We are a group of parents, students and teachers hoping to get Greater Victoria School District 61 to take climate action more seriously.
In July 2019, we ran a campaign to have the District declare a climate emergency, and put together a climate plan. They passed the motion unanimously, including a provision that the Board would direct the Superintendent to develop a Climate Action Plan that establishes targets and strategies commensurate with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s call to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.
Sadly, a year and a half later, there is no plan.
On Jan. 25, the school board will vote on this motion by Trustee Nicole Duncan:
That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) direct the Superintendent to establish a Climate Accountability Working Group comprised of representatives from our stakeholder groups, including: staff, students, parents and representatives from First Nations along with Trustees in order to identify potential actions to minimize School District greenhouse gas emissions, plans to continue to minimize those emissions and to meet our obligations under the Climate Accountability Act and CleanBC.
This motion was rejected at a Jan. 11 sub-committee meeting.
Parents need to communicate to trustees how important it is for them to pass this motion on January 25.
If trustees hear from enough parents, they will be forced to do their job and represent us.
What can you do?
Want to learn more about the need for urgent action? Here is some background.
- The IPCC report tells us that we need to reduce our emissions by 45% by 2030.
"Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching 'net zero' around 2050."
- The school district's Carbon Neutral Action Report indicates that there has been a 20% reduction between 2010 - 2019 (p. 6). However, there has been no reduction in the most recent four years. The reductions ALL happened in the first five years. This is because the "low hanging fruit" - very old oil boilers and really bad windows - were the first things to be dealt with under the existing provincial legislation. Since 2015, there has been no improvement, and no plan beyond extremely slow incremental change - one or two boiler upgrades, usually to natural gas (another fossil fuel), some window replacements, and some roof repairs.
- We have just under nine years to meet this target, but no schedule to get there. There is not even a date by when we will see a climate plan. All we have is a statement that a plan is supposedly in development.
- Moreover, the carbon reporting to the province does not include transportation. This is typically the second largest component of GHG emissions in a school district, after buildings. In our district somewhere around 25,000 people are travelling to schools everyday. We do not even have any baseline data on how they travel, but if we look at the City of Victoria data, the majority are car rides.
- Trustees Ryan Painter, Elaine Leonard, the Superintendent, and the Board Chair Jordan Watters, have indicated that we can just leave it to the current processes to ensure we will meet the targets, and that the District is taking care of it. But there is no plan, and no evidence of any specific, measurable actions to meet the climate targets. Most recently, a motion to investigate renewable energy during the Vic High renovation failed. Instead, a gas boiler is being installed.
- Most municipalities now have climate plans. There are many good critiques of these plans, and even many of these plans, while they may be ambitious, are not actually meeting their targets, because the actions are too focused on voluntary behaviour changes. But at least these are real plans, with baseline data, targets, actions, measurable goals, and projected reductions. Currently the School District has nothing like this.
- Here, for example, is the plan for the City of Victoria. The chart on page 17 shows the specific, measurable actions that will lead to specific and measurable reductions and it shows how these align with the IPCC goals. When this is spelled out, then the community can start to have a discussion: is this enough, fast enough, have we met targets and how do we revise the plans when we don't?
- Notably, the school district actually is part of some of these city targets: for example, retro-fitting 2% of buildings per year to 100% renewable. Except the school district has no plan to do this. This would mean one school per year retro-fitted to 100% renewable. There is not currently a plan to make any schools 100% renewable.