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State of climate emergency needs to be declared in Nelson: message delivered to council

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
November 22nd, 2019

Nelson needs to declare a state of climate emergency as the biggest impact of climate change threatens to hit the West Kootenay, one resident recently urged the city.

Kevin Megale has asked city council — during its committee-of-the-whole public segment on Monday night — to put climate change first when it comes to making municipal government decisions.

The Nelson resident said the creation of a climate change lens would be symbolic in value, but the practical significance of the climate of urgency means that city council consider every single decision it makes through the lens.

“It means that every decision that comes in front of you has a clearly delineated section to discuss the climate change impact of this decision, the carbon footprint in this decision and what it means,” he said. “Every decision vetted through the lens of climate change, that’s what climate emergency means.”

Whether the decision is large or small, hiring a staff member, disposing of a vehicle, participating in a new program or making a contribution, the information would be available so that councilors could decide what the effect is on the city’s carbon budget and climate change.

Biggest threat to come

The greatest impact of climate change to be felt in the West Kootenay will be migration, Megale stated.

“We are going to be one of the last places in 50 years that is buffered from the tremendous impacts of climate change that are going to be felt around the world,” he said. “And there is going to be an increasing flood of people showing up here to seek a better life.”

Already the city’s constrained housing market is showing the effect as affordable accommodations are becoming a scarce resource, he added.

Megale outlined three practical moves that city council can do now to avert the situation, all within its power to realize:

  • The city can allow its residential property tax rates to rise to the national average;

“Nelson owners and across B.C. have enjoyed an enormous windfall in the last 15 years and have continued to get an enormous bargain than the rest of Canada when it comes to paying property tax,” said Megale.

The additional property tax could be devoted to building new housing units.

“That’s a bold move and it would take courage on the part of council. No one is going to vote for tax increases, and the landowners are your voters,” Megale stated. “But that is the kind of move that is required.”

  • The city needs to stop sub-dividing large land parcels within the city limits;

There should be no more cutting a lot into two for two single-family homes, Megale pointed out.

“The remaining large parcels of land … should all be devoted entirely to large residential apartment buildings,” he said.

  • Dedicate a new zone north of Silica Street and east of the highway and west of Hendryx Street and not allow any single-family dwelling within that zone.

“And slowly allow that all to infill with only residential apartment buildings,” Megale concluded.

Since the message was delivered during the city’s committee-of-the-whole meeting — a non-business meeting gathering of the elected officials — no decisions on Megale’s request were made.

Within each city council “request for decision” during its business meetings, the city does have an impact on sustainability objectives section which does filter decisions through various city environmental and sustainability policies — such as the Low Carbon Path to 2040.

The house is on fire

With the next Climate Strike planned for Nov. 29 — and one expected to be held in Nelson on Black Friday, to bring awareness to the massive environmental impacts of consumerism and the fast fashion industry — several people spoke on Monday night during the city council committee-of-the-whole meeting with an eye toward that event.

The message was similar in overall intent to the one Megale brought forth, urging council to be more proactive than they already are to help reverse the effects of climate change.

After the strikes of Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 — also observed in Nelson — the Nov. 29 chapter could see millions of people walk out of their workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the street and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.

The strikes have arisen out of the action of 16-year-old Greta Thunberg as she began a one-person protest outside the Swedish parliament in August 2018.

Thunberg has stated four themes in her protest: that humanity is facing an existential crisis due to climate change; that the current generation of adults is responsible for climate change; that climate change will have a disproportionate effect on young people; and too little is being done about the situation.

As well, Thunberg has noted that politicians and decision-makers need to listen to the scientists.

She inspired school students across the world to take part in student strikes — more than 20,000 students in 270 cities in 2018 — with over four million people around the world attending the September climate strikes.

Nelson Climate Strike organizers are asking the public to City Hall at 11 a.m. with any old clothing they want to exchange.

 “As we start the holiday season, we want to remind people of the environmental and social impact of consumerism and that there are alternatives,” said Alyssa Taburiaux of Fridays for Future Nelson. “The clothing swap is a good opportunity for people to get new clothes without contributing to the destruction of our earth.”

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