A razor thin victory at City Hall reminds us how we could lose the climate fight.
Late last week, Dogwood caught wind that a seemingly-routine series of staff recommendations to Vancouver City Council contained a poison pill designed to strike at the heart of the city’s Climate Emergency Plan (CEP).
In short, the new city manager was proposing a delay to the city’s ban on fracked gas in new buildings. This would ensure thousands more homes were hooked up to gas pipelines
In times like these — when the clouds seem to keep rolling in and alarming issues rightfully deserve our attention — it can be challenging to know when to ask for your help. But this situation carried with it ominous undertones of fossil fuel industry interference in our democracy.
And if those tactics could succeed in Vancouver of all places, then they could be used against any community attempting to put the brakes on emissions we can no longer ignore – those produced by burning fracked gas to heat our homes and water.
So, we dropped what we could and put out a call to action. Dogwood’s supporters answered.
Because you did, we were able to outmaneuver the influence of industry on every front: in the press, on social media, and in council chambers, where more than 70 people registered to speak against ‘Amendment D’, the trojan horse targeting the CEP. By the narrowest of margins, the Climate Emergency Plan lives!
For the record, here’s what happened.
On June 1st, Vancouver’s staff-lead Bylaw Modernization Task Force submitted their inaugural report. Their recommendations to council came in an omnibus package of proposed bylaw changes, all seemingly designed to speed up the permitting and development process at the City of Vancouver.
Stamped with the approval of the new City Manager and the new Chief Planner —and backed publicly by the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating— the four-part proposal included an unexpected and dramatic recommendation to delay the Climate Emergency Plan.
In essence: the most powerful civil servants in the City, backed by a high profile national gas industry front group were proposing to roll back one of North American’s most ambitious and sophisticated municipal climate change management plans.
At the heart of the CEP is a simple bylaw reflecting an unavoidable reality: we need to move beyond gas if we’re serious about reducing British Columbia’s growing GHG emissions. Because we’ve been campaigning together, you understood what was at stake and fought back with resolve.
What was supposed to be a quick vote after the report’s submission turned into a two-day pitched battle between councillors who believe climate change is someone else’s problem and leaders who know it is not.
The 308 letters our supporters sent, the conviction in the voices of those who spoke directly to council, and the phone calls made by our volunteers to inform our supporters and network with allies helped swing the vote in favour of the CEP’s defenders.
Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Plan is not enough. However it withstood a major challenge. The largest city west of Toronto will now move forward with a gas ban. That means others wishing to stop fracked gas expansion have a map to follow.
This razor thin victory is both a cautionary tale and validation that what we do matters. We’re now better prepared for the fight ahead as we move beyond gas — both in knowledge of our opposition’s tactics, and the conviction of those fighting for a zero emissions future.