Canada: Vancouver passes climate emergency resolution

On 16 January 2019 as the first Canadian city, Vancouver City Council voted unanimously to join 28 other cities around the globe – like London in England and Los Angeles in California – in declaring a climate emergency to match the urgency that scientists are reporting.

Vancouver is the eighth most populous city in Canada with a population of 631,486 people, according to its 2016 census.

Councillor Christine Boyle with the political party OneCity Vancouver moved a resolution supported by a majority of Council for the City of Vancouver to declare a climate emergency, direct staff to take immediate action to ramp up ambition in the city’s climate action plans, and embed an equity framework to prioritise vulnerable communities within those plans.

Video news report

[Report starts at 0:52 min in the video]

» 980 CKNW | Global News – 17 January 2019:
Vancouver City Council votes to declare ‘climate emergency’
“Vancouver City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to declare a climate emergency. Council will hear city staff’s plans in 90 days.”

Motion to “match the urgency that scientists are reporting”
Vancouver City Council recognised the need to dramatically strengthen its climate action plans, to match the urgency that scientists are reporting, and to ensure those closest to the impacts are being supported first.

As a result of this resolution, Council gave a mandate to city staff to:

1) “Increase ambition and/or accelerate timelines for existing actions under the Renewable City Action Plan and Climate Adaptation Strategy;

2) Add new actions to help the City achieve its targets;

3) Add new actions that would help reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions beyond the scope of the City’s current climate targets.

4) Incorporate into the City’s climate targets and actions the need to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2050 and net negative carbon emissions in the second half of the century.

5) Establish a remaining carbon budget for corporate and community emissions commensurate with limiting warming to 1.5ºC and report annually on the expenditure of the City of Vancouver’s remaining carbon budget;

6) Establish a ‘Climate and Equity’ working group to provide guidance and support for the City’s efforts to transition off of fossil fuels in ways that prioritize those most vulnerable to climate impacts and most in need of support in transitioning to renewable energy.”     

Doors to Vancouver City Hall partially underwater. Photo: OneCity Vancouver

Photo on top of this page: Councillor Christine Boyle with citizen supporters. Photo from OneCity Vancouver’s Facebook page

Rebecca Hamilton, a Vancouver high school student who is part of the global #SchoolStrike4Climate movement, had helped mobilise support for the motion among local youth. She said:

“We are living in a time of climate crisis and, as teens, we struggle to reconcile that knowledge with the lack of action we see around us. We are asking our leaders to step up and start treating this crisis like the emergency it is. We are at a crossroads: we can continue failing to reduce emissions, resulting in accelerating climate catastrophe. Or, we can take dramatic action now, creating a safe future for our generation. We are demanding our leaders choose the latter path.”

25-year-old community organiser Jake Hubley from Force of Nature Alliance said:

“This motion is about the action we must take in the face of that emergency to reduce our emissions in line with climate science, so we can have a liveable future. The passing this motion means setting rigid, time-bound targets for greenhouse gas reduction and shows our region real leadership on the path all our cities must walk to avoid climate catastrophe.”

Story on the front cover of Vancouver Sun on 20 December 2018

» Vancouver Sun – 19 December 2018:
Dan Fumano: Vancouver councillor seeks ‘climate emergency’ declaration
“With debates over “climate liability,” one prominent B.C. lawyer said: “There are some parallels with similar lawsuits against Big Tobacco.” Others disagree.”

“As debate heats up over the price of climate change and who should bear it, a Vancouver councillor plans to cite billions in anticipated costs in her bid to sound an “emergency” alarm.”

» Vancouver Sun – 19 December 2018:
Dan Fumano: Vancouver mulls climate cost-recovery from fossil fuel companies
“City of Vancouver staff are investigating the possibility of recovering climate change-related costs from fossil fuel”

“This follows a “climate accountability” campaign which has seen several B.C. municipalities sending letters requesting major international oil and gas companies to help pay for local governments’ costs associated with climate change. The campaign’s organizers, West Coast Environmental Law, say at least eight of B.C.’s local governments have already sent “climate accountability” letters, and that others have voted to do so.”

“So much of our budget is tied to climate change, resilience, storm sewer separations — do we have any idea what climate change is costing us? Is that something that we can be putting forward as part of our own letter-writing campaign to the fossil fuel companies for accountability and climate liability?”
~ Councillor Pete Fry, Greens Party

» OneCity Vancouver media release – 16 January 2019:
Vancouver City Councillor Pushes Vancouver to Declare Climate Emergency


British Columbia’s Premier John Horgan unveils B.C.’s climate change plan ‘CleanBC’