Nanaimo Council declares climate emergency in the face of 'monumental' task

By Dominic Abassi
April 30, 2019 - 5:19pm

The City of Nanaimo, at the direction of Council, has declared a climate emergency.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

Nanaimo is joining the ever-growing list of municipalities who have declared a climate emergency.

At its Apr. 29 meeting, Nanaimo councillors unanimously approved a coun. Tyler Brown resolution officially declaring a climate emergency "for the purposes of identifying and deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, our ecosystems, and our community from global warming."

The resolution came with four motions, giving various direction to staff on specific steps to hopefully create tangible outcomes. The motions include a call for the Regional District of Nanaimo to add 20,000 hours of transit service within the city.

"The task is monumental. It requires us to confront the issue with honesty and accountability," Brown said. "It requires faith we can and will overcome the greatest challenge facing us without having all the answers right now."

Municipalities like Vancouver and Victoria made the declaration in recent months and several others on Vancouver Island alone are considering similar steps.

"It's not alarmist, it's being realist," coun. Ben Geselbracht said. "Extreme weather events due to our CO2 emissions we are already experiencing here in Nanaimo are costing the City incredible amounts of money and disrupting the lives of our community members. It's placing our children and grandchildren in danger."

Coun. Don Bonner said he was proud to make the decision, saying it sets the tone for how this administration approaches decisions.

"If, in the event, we do go over this cliff, I don't want anyone pointing a finger at Nanaimo and saying 'we didn't do our part,'" Bonner said.

While he supported the resolution, coun. Ian Thorpe said "not everybody accepts that science."

"I have to remember my mandate at this table is to deal with issues we can directly affect for the citizens of Nanaimo. By that I mean keeping our streets clean and safe, providing basic services and amenities...Those are the sort of nuts and bolts issues I think this table has responsibility for."

Thorpe's comments echoed the most common criticism of resolutions like these passed at the municipal level.

Coun. Brown was asked what specifically could be accomplished by Nanaimo councillors declaring a climate emergency.

He told NanaimoNewsNOW it serves to create a standard in which decision making is now accountable to.

"Further, it gives staff a clear mandate to spend effort and energy on helping us confront climate change. The subsequent motions lay the groundwork for future action. We have existing but underutilized funding that we can tap into."

Aside from the call on the RDN to increase transit hours, other pieces of Brown's motion directed the City to update its sustainability action plan with a new goal for limiting global warming and asking the province to re-instate an emissions inventory report.


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On Twitter: @domabassi

Water restrictions now in effect throughout Nanaimo-area and mid-Island