Talking Climate Action with our MLA Candidates
Earlier this month, the North Vancouver chapter asked each of the MLA candidates in the West Vancouver-Capilano, North Vancouver-Lonsdale and North Vancouver-Seymour ridings how they envisioned to tackle the problem of climate change. We sent out the same three questions to each candidate we were able to find contact information for, and were grateful to receive answers from almost all of them.
First and foremost, it was encouraging to see that all the candidates had articulate answers representative of their parties, demonstrating that climate change is firmly now a cross-party issue that needs to be addressed. However, what we feel was missing from many of the candidates was a sense of urgency about how extreme the situation is and how rapidly we need to take bold actions. We were looking for indications from the candidates that climate change should be the overriding framework and priority for the next decade if we are to reach the necessary target of halving global emissions by 2030. While some candidates clearly understood the risk, not many were ready with a holistic emergency plan of action.
Throughout the responses, a number of common themes came up as important issues, so let's dig into these. On the issue of buildings, Karin Kirkpatrick (BC Liberals, West Vancouver-Capilano) said ‘she will incentivize the use of the green building codes towards passive housing’ which was good to see, while Christopher Hakes (BC Greens Party, Lonsdale) referenced the importance of addressing the emissions from the construction sector, as well as the food and accommodation industry. Jane Thornthwaite (BC Liberals, Seymour) wants to improve the provincial building code to maximize energy-efficiency in a way that respects communities' unique geography. Building codes were also mentioned by Bowinn Ma (BC NDP, Lonsdale), who referenced the NDP plan to have all new homes zero-carbon ready by 2032 and to accelerate energy efficiency retrofits in residential and commercial buildings. This is important, as it is the existing homes that use up the bulk of building energy here on the North Shore, mostly heated by natural gas.
Transport was the most strongly referenced topic, as this is clearly a big issue for the North Shore. A number of candidates backed the push for electrification of vehicles alongside better transit for bikes, e-bikes and walking as part of complete communities (Bowinn Ma, Rasoul Narimani (BC Greens Party), Amelia Hill (BC NDP) and Harrison Johnston (BC Greens Party)). Harrison pushed for free transit for those on low income or under 18, and Rasoul proposed gas-free zones, where ultimately only electric vehicles would be allowed.
Karin Kirkpatrick also noted the importance of addressing vehicle emissions, and stated her commitment to ‘advocating for a fixed link, rapid transport link for the North Shore’. Jane Thornthwaite’s personal focus is on ensuring investment into rapid transit to the North Shore to encourage more people to choose transit instead of cars. If we want to reduce emissions from vehicles, while improving road safety and reducing congestion, we ultimately need to reduce the number of cars and number of car journeys on the road. Providing safe and efficient alternatives to car travel, both on and off the North Shore and within it, is a critical part of providing a resilient transport plan.
Our local councils have set out some ambitious emission targets already, in response to climate change and it was interesting to see a range of opinions about the way we should go about achieving these targets. Bowinn Ma said that ‘a rapid transition from fossil fuels is necessary’ to reach the targets set out in the CleanBC plan which was encouraging, and Rasoul Narimari stated we need to stop using natural gas to meet these emission targets. Some felt that the targets set by our local councils may be too ambitious, and most candidates emphasized the importance of all levels of government collaborating if we want to stand a chance to meet the target. Clayton Welwood felt that ‘declaring a state of [climate] emergency, … introduces more risks than it mitigates’. Lyn Anglin indicated that she wants to see BC transition away from fossil fuels, “but we need an economically viable plan that will meet our growing energy needs”, which suggests she doesn’t see energy efficiency as a significant part of the plan.
The importance of education was raised by Rasoul Narimani, who noted that “our universities should be equipped to train our future generations for sustainable jobs”. And Amelia Hill also advocated the need to retrain individuals towards green industries.
Finally, there appeared to be mixed levels of understanding around renewable energy. Clayton Welwood suggested that fossil fuels are still “the only reliable energy source”, which is not the case, particularly in BC where we are mainly fueled by hydro. Also, the reliability of wind and solar energy has greatly improved due to major technological advancements in the last decade. Solar electricity for instance, is now the cheapest in the world. Our hearts sank when Lyn Anglin suggested that she was interested in renewable energy, but “many of these technologies require a significant investment in research before they can be applied”. This gives the impression that we have plenty of time on our hands, and dismisses the decades of research and incredible deployment rates elsewhere in the world. We need the investment in deployment and action, now. More research, or the repeated reference to a gradual transition we’ve heard for years, are both dangerous messages as they will not bring us to where we need to be fast enough.
Overall, clearly most candidates have put some thought about their approach to climate change at a local level. We want to find candidates who not only understand the issues and associated risks, but are also familiar with the wide array of solutions, and will act with the urgency which we need. Delay tactics are becoming as threatening as the environmental crisis itself.
Ultimately, when you are thinking about who to vote for, you need to look at all the parties platforms to decide. When it comes to climate change, who we vote for locally, provincially, and federally is one of the most important tools we have to influence the climate trajectory. Who will take on this challenge with the bold and ambitious leadership we need? Protecting our planet shouldn’t be a partisan issue that divides us, we need to come together and debate the solutions, so let’s make sure we have the right leaders to do that. Have discussions with your family, including your kids, as to which leader and party will work for your family needs now and in the future. By 2030, we will know if we have a fighting chance at stabilizing our natural systems, and if we are living up to our responsibility as parents to safeguard our kids’ future. We need drastic actions in the next decade: this election is critical in getting the right people in office to do that.
You can find the questions and detailed responses from all candidates here.
Drawdown Solutions: https://www.drawdown.org/solutions
 The latest IPCC (SR15) report indicates that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be halved by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees; "emissions of CO2 would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching 'net zero' around 2050."
 Energy Step code: https://energystepcode.ca/
 BC Homes Rebate Guide: https://betterhomesbc.ca/rebate-guide/
 Complete Communities: http://www.metrovancouver.org/metro2040/complete-communities/connected-communities/Pages/default.aspx
 City of North Vancouver plan to reduce emissions by 80% below 2007 levels by 2040 and achieve net zero or 100% emissions by 2050, and DNV, City of North Van and West Van have all declared climate emergencies.
 BC Greens party platform: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7231544-2020-BC-Greens-Platform-1-1.html
BCNDP party platform: https://www.bcndp.ca/sites/default/files/bcndp_platform2020_highlights_en_final_0.pdf
BC Liberals party platform: https://www.bcliberals.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/BC-Liberal-Party-2020-Platform-Restore-Confidence-Rebuild-BC.pdf
BC Libertarian Platform: https://www.libertarian.bc.ca/platform/