200 organizations call for urgent provincial action to confront the climate emergency
Broad coalition calls for urgent provincial action to confront the climate emergency
VANCOUVER / UNCEDED xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh AND səlilwətaɬ TERRITORIES — In the wake of this summer’s deadly heatwave and unprecedented fires, today, nearly 200 organizations representing well over one million British Columbians – a diverse network of environmental, Indigenous, labour, health, business, faith, and youth groups – joined in a call to the BC government to fundamentally reboot its CleanBC plan and implement a genuine and transformative climate emergency plan.
Their open letter – “An Urgent Call to the BC Government to Confront the Climate Emergency” – calls on the government to demonstrate the necessary leadership and immediately undertake 10 bold emergency actions. (The open letter with the full list of organizational supporters follows below. It can also be found here.)
The list of signatories includes the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and the BC Assembly of First Nations; labour organizations, including the Public Service Alliance of Canada (BC Region) and the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC; faith groups, including the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster; health organizations such as the Public Health Association of BC; arts and culture groups; community groups such as the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC; youth groups such as the Sustainabiliteens; and businesses such as Patagonia, Lush Cosmetics and Renewal Funds.
The signatory list also includes major environmental organizations Stand.earth, Dogwood, Leadnow, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club BC, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, West Coast Environmental Law, and Climate Caucus (a network of municipal elected councillors committed to climate action).
“Simply put, CleanBC does not sufficiently address the severity of the climate crisis,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “The allowances for dirty emissions from the fossil fuel sector and forestry will increase the deadly and devastating impacts that communities across the province and the world are experiencing, and are not going to help us pay for a just transition to a clean economy. The Province must fully accept that they need to come up with an alternative economy because we aren’t going to achieve a clean BC with dirty fossil fuels.”
Last month, Phillip was one of five original endorsers of CleanBC who, in a piece in the Tyee, signalled they had lost confidence in the ability of the province’s climate plan to adequately respond to the climate emergency.
“Emergencies require responses that look, sound and feel to the public like genuine emergency plans,” said Seth Klein, team lead with the Climate Emergency Unit. “The current BC approach doesn’t do that. It is lacking in ambition, urgency and coherence. The 10 actions in this open letter would constitute a real crisis response.”
The 10 actions include increasing the ambition of BC’s GHG reduction targets, boosting spending on climate actions, ending fossil fuel subsidies and new infrastructure, and significantly moving forward the dates for zero-emission vehicles and buildings.
“If we are going to have a coherent climate plan, BC needs to stop supporting the expansion of fracking and LNG,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director. “CleanBC has some good bones but it cannot be successful if the BC government continues to pour money into growing fossil fuels. In 2020 alone, BC provided $1.3 billion in subsidies and incentives to the oil and gas industry, double what they spent on CleanBC. The government has broken its promise to show how LNG projects are consistent with the province’s legislated targets, and it is now clear that BC will never meet its GHG targets if this industry continues to expand.”
CleanBC was tabled three years ago and isn’t sufficient to address the crisis and reach our 2030 goals. Currently, BC’s heat-trapping carbon emissions are rising, not decreasing. This summer the crisis was underscored by an unprecedented heat dome; the BC Coroner reported nearly 600 British Columbians perished in one week, due to extreme heat.
“I still taste smoke from the firestorm that erased our house and 90% of Lytton as we fled that unexpected and unstoppable manifestation of the human-caused climate emergency,” said Gordon Murray, a former resident of Lytton whose home was destroyed this summer. “Political leaders need to confront this as an existential crisis, not a PR crisis – the time for non-binding goals and aspirational incentives is passed. We as a society need to mobilize at least on the scale of our COVID response to fight this unseen enemy, and the enemy is us.”
“Living through Covid-19, we now know that our government is totally capable of a large-scale emergency response. Like the pandemic, the climate solutions are clear: we need to act on the science and take responsibility. We have to help transition workers in fossil fuel dependent, Indigenous and remote communities. Otherwise, we’re just going to escalate heat domes and wildfires," said Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Executive Director at the David Suzuki Foundation.
This call comes as the BC cabinet prepares to consider how to update the CleanBC plan, ahead of the global climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland in November. More organizations will be adding their names to this call in the days to come. Others are invited to do so here.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Alexandra Woodsworth, Dogwood, email@example.com: 778-316-5558
Ziona Eyob, Stand.Earth, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 604 757 7279
Seth Klein, Climate Emergency Unit, 604-836-2272
Tracey Saxby, My Sea to Sky, 604-892-7501
Peter McCartney, Wilderness Committee, 778-239-1935
Images and cutlines are available here for media use.
Dear Premier Horgan and the Government of BC,
Re: Confront the Climate Emergency
We write on behalf of diverse environmental, Indigenous, labour, health, business, local government, academic, youth, and faith communities who collectively represent well over one million British Columbians.
We call on the BC government to recognize the urgency and alarm that people all over the province are feeling as the climate crisis directly impacts our communities and our health: deadly heatwaves, wildfires, drought, floods, crop failure, fisheries collapse, and costly evacuations and infrastructure damage. These climate-related impacts are unprecedented and intensifying. Indigenous peoples stand to be disproportionately impacted by climate events despite successfully taking care of the land since time immemorial.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a ‘code red’ for humanity. The International Energy Agency has called on world governments to immediately stop investments in and approvals of new oil and gas projects. The provincial government’s CleanBC climate action plan is insufficient to limit warming to 1.5°C and will not keep British Columbians safe from the worst impacts of climate change.
We, therefore, urge the BC government to develop and implement a transformative climate emergency plan that recognizes the interconnected climate, ecological, and social crises; embeds equity, anti-racism, and social justice at its core; and upholds Indigenous Title and Rights, and Treaty Rights.
To implement the rapid systemic change that is required, we call on the provincial government to demonstrate the leadership necessary to confront the climate emergency, and immediately undertake the following 10 actions:
- Set binding climate pollution targets based on science and justice
Reduce BC’s greenhouse gas emissions by ~7.5% per year below 2007 levels. Set binding reduction targets of 15% by 2023; 30% by 2025; 60% by 2030, and 100% by 2040 (below 2007 levels). Review and update targets regularly as climate science evolves.
- Invest in a thriving, regenerative, zero-emissions economy
Invest 2% of BC’s GDP ($6 billion dollars per year) to advance the zero-emissions economy and create tens of thousands of good jobs. Spend what it takes to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create new economic institutions to get the job done. Ensure that the economic component of Aboriginal Title is recognized through the sharing of benefits and revenues that result.
- Rapidly wind down all fossil fuel production and use
Immediately stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure including fracking, oil and gas pipelines, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and fossil fuel-derived hydrogen. Rapidly phase out and decommission all existing fossil fuel production and exports.
- End fossil fuel subsidies and make polluters pay
End all fossil fuel subsidies and financial incentives by 2022. Ensure that those industries that profit from fossil fuel pollution pay their fair share of the resulting climate damage.
- Leave no one behind
Ensure a just transition for fossil fuel workers, resource-dependent communities, and Indigenous and remote communities impacted by fossil fuel production. It will be critical to collaborate in true partnership with Indigenous peoples in climate action. Prepare our communities for the impacts of the climate crisis to minimize human suffering and infrastructure damage. Support those most vulnerable to climate change impacts.
- Protect and restore nature
Protect 30% of terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030; support and invest in Indigenous-led conservation initiatives; restore natural ecosystems to enhance ecosystem functions and services, preserve biodiversity, increase carbon sequestration, and improve human and ecosystem resilience to climate impacts. Impose an immediate moratorium on the industrial logging of all old-growth forests which are critical carbon sinks.
- Invest in local, organic, regenerative agriculture and food systems
Incentivize carbon storage in soil, restore biodiversity, and ensure food sovereignty and food security across the province. Increase consumption of plant-based foods, and reduce food waste. Support Indigenous communities that wish to maintain traditional food systems and enhance their food security.
- Accelerate the transition to zero-emission transportation
Invest in affordable, accessible, and convenient public transit within and between all communities. Reallocate infrastructure funds from highway expansion to transit and active transportation (cycling, rolling, and walking). Mandate zero emissions for all new light vehicles by 2027, and all medium and heavy-duty vehicles by 2030.
- Accelerate the transition to zero-emission buildings
Ban new natural gas connections to all new and existing buildings by the end of 2022. Create a Crown Corporation to mobilize the workforce to retrofit all existing buildings and eliminate fossil fuel heating by 2035, and to build new affordable zero-emissions buildings.
- Track and report progress on these actions every year
Embed all of these actions in legislation to ensure accountability, transparency, and inclusion. Establish rolling 5-year carbon budgets that decline over time towards zero emissions by 2040 or sooner.
Tackling the climate crisis offers an unprecedented opportunity to generate new, vibrant economic and social wealth as we transform where our energy comes from and how it is used. It offers an opportunity to achieve energy security, ensure food security, develop more sustainable local economies and jobs, transform our buildings, redesign transportation, reduce pollution, improve human health and wellbeing, and enhance our quality of life. The transition from fossil fuels to a zero-emissions economy has clear benefits for people and natural ecosystems and is an opportunity to create a more prosperous, just, and equitable society.
Every person, every business, every industry, and every government has a role to play as we coordinate individual and collective actions to create a thriving, resilient, and regenerative society that respects its interdependence with healthy ecosystems and a safe climate.
British Columbia is positioned to become a visionary world leader and demonstrate that innovative and rapid change is possible as we transition to a zero-emissions economy.
We urge you to seize these opportunities and demonstrate to British Columbians that our government is indeed a true climate leader by implementing the 10 climate emergency actions set out in this letter.
We must act now.
Signatories (by sector)
British Columbia Assembly of First Nations
Arts / Culture
Brackendale Art Gallery
1st Knowledge Bank Ltd
Alliance4Democracy (Sunshine Coast)
Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
Anglican Diocese of New Westminster
Douglas College Faculty Association
Canadian Senior Cohousing Society
Douglas Students’ Union
Environment / Climate action