At this late hour in the climate crisis, every vote matters

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.

VanCityClerk Tweet Screenshot

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.

2 Responses to “At this late hour in the climate crisis, every vote matters”

  1. Bruce E says:

    Thank you for covering this. Although I appreciate that the issues are not simple, I am troubled that the rationale for delay seemed to be founded on a biased comparison of energy cost – current modern gas heaters versus outdated electrical baseboard units, and projecting this to future costs and energy sources e.g. referencing “renewable gas” and even hydrogen, ignoring heat pumps (which are much more efficient and also more flexible) and other electrical sources. Furthermore, while we all are aware that costs in Vancouver are high, they are not driven by heating. If we in Vancouver refuse to do better, what should we expect of people in much colder parts of Canada?

    I am hoping that Vancouver follows through on this plan and extends it to cover buildings not subject to the new rules, to provide incentives or constraints for renewal of existing buildings too.

  2. fgsjr2015 says:

    Greta is correct about the prevailing BS given us by the world’s top leaders, a number of whom remain more or less puppeteered by big fossil fuel interests. There has been discouragingly insufficient political courage and motivation to properly physically address the cause-and-effect of manmade global warming thus climate change. (I may be wrong, but I believe it was, ironically, then-president George W. Bush Jr.’s vice-president and big-oil-firm man Dick Cheney who somehow managed, via PR manipulation professionals, to get the more euphemistic terminology “climate change” into mainstream utilization, in place of the rightfully more alarming “global warming”.) ‘Liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ (etcetera) are overly preoccupied with boisterously blasting each other for their politics and beliefs thus diverting attention away from the greatest polluters’ moral and ethical corruption, where it should and needs to be sharply focused.

    Still, there’s hope for spaceship Earth and therefor humankind due to environmentally conscious and active children, especially those who are approaching/reaching voting age. In contrast, the dinosaur electorate who have been voting into high office consecutive mass-pollution promoting or complicit/complacent governments for decades are gradually dying off thus making way for far more healthy-planet-thus-people minded voters.

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