The Climate Crisis: We Implore You to Act with More Urgency
An Open Appeal to Premier Eby and B.C. MLAs
Appeal to Premier Eby
Dear Premier Eby, and every British Columbia MLA,
Greetings! We are the West Coast Climate Action Network. We have 236 member groups across B.C., representing hundreds of thousands of voters. Our member organizations have authorized us to speak out.
We thank you for the incredible efforts that you, your staff, B.C.’s firefighters and emergency responders have been making all summer to fight the forest fires and keep people safe. We deeply appreciate it.
But given how rapidly the climate crisis is growing, and knowing that it is the prime cause of the increased volume and intensity of the fires, we implore you to accelerate B.C.’s climate action plans to reach true zero by 2040, rather than net zero by 2050.
This summer is making many people feel fear, with its dramatic increase in forest fires, its extreme temperatures, the increased intensity of flooding around the world, and the dramatic warming of the ocean. And this is just the beginning of the climate crisis
- July was the hottest month in human history, passing the 1.5°C threshold for increased global temperature (1).
- The ocean waters off South Florida are as warm as your hot tub (2).
- Winter temperatures in South America are topping 38°C (3).
- Record floods around the world are inundating homes and communities.
- In August the whole town of Lahaina on Maui burnt to the ground, killing 115+ people.
Here in BC we have had devastating fires in West Kelowna, the Shuswap, and many other places. Many people have lost their homes and livelihoods. In B.C. by late August 16,000 square kilometres of forest had burnt. Across Canada, the fires have released more than a billion tonnes of greenhouse gases – twice the previous record.
- Members of the Lytton First Nation have had to flee their homes twice – once in 2021, and now again.
- In late July, Slovenia (population 2 million) had its worst downpours and flooding ever, costing an estimated $500 million in damages.
- Greece and Portugal have had terrible fires.
- Norway suffered its heaviest rainstorm in 25 years.
- Scientists are ringing the alarm bells about Antarctica, where winter temperatures are soaring to 40°C above normal.
All this was predicted 30 years ago, but the extent of the devastation is happening much sooner than expected. Some people are giving up in despair, but most people are feeling an urgent need for more rapid climate action.
It is truly frightening to watch the climate crisis worsen every year. The longer we postpone the necessary urgent action, the more dire it will become. We need an immediate transition to a future without fossil fuels. We need climate-safe cities, forests, and farms. Until we do, there will be increased pain and costs for everyone, and a steadily growing impact on BC’s budget.
Every new fossil fuel project pours fuel onto the climate fire. Fossil gas is not a bridge to a clean energy future, since the fugitive methane emissions caused by fracking and other leaks make it as significant as coal in its climate impact (4).We are concerned that the Liquefied Fossil Gas (LNG) industry has misled members of the First Nations LNG Alliance, and that LNG lobbyists like previous deputy minister Don Wright (5) and previous NDP Minister of the Environment Moe Sihota (6) have misled your government, making people believe that exported LNG will reduce the use of coal in China, and therefore be a climate benefit to the world. It’s not true. B.C.’s LNG will make the global climate future more dangerous and costly, not less.
In 2021, the International Energy Agency issued a flagship report titled ‘Net Zero by 2050’ (7). It called for a huge decline in the use of fossil fuels. In essence it said ‘Stop. No more coal plants. No more gas plants. No more LNG. No more bitumen projects’. The dangers caused by our use of fossil fuels have been described in frightening detail by the Vancouver author John Vaillant, in his powerful book Fire Weather: The Making of a Beast.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, has said:
“We need a genuine, truly progressive government that understands that we are in the midst of a climate crisis. And it’s having devastating impacts on our communities, on our people, and communities are burning to the ground. How many more communities have to be incinerated before governments will begin to move beyond good intentions and rhetoric?” (8)
What does more rapid and urgent action look like? These ten things are the start of what we believe needs to happen.
- Speak with more climate urgency.
- Teach climate science and solutions to all civil servants, and in schools.
- End the use of fossil gas in all new buildings.
- Stop subsidizing and supporting LNG.
- Create more compact, walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly communities.
- Guarantee training for a good job for everyone who works directly with coal, oil, gas, or logging.
- Protect B.C.’s forests as a carbon sink.
- Phase out the production of fossil fuels.
- Talk openly about the climate impacts of meat and dairy, and the solutions.
- Build a circular economy with zero waste.
1. Speak with more climate urgency
First, we need more urgency in the overall messaging. We have yet to hear anyone in the B.C. government speak with any urgency about the climate crisis. CleanBC’s messaging is all happy smiling people, good news for everyone.
There have been no wake-up calls, no alarm bells being rung, no mention of the dangers that await us if we do not act with more urgency, no public service announcements telling people what we must do to help head off this awful future. People need to have hope. We also need honest quarterly climate reporting from the government, to keep us focused.
We hope you might consider replacing your climate messaging consultants with someone who is willing to speak more directly. What we are hearing today is reminiscent of 1939, when people were given calm reassurances that everything was going to be alright. But it wasn’t. We need to tell people the truth about what we are facing, so that we can mobilize for the solutions we need to embrace.
Pay no heed to the deniers and delayers. As a New Scientist editorial stated in June, “The basic science of climate change is so universally accepted that only the most fringe elements of society now deny it.”
In keeping with the urgency, we hope that you will raise CleanBC’s climate goals to at least a 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, joining other countries that have set this as their goal: US (50%-52%); European Union (at least 55%); UK (68%).
As a province, we need to achieve true zero by 2040. The CleanBC 2030 Roadmap goal of ‘Net Zero by 2050’ is too distant for most politicians and industry leaders, who will be watching the ever-worsening climate news from their sofas by 2050, trying to enjoy their retirement. The whole concept of ‘net zero’ is also problematic, both because forests bought as carbon credits are burning to the ground (9), and because we need to get to zero as soon as possible and sequestrate the surplus carbon emissions. We need both (10).
2. Teach climate science and solutions to all civil servants, and in schools
Next, we hope that you will agree to teach climate science and solutions to all civil servants, and in every B.C. school. In France, the Ministry of Ecological Transition is working with Climate Clarity to train every civil servant about the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the resources crisis, using three half-day modules. They will have trained 25,000 executives by the end of 2025, and 5.6 million civil servants by 2027. You could approach Climate Clarity and ask them to do the same here in B.C (11).
The youth members of Climate Education Reform BC have been urging change for several years, without getting any results (12).
In their words, “The current K-12 curriculum does not help students comprehend the urgency and complexity of the climate emergency. The curriculum fails to empower students to become the next generation of climate leaders. It fails to explicitly mention climate change as a core concept or “Big Idea” for any mandatory course in the Grade 8 to 12 curriculum. Where it is taught, it is largely restricted to science courses and focuses on the science behind climate change in isolation of its relationship to society, politics, and social justice. Climate solutions are rarely discussed beyond individual habit change.” We hope that you will task the Ministry of Education to work with them, and get it done.
We urge you to think big. We hope that you will establish a BC Youth Climate Corps for anyone aged 17 to 30, offering teamwork jobs in the community that reduce emissions, build resiliency, and help communities adapt to the changing climate, in projects developed by youth leaders, First Nations, and others (13).
3. End the use of fossil gas in all new buildings
Third, we need to stop allowing the use of fossil gas in new buildings now, as the Netherlands, UK, Austria, Victoria (Australia), 42 cities in California, Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich, Whistler, Nelson, West Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver and Nanaimo have already done.
We welcome the Zero Carbon Step Code, yet as engaged citizens, we should not have to persuade each municipality to adopt it one at a time, when a single announcement could do it for the whole province. Please don’t be fooled by FortisBC’s claims for Renewable Natural Gas (biomethane). The most it can supply is 10% of BC’s gas use, yet they want municipalities to treat all fossil gas and bio-gas as if it were zero carbon (14). It’s still methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and methane often leaks. BC’s municipalities are getting an unnecessary headache trying to figure out what each is doing with regard to the Zero Carbon Step Code. Richmond is looking to sue FortisBC for its misinformation regarding Renewable Natural Gas.
We also hope that you will task the Climate Action Secretariat to develop a plan to get every building in B.C. off oil or gas heating by 2035. It’s all about increased building efficiency and heat pumps. And there’s a problem that needs fixing, which is that some installers have been increasing their prices to scoop up the heat pump rebates.
By the estimate of the Nanaimo Climate Action Hub, we need a million heat pumps to be installed (15). Some city councillors worry that BC Hydro won’t have enough power, but BC Hydro is perfectly capable of coming up with the power we’ll need. In France, every car-park with more than 80 spaces is now required to have a solar covering, and every new commercial building must have either a solar or a green roof. In Berlin, every new building must have solar on its roof, plus whenever there’s a roof conversion or a building conversion.
Still on the heat pumps, we hope that the Ministry of Housing will do whatever it takes to enable or require all landlords to install heat pumps in their rental properties, and to ensure that tenants have the ability to limit the temperature in hot spells to 23C, so that people don’t have to suffer and die in heat-domes, which are alas going to happen with increasing frequency.
4. Stop subsidizing and supporting LNG
Fourth, as a province, we need to bite the bullet on LNG and end the government’s support for the industry. LNG is a cause of the climate crisis, not a solution. It adds fuel to the climate fire (16). Why should LNG projects get a break on the carbon tax? Why should they get a break on BC Hydro rates? Why should they get a tariff exemption on the use of Chinese steel?
There are six projects in the pipeline, and clear signalling that the supportive relationship is over would make investors hesitate, and hopefully decide to scrap their projects. Members of the First Nations LNG Alliance would call foul, but this is life in a speculative market economy. Seeking economic development for their people, they have been persuaded by lobbyists for oil and gas that LNG is a good thing. Encouraging and enabling LNG is pouring fuel on the climate fire, however. It will make our children’s future worse, and make it impossible for B.C. to achieve its climate goals.
If the LNG terminals don’t happen, the need for the Coastal GasLink pipeline through unceded Wet’suwet’en land will cease. The landscape will need to be restored, and this painful conflict will end.
We also need to seek new ways to impede completion of the TMX Pipeline, the very purpose of which is to pour more fuel on the climate fire. We know it’s a federal project, but B.C. is not without the means to impede it.
5. Create more compact, walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly communities
Fifth, we applaud CleanBC’s stated goal to reduce the distance driven by personal vehicles by 25% by 2030. We need to get serious about achieving it, seeking to achieve 30% of trips by walking, cycling, or transit by 2030. With this in mind, we urge you to ramp up investments in affordable, accessible public transit infrastructure.
In many communities cycling is currently just 2% of trips, so the potential is clearly a lot more. Bicycle trips double or triple on corridors with high quality bikeways, and e-bikes double the portion of trips that can be made by bicycle. This is a great way to reduce traffic problems, increase affordability, increase personal happiness, and improve public health, reducing future costs.
To this end, we hope you will ask the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to stop spending big dollars on highway expansions, and invest the money instead in a rapid expansion of transit, and safe separated bike lanes.
When it comes to EVs, B.C. is the North American leader, with the requirement that 90% of new passenger vehicles are electric (or zero carbon) by 2030, 100% by 2035. This tells EV industry investors that it’s okay to press ahead. We hope you will assemble a team to crack the problem of EV recharging for people who don’t have a private garage, or who live in a row of townhouses, or in a condo where the strata council is preventing the installation of EV charging posts.
The EV revolution will happen much faster than most people think, and there will come a year very soon when gas stations start closing down because they can’t maintain the profit threshold needed to stay in business. So we also hope that you will assemble a team to prepare for this, especially for low-income people who will be left with older conventional vehicles and nowhere to fuel them up.
6. Guarantee training for a good job for every worker who works directly with coal, oil, gas, or logging
Sixth, we urge you to task the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation with developing a plan to ensure that every worker who works directly with coal, oil, gas, or logging will receive paid training while they make the transition to a new job, so that they need not fear the future.
7. Protect B.C.’s forests as a carbon sink
Data shows that 38,300 hectares of old-growth forest were logged across B.C. in 2021, equivalent to 147 soccer fields a day. On Vancouver Island, only a fifth of the original old-growth forests with relatively big trees are still standing. In the Clayoquot Sound territories of the Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, and Hesquiaht First Nations, by contrast, most of the original productive old-growth forests is still intact, with only a 7% reduction since 1993.
So seventh, understanding the importance of B.C.’s forests as a long-term carbon sink, we urge you to task the Ministry of Forests to make the old-growth logging deferrals permanent, accompanied by long-term economic development strategies with attached financing, including Indigenous-led conservation solutions and a just transition for forest workers.
3.6 million hectares of forest were clearcut across B.C. between 2005 and 2017, becoming sequestration dead zones for thirteen years that release more carbon than they absorb before the young trees begin to capture carbon. To protect the forest and its store of carbon, we need to phase out all forest clearcutting, and end the use of glyphosate to kill ‘non-productive’ trees which can deter and delay forest fires.
8. Phase out the production of fossil fuels
Eighth, we urge you to write legislation phasing out the production and export of coal, oil, and gas by an agreed date.
We hope that B.C. will endorse the call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, as California has just done (17). It is a global effort to foster international cooperation to end the expansion of oil, gas and coal; to wind down existing production in keeping with what climate scientists say is necessary; and to accelerate the global transition to clean energy (18).
We hope B.C. will also join the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (19), and West Coast Environmental Law’s initiative to Sue Big Oil, to force oil and gas corporations to change their business practices and pay their fair share for the harm they’re causing (20).
We also urge you to be open about the reality that the climate crisis is not caused by our current emissions, but by our accumulated emissions – the 300 GT of surplus carbon that we have collectively put into the atmosphere. Getting to zero only means that we will have stopped adding fuel to the fire.
Stopping the climate fire means sucking all that carbon back down to Earth. This is where ecological methods of forestry and farming, wetlands management, land conservation and ocean conservation become so important, because when these things are managed ecologically, and not as a commodity, they absorb carbon.
9. Talk about the climate impacts of meat and dairy, and the solutions
Ninth, we hope that you will talk openly about the climate impacts of meat, dairy, and conventional farming. Globally, food and farming generate between 25% and 33% of global climate pollution; meat and dairy are 60% of the problem (21).
It’s a tricky one to address, but it must be addressed if our children are to have a livable future. The solutions proposed by the Canadian initiative Farmers for Climate Solutions would only achieve a 14% reduction in farming’s annual emissions (22). We need a widespread cultural shift to a far more plant-based diet. There are many things the government could do to speed it along.
10. Build a circular economy with zero waste
Finally, we need to do far more to build a circular economy with zero waste, since our collective consumption is responsible for 60-70% of our GHG emissions, as well as being a major cause of the biodiversity crisis (23).
Since the 1970s,
- Our global extraction of biomass has almost tripled,
- Our extraction of metals has increased fourfold,
- Our extraction of sand, gravel, and clay has increased more than five-fold,
- Our use of plastics has increased elevenfold (24).
Recycling is important, but it’s not enough. In 2017 the BC government commissioned a study on best policies (25), and in 2021 the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Zero Waste BC published A Zero Waste Agenda for BC (26), but progress has clearly stalled.
B.C. has set a target to reduce the amount of municipal solid waste to 350 kg per person, but it’s not working. In 2020, we threw away 499 kg of waste per person, more than in 2016 (27). From 2008 to 2018, we increased the total amount of materials consumed and discarded through composting, recycling and waste per person by 23% (28). We need the Province to deliver on its commitment to develop a comprehensive Circular Economy Strategy.
If you were to present these proposals to the appointed members of the Climate Solutions Council, we suspect that you might get pushback from the representatives from Shell Canada and Teck Resources, who might try to persuade you not to go so fast, or that B.C. cannot cope without fossil fuels. If they persist, we hope that you might find replacements who are committed to more rapid climate action.
In the last provincial election, many NDP candidates said that B.C. had the best climate plan in North America. With America now aiming for a 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, it’s no longer true (29).
As a benchmark for what’s needed, Finland, with a population almost the same as BC and a similar forested landscape, has set GHG reduction goals of 60% by 2030 and 80% by 2040, and to be carbon neutral by 2035 (30).
We know that the hard-working staff in the Climate Action Secretariat have achieved a lot, but we need to do more, and faster. We implore you to make BC a true climate leader, a global climate leader, with all the social, economic, and ecological benefits this will bring.
We do hope for a response – you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also hope that we might be invited to meet with the appropriate Minister for each proposal, and with members of the Climate Solutions Council, and the Climate Action Secretariat.
Tara Shustarian, Co-chair
Guy Dauncey, Co-Chair
Lily Mah-Sen, Treasurer
Rieky Stuart, Secretary
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the West Coast Climate Action Network
WE-CAN Member Organizations
WE-CAN has 236 member organizations, all of whose members are agreed that the global climate emergency poses an existential threat to all nature and all humanity, and that we need rapid and urgent action to tackle its various causes.
While most WE-CAN members will support most of the climate policies, campaigns, and initiatives that WE-CAN undertakes or endorses, we value the diversity of our membership, and we acknowledge that some members may differ on the details of a particular policy or campaign, or the way it is communicated or executed.
Adaptation Learning Network, Royal Roads
Ancient Forests Alliance
Anglican Diocese of New Westminster: Diocesan Eco-Justice Unit
Association for Denman Island Marine Stewards
Avalon Alliance Management Corp.
BC Council for International Cooperation – Climate Initiative
BC Hydro Ratepayers Association
BC Impact & Sustainability Collective
BILS Youth Circle
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Catching the Spirit Youth Society
Chase Environmental Action Society
Chemainus Climate Solutions
Citizens’ Climate Lobby East Kootenay
Citizens’ Climate Lobby Greater Victoria
Citizen’s Oil & Gas Council
Climate Action Now!
Climate Hope: Cortes Chapter
Climate Hub Cranbrook
Climate Hub North Shore
Climate Hub Victoria
Comox Valley Project Watershed Society
Council of Canadians Nelson/West Kootenays
Cowichan Carbon Busters
CUPW Pacific Region
Denman Islanders for Climate Action & Social Justice
Douglas College Faculty Association Climate Emergency Action Committee
Elders for Ancient Trees
Federation of Post-Secondary Educators Climate Emergency Standing Committee
For Our Kids Vancouver
Fossil Fuel Non Proliferation Treaty: BC cities
Fraser Valley Greens
Global Empowerment Coalition of the Central Okanagan
GNAR Inc – Sustainable Home Design
Green Step Solution Inc
GreenSeeds Music Society
Hemp Save The World
Hornby Island Resilience Initiative
Kaslo Climate Action Team
Kelowna Climate Save
Kimberley Youth Action Network
Lasqueti Island Climate Change Action Group
Metchosin Climate Action Team
Mount Work Coalition
Ms. Wolfe’s Class, Qualicum Beach Elementary
Nanaimo Green Faith Circle
North West Watch
Passive House Canada
Penhigh Sustainability Society
Qualicum Nature Preservation Society
Red Cedar Community Association
Rotary Club of Sidney by the Sea Environment Committee
Saanich Eco Advocates
Sierra Club BC
Social Environmental Alliance
Socially Responsible Investing Cowichan
Society for Atmosphere Solutions
South Island Climate Action Network
Squamish Climate Action Network
Surfrider Foundation Vancouver
The Climate Aid Arts Brigade
Turning the Tide – Peoples’ Paddle for the Salish Sea
UBCO Climate Reality Campus Corps
View Royal Climate Coalition
VIU Eco Club
We Love This Coast
Wildsight Kimberley-Cranbrook Branch
Wopa Green Project
Zero Waste BC
4. As bad as coal: https://www.commondreams.org/news/fossil-gas-leaks
7. Net Zero by 2050: https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050
8. Grand Chief Phillip Stewart: https://www.sfu.ca/vancity-office-community-engagement/below-the-radar-podcast/transcripts/135-grand-chief-stewart-phillip.html
9. Forest carbon credits: https://www.opb.org/article/2023/08/02/climate-change-carbon-offset-oregon/
10. Net zero is a dangerous trap: https://theconversation.com/climate-scientists-concept-of-net-zero-is-a-dangerous-trap-157368
12. Climate Education Reform BC: https://www.climateeducationreformbc.ca
13. Youth Climate Corps BC: https://www.youthclimatecorps.com
15. Heat pumps: https://www.nanaimoclimateaction.org/one-million-heat-pumps.html
17. California: https://www.commondreams.org/newswire/in-a-historic-vote-the-state-of-california-becomes-the-largest-economy-in-the-world-to-endorse-the-call-for-a-fossil-fuel-non-proliferation-treaty
18. Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty: https://fossilfueltreaty.org
19. Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance: https://beyondoilandgasalliance.org
20. Sue Big Oil https://suebigoil.ca
22. Farmers for Climate Solutions: https://farmersforclimatesolutions.ca
23. Consumer habits: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/02/consumers-help-solve-climate-change/
26. Zero Waste Agenda: https://www.zerowastebc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/ccpa-bc_Zero-Waste_2021_full.pdf