Record-breaking wildfires and heat waves are a reminder that we have little time to save nature, phase out fossil fuels and leap to a low-carbon economy, all at the same time.
British Columbia’s unprecedented wildfires are still not under control. August is beginning with a new heat wave and no reprieve from the climate crisis for the new B.C. government.
This ongoing state of emergency is a reminder that our planet is changing rapidly, and that our governments have to act like they mean it, to save our world as we know it.
B.C. has a unique opportunity and must play a crucial role in the fight against global warming. The province is outstanding due to its large size, spectacular beauty, and vast natural resources which together confer wealth on a relatively small human population.
Our use of this abundance, however, has been in many cases short-sighted and unfair.
A new vision is needed. It is justified by the recognition that critical change is now coming at an increasingly visible rate. We have significantly overstepped the planet’s capacity to provide what we demand, absorb the pollution we produce and heal the wounds we have inflicted on its natural systems. In many parts of the world, lives and business as usual are already being disrupted by an increasingly unpredictable climate.
Fortunately, solutions exist that enable us to save our natural systems while offering a sustainable lifestyle. Wind and solar are now beating the price of fossil fuel energy in a growing number of countries. Grid and battery solutions are being developed at a mind-boggling pace.
Renewable energy systems, improved resource and energy efficiency, mass transit, materials recycling and new service models like the sharing economy are contributing more and cleaner jobs than resource extraction sectors. Our province, like so many other parts of the world, needs the leadership necessary to quickly phase in solutions and phase out destructive activities.
History shows that ecosystem breakdown makes societal collapse more likely. Now is the time to make the changes we need to make while relatively stable conditions prevail.
B.C.’s new provincial government made far-reaching policy commitments for people and the planet. Sierra Club BC has developed a vision called The Future is Here to support the needed policy changes. To defend our communities and environment now and into the future, B.C. needs to show leadership in three key areas: climate action, nature conservation and a low-carbon economy.
B.C. must follow climate science, meet existing emissions reduction targets and set new ambitious targets to exceed the Paris Agreement. We must expand and increase the provincial carbon tax and declare the majority of our vast fossil fuel reserves off-limits to extraction, based on the newest carbon budget research. We have sufficient renewable energy sources and low-carbon solutions to become carbon neutral before 2050.
Our environment is healthy enough that we can set aside 50 per cent of it in support of nature. We need an expanded network of protected areas with new and existing land use designations that address Aboriginal title and respect cultural values, and give priority to species and carbon sinks while allowing appropriate uses. We can allow species the means to adapt to the changing climate while protecting clean water, air and soils for our children. B.C.’s globally rare temperate old-growth rainforests are a particularly spectacular example of resilient ecosystems with outstanding values for species, communities and climate that we can save if we act today.
By redirecting resources and political priorities, we can create new, better and safer jobs and build a low-carbon economy that maintains our high quality of life with a greatly reduced resource footprint. We can and must phase out oil and gas activities such as fracking and the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker proposals that destroy our environment and are increasingly uneconomic as international climate agreements are implemented.
Sierra Club BC’s The Future is Here vision includes ten recommendations outlining more detailed steps to address these three areas of action.
No government will be able to implement the scope of change required once the costs of environmental crisis and climate impacts become unmanageable. As a wealthy industrialized country with a high carbon footprint we have the ability — and the responsibility — to pursue an alternative path. The new B.C. government has promised to start the change we need, so that we can avoid turmoil such as this year’s terrible wildfires in the future.