East Kootenay input important to climate plan

The public has been invited to provide insights about how the Government of B.C. can best tackle climate change moving forward.

The public has been invited to provide insights about how the Government of B.C. can best tackle climate change moving forward.

Premier Christy Clark is encouraging environmental activists, families and students to tell the government its priorities and what they would like to see in B.C.’s new Climate Leadership Plan. A consultation website was launched on Monday, January 25th. The public consultation will be running for 60 days in total.

“The input British Columbians have provided to date has been very helpful as we develop B.C.’s new Climate Leadership Plan,” said Clark in a recent press release. “Now is the time to engage even further in the conversation, as we seek to build on our global leadership through our next set of climate actions.”

There was an initial web-based public engagement session focused on the environment last summer.

Having the time to continue the discussion with the government has been welcomed by some residents in the East Kootenay region and criticized by others.

“This is a great opportunity to have the views of East Kootenay residents heard and integrated into this provincial process. It’s a chance to make sure the Climate Leadership Plan is designed to address the unique challenges and opportunities in rural areas of BC, including the East Kootenay,” said Megan Lohmann, head of community energy management at the Community Energy Association. “Our older housing stock presents a lot of opportunity for improved energy efficiency.”

She believes the plan could benefit individual communities as well as the region, helping with the large-scale effort to make improvements.

“We have renewable energy opportunities in biomass and solar — the Province needs to hear from residents to ensure local, renewable energy is a priority and continues to be supported in the future,” she explained.

The growing popularity of electric car charging stations has taken off, but now Lohmann feels the East Kootenay region should be looking into developing a green network with strategic locations to address the challenges of living in a rural area, where travel is mandatory.

Clark has also announced she will chair a new cabinet working group on climate leadership that will oversee government’s climate actions and policies, while considering current and future provincial climate action goals. The new members include: Environment Minister Mary Polak, vice-chair; Finance Minister Mike de Jong; Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond; Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett; Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone; Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Peter Fassbender; and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman.

The working group will remain active after the release of B.C.’s Climate Leadership Plan later this spring to ensure the plan remains relevant and effective in helping the Province achieve its greenhouse-gas reduction goals.

“The formation of the cabinet working group reflects one of the recommendations from the Climate Leadership Team,” said Polak in a recent press release. “This group will help us to make sure we keep our government’s climate actions current and ensure we remain on pace to achieve our emissions reduction targets.”

However, MLA for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding, Norm Macdonald, met the announcement for a public engagement process with praise and skepticism.

“Action on climate change is an issue that is raised consistently by people here in Columbia River-Revelstoke,” Macdonald told The Echo. “Over the last decade, it has been the public that has provided the strongest leadership, demanding more effective action by government.”

He feels that specific issues that relate to this area include an effective management of interface wildfire protection for communities, protection of waterways, and food security.

“Based on this government’s record on climate change, the public has a healthy skepticism that this is, in fact, a genuine process, and I have to say that I share that skepticism,” concluded Macdonald. “Nevertheless, it is important that people take every opportunity to speak out on this issue, and that would include participation in this process.”

For more information see the Climate  Leadership Plan website at http://engage.gov.bc.ca/climateleadership.