efficiency, mass transit, materials recycling, and new service models like the sharing economy are contributing more and cleaner jobs than resource-extraction sectors. Our province, like so many other parts of the world, needs the leadership necessary to quickly phase in solutions and phase out destructive activities. History shows that ecosystem breakdown makes societal collapse more likely. Now is the time to make the changes we need to make while relatively stable conditions prevail.

       B.C.’s new provincial government made far-reaching policy commitments for people and the planet. Sierra Club B.C. has developed a vision called The Future is Here to support the needed policy changes. To defend our communities and environment now and into the future, B.C. needs to show leadership in three key areas: climate action, nature conservation, and a low-carbon economy.

      Climate action

      B.C. must follow climate science, meet existing emissions-reduction targets, and set new ambitious targets to exceed the Paris Agreement. We must expand and increase the provincial carbon tax and declare the majority of our vast fossil-fuel reserves off-limits to extraction, based on the newest carbon budget research. We have sufficient renewable-energy sources and low-carbon solutions to become carbon neutral before 2050.

      Nature conservation

      Our environment is healthy enough that we can set aside 50 percent of it in support of nature. We need an expanded network of protected areas with new and existing land-use designations that address Aboriginal title, respect cultural values, and give priority to species and carbon sinks while allowing appropriate uses.  We can allow species the means to adapt to the changing climate while protecting clean water, air, and soils for our children. B.C.’s globally rare temperate-old-growth rainforests are a particularly spectacular example of resilient ecosystems with outstanding values for species, communities, and climate that we can save if we act today.

      Low carbon economy

      By redirecting resources and political priorities, we can create new, better, and safer jobs and build a low-carbon economy that maintains our high quality of life with a greatly reduced resource footprint. This is possible without the uneconomic Site C megaproject, which threatens valuable agricultural lands and is strongly opposed by First Nations. We must phase out subsidies for oil and gas, particularly fracking, and stop LNG-terminal proposals and the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker proposals that threaten our environment and First Nations rights and are increasingly economically questionable as international climate agreements are implemented.

      Sierra Club B.C.’s The Future Is Here vision includes 10 recommendations outlining more detailed steps to address these three areas of action.

      No government will be able to implement the scope of change required once the costs of environmental crisis and climate impacts become unmanageable. As a wealthy industrialized country with a high carbon footprint, we have the ability—and the responsibility—to pursue an alternative path. The new B.C. government has promised to start the change we need so that we can avoid turmoil such as this year’s terrible wildfires in the future.

      Check out The Future is Here and let the new B.C. government know you expect strong climate leadership.