Coquitlam should declare a climate emergency and commit to adopting international targets for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the city’s Sustainability and Environmental Advisory Committee, which recommended the move at its meeting Tuesday.
If city council approves the recommendation, Coquitlam would commit to accepting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) climate targets to reduce GHG emissions by 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
Port Moody council has already made such a declaration while its Port Coquitlam counterpart recently gave it a pass. Now, Coquitlam has been approached by the group Force of Nature Alliance, which presented the committee with a petition and made its case to committee members.
Coun. Craig Hodge, who chairs Coquitlam's sustainability committee, said the increase in extreme weather events is worrying and the city and its citizens must act quickly to reduce GHGs.
“This is an opportunity to see how we address some of the concerns we are hearing in the community, such as setting targets for GHGs,” said Hodge, who noted that the recommendation comes as the city is developing its own Strategic Environmental Sustainability Plan, which will include targets and progress reports.
He pointed to the city reducing its corporate GHG emissions by 28% as a notable achievement but said more data is needed on how the community is measuring up and ideas on how the city can build sustainability into plans for the future.
Developing the city centre into a denser, walkable neighbourhood so people don’t need cars — and using greener building materials — are ways the city can do better.
“For me, it’s what can we achieve and how are we gong to do it," Hodge told The Tri-City News.
Among the successes, he said, are transportation improvements, with the introduction of SkyTrain and charging stations for electric cars; reduced waste, with Coquitlam diverting 70% of its waste from landfills; and efforts to make the city more walkable and bike-able.
But Hodge said the city could do a better job.
“The [environmental] strategic plan will be very wide in its scope but I’m hoping that will be an opportunity for setting some targets and measuring how we’re doing.”
There will be financial implications and lifestyle changes will need to be made, he said, but overall he believes the public is on board when it comes to dealing with climate change.
“We’ve got a million people coming to the Lower Mainland in the next 25 years. How are we going to mitigate the impact they are going to bring?”
In its press release, Force of Nature said adopting the IPCC climate targets would strengthen Coquitlam’s Environmental Sustainability Plan, which is due to be completed in late 2020, as it would give staff a goal around which to draft the document.
“City leaders don’t need to be afraid that bold climate action will be unpopular,” said Benjamin Perry, a Force of Nature Alliance volunteer. "They only need to look ahead five or 10 years, when history will look upon their choices favourably."