Council could save us all some hot air
If Kelowna’s going to wage war on climate change, it’d be nice to know how the battle’s going. A reliable, accurate and current measurement of locally produced greenhouse gas emissions would seem to be an absolute necessity.
After all, if the city’s going to bring in a new gasoline tax, or prevent any more nefarious drive-thrus from ever being built, or move more quickly than other parts of B.C. to enforce stringent and potentially costly building regulations, people will rightly expect to see some progress in reducing GHG levels.
But good luck with that. The most recent estimate of locally produced greenhouse gas emissions is five years old.
And there’s no expectation among city officials they’ll get updated information from the province anytime soon. Or even that when they do get some data, it’ll allow for any kind of meaningful comparison with the 2012 level of 640,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
This was by far the most surprising news to come out of Monday’s council meeting, and it wouldn’t even have been mentioned by staff if not for a question from Mayor Colin Basran.
Most other councillors, as usual, were more interested in fawning over staff, offering up repetitive praise, saying what a great report it was, agreeing with the comments of their fellow councillors, etc.
You’d think the nine people on council would occasionally offer a diversity of opinion that reflects something of the wider community. But the bland uniformity and timid conformity regularly shown by this council no matter what the issue makes you sometimes wonder whey they bother holding Monday afternoon meetings at all.
Staff could just produce whatever reports and recommendations strike their fancy, council could approve them all without comment at the Monday morning session, then everyone could head over to Earl’s for a nice taxpayer-funded lunch.
The big report on Kelowna’s greenhouses gases and staff’s suggestions on ways to possibly reduce them, triggered none of the questions from councillors that an average citizen would probably come up with if they were forced to read it.
Like, what percentage of local emissions really comes from cars that are idling at drivethrus, compared to the tens of other thousands of vehicles on Kelowna roads at any given time, and wouldn’t banning this simple convenience amount to more of a public annoyance than a significant environmental accomplishment?
Or, where’s the evidence the transit system is so under-funded that a local gas tax is needed to generate millions of dollars for more buses?
Councillors know, or they should know, that total funding for Kelowna Regional Transit has jumped to $25 million now from $10 million a decade ago, a rate of increase that far outstrips inflation and which has not been matched by a commensurate rise in ridership.
Or, isn’t it just flat-out scaremongering and ridiculous non-science to suggest, as the report’s authors did, that this past spring’s flooding was in anyway related to Kelowna’s greenhouse gases? If it doesn’t flood next year, is the greenhouse gas crisis over?
It’s likely these kind of questions, and many more besides, will be raised when the report is sent out from City Hall in January to be the focus of some public meetings. The people will probably be interested in scrutinizing the document in a way the people’s representatives showed absolutely no inclination to do on Monday.
But Basran, to his credit, did remark on the doubly absurd situation of there being no information from the province on local greenhouse gas emissions that’s more recent than five years old, and the likelihood that meaningful comparisons to the situation that existed in 2012 will not be possible with whatever information is eventually released by Victoria because of methodological changes.
“It just seems crazy to me that we have no updated stats,” he said. “It’s a bit silly.”
But Kelowna’s transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, like those of every other city, will probably fall in the years ahead due to the ever-increasing energy efficiency of automobiles, and in particular the slow but steady rise in the popularity of vehicles with alternative fuel sources.
This simple fact, which has nothing at all to do with city initiatives or reports or lecturing, was noted by Coun. Luke Stack, who once again appeared the most grounded in reality during Monday’s otherwise airy discussion on climate change.
Stack, who drives a plug-in electric hybrid, said he goes to a drive-thru “every single morning” and doesn’t feel the least bit guilty about it.
Ron Seymour is a Daily Courier reporter. Phone: 250-470-0750. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.