Written by Rosalind Warner, Chair of the Global Empowerment Coalition of the Central Okanagan (BCCIC Chapter, GECCO)
This fall, voters are looking for leadership from their local government to address the urgent problems that confront communities. In Kelowna, community groups are invited to join a consortium to engage and inform voters in issues of livability, equity and sustainability. Cities are becoming a key focal point for decisions that could either tip the planet toward continued environmental degradation, or toward a sustainable, resilient future. UN Habitat estimates that 70% of the urban infrastructure that will exist in 2050 has not yet been built. This is a challenge, because most buildings today consume 70% of our electricity and produce 40% of carbon emissions. However, spending on infrastructure also represents an estimated 90 trillion dollar opportunity to change course. As stated by the Global Commission on Economy and Climate: “The world is on the verge of an enormous infrastructure boom that will lock in emissions outcomes for the next 50 to 100 years.”
While national governments and the international community are struggling to take action on climate, the work is left to other levels of government to take up the slack and rally behind policies and planning that will set cities on a path toward resilience. As part of the recent Global Climate Action summit hosted in San Francisco, seventeen U.S. cities committed to developing aggressive climate action plans by 2020 and becoming emissions neutral by 2050. Five U.S. cities pledged to procure solely zero-emissions buses by 2025, and eight cities committed that all city buildings will meet net-zero carbon standards by 2050.
BC’s current target of achieving an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 will not be possible without municipalities. Towards this end, the BC Energy Step Code offers a blueprint for cities to follow a consistent standard in an incremental process of adjustment with minimal cost impacts on new developments, and considerable savings in heating and cooling costs for homeowners in the future.
Cities are at the front lines of adaptation and mitigation of climate effects. Floods, fires, and storms have direct impact on cities’ abilities to provide services and supports for a growing population. Cities are realizing these costs now. At the same time, cities are highly unequal complexes of conflicting social, political, and economic forces where the most vulnerable populations will bear the brunt of climate impacts. Adaptation requires that cities rally for change as parts of networks of collaboration to share best practices and planning in response to these shocks. Local government leaders are responsible for ensuring that people are not left behind. Adopting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and consciously applying them at the local level is a key step towards ensuring equitable outcomes. The Goals are integrated, indivisible, and universal, and offer a common language with which to tackle global issues between all tiers of government, all sectors, all countries, and all people.
In Kelowna, the Future of Kelowna consortium is composed of 10 groups who are working to engage the community and to help voters make informed decisions on the issues that concern them. The Consortium is focused on important questions such as transportation, infrastructure, energy, housing, inclusiveness, health, and climate action. Ultimately, the future of all cities lies in electing local leaders who are willing to commit to these and other values aimed at making cities livable, equitable and sustainable for all residents. To join or find out more, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.